MKs come to defense of Educational TV

Nahman Shai: PM’s move to merge station with IBA is an attempt to silence media.

nachman shai 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
nachman shai 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
At least two members of Knesset have come out against an alleged attempt by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to merge Israel Educational Television (IETV) with the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
Following a report in Haaretz on Wednesday, Kadima MK Nahman Shai – a former IBA chairman, Army Radio chief and IDF Spokesman – spoke out strongly against such a move, stating that the prime minister was initiating yet another measure to silence the media and deflate the freedom of the press.
Israel Beiteinu MK Alex Miller, who chairs the Knesset Education Committee, also voiced strenuous objection to stripping IETV of its independence and merging it with the IBA. He announced that he would convene an emergency meeting on the subject, adding that there was certainly no need to create yet another crisis while the IBA was in the throes of reforms.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Israel Radio’s Yaron Dekel interviewed Yaffa Vigodsky, who recently stepped down after eight years at the helm of IETV, and asked her whether, in an era when students could easily access information on the Internet, there was still a valid reason for continuing with Educational Television or keeping it independent of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
Vigodsky retorted that the question could well be put the other way around: whether there was any valid purpose in maintaining Channel 1, whose ratings were considerably lower than those of the commercial channels.
She acknowledged that eventually the day for a merger would come, “but it isn’t here yet.” Until the IBA sorts out its own extensive problems and begins implementing reforms, she said, a merger is pointless.
As for the Internet taking over from Educational Television, she argued that there was a big difference between a classroom or a family watching and learning from a television screen, and an individual watching a computer screen.
Dekel responded that programs such as Erev Hadash (A New Evening), Tik Tikshoret (Media File) and Hakol Anashim (It’s All People) were hardly educational. Vigodsky disagreed, noting that news programs on other channels were basically bulletins, while the programs on IETV featured indepth discussions that were invaluable to communications students.
She viewed IETV as an essential component of public broadcasting and asserted that it was vital in any democratic country to support public broadcasting to the hilt.
Educational Television, which was the country’s pioneer TV channel, has been in danger of extinction on more than one occasion. Established in 1965 as a joint project of the Education Ministry and the Rothschild Foundation, it launched its first broadcast in March 1966. Following an introductory address by Lord Jacob Rothschild, the station relayed lessons in biology, math and English to 32 schools that had a total of 60 television sets. In subsequent years, it also had quiz shows and culture programs, and even taught Talmud.
It was not until 1968 that Channel 1, then known as Israel Television, began broadcasting from a channel shared with IETV. After the introduction of two commercial television stations, ITV changed its name to Channel 1.
In addition to Channel 1, the IBA also broadcasts from Channel 33, and IETV broadcasts from Channel 23, although some of its programs can also be seen on Channels 1 and 2.
Over the years, the Finance Ministry has made several attempts to close down Educational Television, which currently operates on an annual budget of NIS 80 million. However, opposition from many quarters, including the Knesset, has enabled the channel to remain an autonomous body within the Education Ministry, with the IETV director-general sitting in on meetings of the ministry’s directorate.
Following Vigodsky’s departure, Eldad Koblentz, who has held executive positions at the Galgalatz radio station and Channel 2, was selected as her successor. However, the Prime Minister’s Office has yet to approve his appointment.