Channel 10 logo_311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In previous columns I wrote about the perversion of government policy dictating
the fates of two key media outlets, Channel 10 and the Israel Broadcasting
Authority. The former is under threat of closure due an outstanding debt to the
government of up to NIS 60 million, while the latter, professionals claim, has
fallen victim to a process of politicization.
The reactions I received to
the aforementioned articles were quite frankly surprising. The overwhelming
majority of e-mails said simply “to hell with them” and suggested that both
Channel 10 and the IBA should just shut their doors. That is simply
unacceptable, in my opinion.
First of all, we’re talking about a lot
jobs. Sending people to the unemployment line should always be a last
Secondly, it would be an unmitigated disaster for the country if
two out of the three television channels close down. Simply put, we need more
voices at minimal cost to the taxpayers.Yes, it’s wrong that Channel 10 owes the
government such a large sum of money – but at the end of the day, they are a
private enterprise and shouldn’t be taxed to death. I would be more appalled if
they owed that money to their employees and suppliers.
Now, however, it
seems now that matters have gone from bad to absurd.
As it turns out, the
IBA, which is funded directly via the “TV tax,” is legally obligated to pump 36
percent of its NIS 800m. annual budget into the local production industry, or
about NIS 290m. In theory, people who work in the various branches of the
independent media should have the opportunity to compete for a piece of that
money each year.
The problem is that the IBA does not spend anywhere near
that figure, and reportedly only disbursed about NIS 24m. in 2011. That’s not
even 10 percent of their own mandate. This of course raises another key
question, which has so far gone unanswered: what happened to all of that money?
PEOPLE IN the media industry are outraged and rightly so. It’s a double blow to
the industry – not only does the government appear more than ready to shut down
Channel 10, which employs hundreds of professionals, but it also looks the other
way when the IBA fails to meet its budget obligations to the local market. With
this complaint in mind, the Prime Minister’s Office, which is directly
responsible for the IBA, issued a statement saying that the IBA does not owe any
money and that its commitment to purchase original programming is going to be
Perhaps the government’s willingness to overlook the IBA’s
infractions is an indicator of politicization of the public airways. That could
certainly be deduced from the recently uncovered tapes of a speech given by
Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon last April. Speaking at a Young Likud
meeting in Tel Aviv, Kahlon said the IBA should reflect the government in power,
that he wasn’t afraid of politicization and that “our people” should populate
“When the Left come to power, let them put in whomever they
want,” said Kahlon.
It should be noted that the chairman of the IBA, Amir
Gilat, who took over the position earlier this year, is a former spokesman for
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Recently the Tel Aviv Journalists Association
filed a request for an injunction with the Supreme Court over the appointment of
Yoni Ben-Menachem as the IBA’s CEO, noting his close ties with Netanyahu. The
court threw out the request, saying there was no evidence of any political
machinations in Ben- Menachem’s appointment.
It seems evident that it is
the goal of the Likud to morph the IBA into its mouthpiece and that we the
Israeli taxpayers will continue to pay hundreds of millions of shekels to keep
it afloat. All this while the government refuses to extend the deadline for
Channel 10’s NIS 60m. shekel debt repayment. Not only will it likely have to
forfeit on the debt the channel owes, it will lose out on the income taxes &
VAT and dole out unemployment benefits. What’s wrong with this picture? Seems
like some of the folks in Jerusalem need to tune in to the best interests of the
country.Jeremy Ruden is an independent media consultant and a former
producer at the Fox News Channel in New York.