The rules of the game

Get in touch with reality. That was the message conveyed in a letter from Keshet in reaction to the creators and actors protests over the franchisee's failure to meet its programming requirements. "Channel 2 is not the big bad wolf," a Keshet spokesman insisted, accusing the protesters of "being completely mistaken in choosing your targets and ways of resolving the problem" and asking them "not to turn your bread and butter into the enemy." In the letter, which the Screen Actors Association made available to the Post, Keshet argued that only a dispute with the Second Channel Authority over whether its Eretz Nehederet program should have been included in the same elite category as original dramas made it fall short of its programming requirements. Ultimately, Keshet wrote, the dispute is a matter of simple TV sense. "Yes, the dramas have a problem competing with reality shows. And how. But what is the solution to this? To cry out against reality shows, or to create more attractive dramas that will compete and even come out on top? That's how American and British producers, for example, managed to successfully compete with the reality shows, with outstanding dramas, not via protests and demonstrations, but by offering competitive writing and productions. "A commercial channel lives by its ratings, but there are many ways to reach that ratings goal... If one wants to create for a commercial channel, one must create programs that bring in ratings. Those are the rules of the game." An interview requested with Keshet's head of entertainment, reality and documentary programming was scheduled for this article, but when the subject matter of the piece - the debate over reality shows - was raised, it was canceled, with a spokeswoman saying that "your starting point is not balanced and we have no desire to take part in another article in which we are forced to defend ourselves." A Reshet spokeswoman, responding to the authority's report on its failure to meet its programming commitment and the protest, wrote: "Reshet has been holding long discussions with representatives of the producers for many months, with the participation of Yoram Hatab and his support. The beginning of those talks was an agreement outlining the face of television for the next few years. For reasons not dependent on us, the implementation of this agreement has been delayed. Unrelated to this process, in recent months one can enjoy full nights every week on Reshet in which prime time is made up of high-quality locally-produced shows, drama, investigative programs, documentary and satire of the highest levels, all despite the current economic crisis." As for the Second Channel Authority, responding to criticism of its failure to put teeth into its own regulations, its spokeswoman said: "The authority works to enforce the franchisees' commitments, and even confiscated financial guarantees in 2008. The authority's work led to the limiting of reality programs shown each week and to the showing of high-quality programs like Imaleh, Quickie, Uvda, Shavua Sof and Mishpaha Horeget. "The authority appealed to the communications minister some time ago to amend the law to allow further sanctions, but this has not yet been done. The authority is also currently having discussions with the franchisees in the High Court of Justice, who petitioned the court against the sanctions imposed and other violations they were cited for, and that discussion is continuing." A new report issued on January 19 on the authority's behalf by Eyal Meluvan, who checked whether the franchisees were meeting their commitments, found that there was an exaggerated investment in reality programs "which is unequivocally hurting creators, writers, actors and directors... This trend, which will likely continue over the next two years, is seriously hurting original Israeli productions... Without strong regulation and real enforcement power, the situation will only worsen." The authority, he wrote, "must act as the 'guardian' of Israeli production and not allow the reality shows to cause the death of original Israeli programming."