Jewish Life TV ready to air, but needs nod from IBA

'Jewish Oprah' and prime investor Galia Albin: Only bureaucracy is holding us up.

Galia Albin 88 (photo credit: )
Galia Albin 88
(photo credit: )
Galia Albin is a charismatic entrepreneur, and at the ripe age of 60 has entered the media business earnestly, determined to portray a positive image of Israel to English-speakers throughout the Middle East. Albin, who bought a controlling stake in the Los Angeles-based Jewish Life TV last month, said on Wednesday that she had struck a deal with the Israel Broadcasting Authority to air JLTV's English-language programs on Channel 33, with Hebrew and Arabic subtitles, and only bureaucracy was holding it up. "Everything is ready to go, and the only reason we're not going on the air is that [IBA director-general] Moti Sklar says the IBA plenum needs to approve it," she told The Jerusalem Post. "Moti Sklar himself has approved the move to Channel 33. But I am so embarrassed to tell you that I just spoke to Moti Sklar, and he told me that it's now up to the IBA plenum to meet and approve it. It's all a question of bureaucracy." Sklar did not answer his cellphone, and the IBA spokeswoman said the problem was that there was no plenum at the moment following several resignations in the past few months, and a new plenum now had to be chosen. "Until a new plenum is elected, nothing can move ahead," she said. The spokeswoman said the question of when this would happen could only be answered by the minister in charge of the IBA, Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein. But Edelstein was not immediately available to comment. According to a source in the IBA, Albin's initiative might be doomed from the start. "The Broadcasting Authority is undergoing a reform that will dedicate Channel 33 completely to Arabic-language programming," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the ongoing reform process. Getting vetted for broadcast in the framework of Channel 33 will take time, the source said, as will broadcasting in any other framework, whether through a new public channel or in the more expensive commercial channels. Asked why she had approached Channel 33 in the first place, Albin said, "Channel 33 is not the big picture. It's only a vehicle, a platform. We're talking about satellite, and the mission is to get Jewish and Israeli content to English speakers here and across the Middle East using the Hotbird satellite. "Channel 33 is ideal. It's a win-win situation," she went on. "Yes or Hot would have cost so much money. Channel 33 by law must broadcast six hours of Arab content. So I said to Moti Sklar, 'Give me the air time, and I'll provide you the content of JLTV for free.' I said, 'There are 400,000 English-speaking citizens in Israel, so why don't we broadcast Jewish content to them from 9 p.m. until the next day, and he said, 'Why not?'" Almost as an aside, she noted that she herself was hosting a weekly Oprah-style talk show, and had already begun shooting the pilots for the program. "I am producing a show, something like the Jewish Oprah," she said. "It's called JGalia, and we're going to air it once a week on Jewish TV worldwide." So far, Albin said, she has interviewed Betar Jerusalem savior Guma Aguiar, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and the woman who won the Jewish bachelor TV show. Albin said she had committed to investing $250,000 of her own money a year, and that her target audience was over 100 million English-speakers in the Arab world, in Israel and in the Diaspora. "We have launched JLTV in Iran and Iraq, and some of the talkbacks are terrible, but others are really interesting - responses from normal people wanting to know more about Israel and the Jews," she said. "My new philosophy is pro-Semitism," she added. "We're all Semites, the sons of Abraham. And here we are, the Jewish people, saying to the Arab world: Why are you trying to destroy us? Just leave us alone, let's make economic peace, and let's do pro-Semitism!" JLTV aims to reach the homes of hundreds of millions of Arabs throughout the Middle East via satellite, with the aim of "bringing people together." The television station broadcasts regular news on current affairs and sports from Israel and the Jewish world, talk shows and documentaries on science and the arts, as well as live telecasts of major Jewish and Israeli events. The TV station was launched in 2007 by Phil Blazer, who took his Jewish radio station from 1965 and turned it into a 24/7 television station broadcast on Time Warner Cable dedicated to Jewish life in the US and around the world. But it really took off this year when it scored a media coup by securing the exclusive rights to broadcast the entire Maccabiah Games for the first time. JLTV provides a free broadcast via satellite and American cable and digital serves to more than 100 million homes across the US, Canada, the Middle East, Asia and Europe, as well as on the Internet. During the 18th Maccabiah, the station's main anchor was the affable Mitch Gaylord, a world-class gymnast who won medals at the Los Angeles Olympics and the 1981 Maccabiah. At the same time, JTLV began broadcasting via satellite to the entire Middle East, targeting educated Arabs who speak English. After inheriting a fortune and seven public companies when her husband Micky died over 20 years ago, Albin decided to go into the business herself. The mother of four children, she proved to be an astute businesswoman, philanthropist, peace activist and campaigner for women's and children's rights. Since 1985, she has been the owner and chairwoman of Almedia Holdings, which invests in finance, real estate and technology. She serves on the board of at least 10 large companies, including Marks & Spencer Israel, United Steel Mills and Koor. Albin has most recently served as director of the Israel Women's Network, as well as chairing the Business Forum Women's Advisory, the National Council for the Child and the Center for Economic Development among Jewish and Arab Women. Born in Haifa, Albin has degrees in education from the Kibbutzim College of Education and a BA and MA in psychology and law from Tel Aviv University. She has also studied Advanced Management at Harvard University. After studying acting in New York at the age of 50, she returned to Israel to host a TV talk show called The Club, aimed at Israelis over 50. She has produced three films (including From Toledo to Jerusalem), owned the Globes and Monitin business publications and even launched the short-lived Israeli edition of Penthouse magazine. Albin has also published two books: the bestselling Love Triumphs, and Happiness Triumphs, which was adapted for television. Last year, she made an unsuccessful attempt to enter politics on the Kadima list, nine years after her first failure in politics on beauty queen Pnina Rosenblum's list. She introduced an initiative last year (and repeated it again this year) to set a world record for singing "Hatikva." Called Live Hatikva, the nonprofit project is aimed at uniting world Jewry through thousands of people singing the national anthem in a global media event broadcast on JLTV on the eve of Independence Day. "Now more than ever, the word 'hatikva' [hope] means so much to the Jewish people," she said. "We must unite and keep strong. We must not let world opinion scare us and weaken our self-confidence regarding our right to exist in the Jewish land and our right to be proud Jews worldwide. Now more than ever, Jewish people must understand that strengthening the identity of being - first Jewish and second Israeli - is a matter of survival and that this is the torch that needs to be passed on to prevent anti-Semitism worldwide." Haviv Rettig Gur contributed to this report.