Eminent sociologist and communications expert Elihu Katz, professor emeritus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and of several universities in the United States, died in Jerusalem on Friday.
Born in New York but living the larger part of his life in Jerusalem, Katz was on a frequent commute between Israel and the US, where he also taught.
Katz is widely acknowledged to be one of the founding fathers of regular television broadcasts in Israel and was director of Israel Television (now replaced by KAN 11) from 1967-69. He received the Israel Prize in 1989 and other awards in Israel and abroad.
Had Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, remained in office, television – already a late bloomer – would have come to Israel much later than it actually did. Ben-Gurion did not see the need for television, other than for educational purposes.
In fact, it was not until Levi Eshkol became prime minister that the now defunct Israel Broadcasting Authority was launched in May 1968. Educational Television had been launched just over two years earlier with experimental broadcasts to schools.
Only in November 1993 was a second channel introduced. Since then, there has been a plethora of viewing options with easy access to foreign as well as local channels.
In addition to his involvement with Israel Television, Katz helped to found Hebrew University’s Department of Communication and Journalism in the faculty of Social Sciences. This paved the way for media studies in other universities and colleges in Israel.
Widely known for his research into communications, in November 2015, Katz donated his extensive archive of more than 2,000 books collected over decades not to Hebrew University but to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Department of Communication Studies.
Katz is survived by his wife, Ruth, their two sons and their families. He was buried on Sunday at Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot Cemetery.