‘Gov’t must understand foreign media do not work for it'

Rapoport says critics would find plenty of positive news coverage of Israel in foreign television media if they look hard enough.

Jerusalem Capital Studios CEO Hanani Rapaport 311 (photo credit: Asaf Lev)
Jerusalem Capital Studios CEO Hanani Rapaport 311
(photo credit: Asaf Lev)
Hanani Rapoport, the new CEO of the firm that hosts Israel's biggest news production facilities, said the government needs to accept the fact that foreign media outlets do not work at its behest.
“Israel needs to understand. The foreign media do not work for the Foreign Ministry. Not for [Avigdor] Lieberman’s Foreign Ministry, and not for [leftwing politician] Yossi Beilin’s Foreign Ministry,” Rapoport told the The Jerusalem Post during an interview at the Tel Aviv offices of his Jerusalem Capital Studios on Monday.
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Rapoport, who was appointed to the top job in January, 17 years after joining JCS, said the ministry can go through the same channels as everybody else when trying to have its views heard in the foreign media. But he added that journalists are often reluctant to speak to the ministry because they “do not want to work like Pravda [the former mouthpiece of the Soviet Communist party].”
Rapoport said foreign media choose to base their Middle Eastern operations in Israel because it provides the freedom of speech that does not exist in neighboring Arab countries.
As Israel’s biggest news production company, JCS provides television and production facilities in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to almost all the foreign networks and television stations covering the Middle East, including CNN, Fox News, France 2, Germany’s ARD and Spain’s TVE. Israel’s Channel 2 and Channel 10 are also clients.
Rapoport said critics would find plenty of positive news coverage of Israel in foreign television media if they look hard enough. He cited Chinese state television broadcaster CCTV, which he said aired several stories about February’s Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy conference, an event overwhelmingly ignored by Israeli television networks.
He said criticism directed at the BBC – which recently ended its relationship with his company because it needed more space than what JCS could provide in its Jerusalem offices – was misguided.
“When I see the BBC, I don’t see any problem with their reports. I think that they try to do their work as well as they can... It’s impossible to work and to find favor with both sides, there’s nothing that can be done about that,” Rapoport said.
Still, he said he never encountered a foreign journalist based in Israel who compromised his integrity for an anti-Semitic agenda.
He also rejected “inaccurate” claims that foreign news agencies had deserted Israel, saying that only American broadcasters NBC, ABC and CBS had downsized their operations here, and that they cut their budgets in other countries before doing the same in Israel.
Rapoport acknowledged that some smaller networks had also mulled decreasing the number of journalists they have stationed here, but decided against it following the outbreak of anti-regime protests in Egypt and across the Arab world.
In addition, Rapoport said, foreign news agencies have plenty of local news angles to explore; on the morning prior to this interview no less than 10 of the foreign networks filmed reports about the reaction in Israel to the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
Rapoport has a wealth of experience in the industry, having worked at ABC and later on as producer for now-Fox News reporter Geraldo Rivera. During his time in the US he won two Emmys for producing news reports, one of which dealt with the 1989 massacre in the Romanian city of Timisoara as the Communist regime of Nicola Ceausescu was on the verge of collapse.
He said his main challenge as CEO of JCS, which is controlled by majority shareholder Ronald Lauder, will be to figure out how to incorporate new technologies to the benefit of his clients.
“There is still use of satellites, there is still use of broadband, but there are also new tools, and we need to bring those [new tools] to our clients... that is my challenge,” he said. “[Until now] they have come to JCS because they know that it is a one-stop shop.”