(photo credit: COURTESY OF IBA)
In the very near future, the lives of the 1800 employees of the IBA (Israel Broadcasting Authority) are going to be severely disrupted. Many of them will lose their jobs and face a very uncertain future. Another big question is whether English speakers will have any access at all to either TV or radio English news.
The IBA grew out of radio station Kol Israel in 1951. It is now to be replaced with a greatly reduced staff under the name of Israel Broadcasting Corporation – mainly hiring younger (probably 20-something) outsiders, naturally at a lower wage than had been paid to the more experienced staff.
Those facing overwhelming uncertainty are the employees of the IBA English news on TV and radio, as there is considerable doubt that there will be any English programming in the future. The situation has been getting more and more dismal in recent times. Some of their best staff, highly regarded by viewers, were summarily forced to retire – such as Yochanan El Rom and Leah Zinder.
Wonderfully informative interview programs like TV’s “Close Up” were terminated. The IBA English news was moved from its 5 p.m. time spot to the ridiculously early time of 4 p.m., with a re-showing on METV at 7 p.m., which, for some reason, is hardly audible.
According to Erin Viner, an anchor for the IBA English news, like her colleagues she confided that she has been under tremendous stress for a few months due to future uncertainty.
She was told on June 1st that the doors would be closing on June 30th; they retracted this and then reinstated it on June 26th. An emergency authorization was signed, extending IBA operations until September, when their 2015 contracts expire.
They have not been told if the English news will continue after that date.
The staff have been offered “early retirement”, but are required to make a decision by the end of September without knowing if English programming will, in fact, continue.
Apart from the very loyal following of Anglos in Israel, according to Steve Leibowitz, Editor-in-Chief, it is also followed by thousands of overseas viewers as their prime source of information about what is happening in Israel, in addition to diplomats and foreign journalists who otherwise would have to turn to anti-Israel sources like Al Jazeera. “It is Israel’s window to the world” he stressed.
Erin Viner added that she is continually stopped by people devoted to the program, including members of U.
N and others in the diplomatic community to whom IBA English news is their primary source of information.
Although we follow the personnel of IBA on a regular basis, and they become familiar to us, naturally most of us are strangers to them. However, we can all empathise with the difficult and uncertain time they are currently undergoing and the very real possibility that the English news may soon be terminated. If it is, the loss will be felt not just by English-speakers in this country and abroad, but it will be an enormous ‘hasbara’ loss to Israel itself.