Eurovision 2019 facing mounting problems - and solutions

As rumors continue to fly over future of competition, MK Eitan Cabel proposes a bill to 'save' the contest and Kan says there is nothing to worry about.

Israel's Netta arrives for the news conference after winning the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal, May 13, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/PEDRO NUNES)
Israel's Netta arrives for the news conference after winning the Grand Final of Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena hall in Lisbon, Portugal, May 13, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/PEDRO NUNES)
Amid the religious, political and other tensions surrounding next year’s Eurovision Song Contest is a forgotten but crucial problem: A legal one.
This week, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara and Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel both made separate attempts to ensure that the Kan public broadcaster is, and remains, eligible to host the competition.
Kara sent a letter to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, and Cabel proposed a bill that would try to ensure that Kan can host next year’s Eurovision.
The problem that both Kara and Cabel are trying to solve stems from a law passed by the Knesset last year. That law effectively closed the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which had been in operation for 69 years, and replaced it with the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, stylized as Kan.
Kan hit the airwaves last year, and was granted temporary membership in the European Broadcasting Union – the body that runs the Eurovision Song Contest. That membership is predicated on several requirements, one of which directly conflicts with the law that created Kan.
The law was a political compromise to please Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and it dictated that there should be a split between the news department and the other departments of the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation. But in order to be a member of European Broadcasting Union, Kan must be responsible for both news and entertainment programming.
The temporary membership, which enabled Israel to compete in – and win – the 2018 contest, was predicated in part on the High Court’s decision last May to issue an injunction preventing the news division from splitting off.
The High Court has yet to issue a final ruling, but Kara’s letter to Mandelblit called for the justices to do so as soon as possible. If that’s not possible, Kara said, he requested to consult with Mandelblit on the issue and on the ability of Kan to produce the Eurovision.
A spokesman for the Communications Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that Mandelblit has yet to respond to the letter.
But Kara’s request for a ruling from the High Court would only enable Israel to host the Eurovision if the court ruled against the split, and essentially against Netanyahu.
“The minister wants the High Court to rule so it will be possible to see if the division between the news remains or not,” said the ministry spokesman. “Or to check the possibility of giving a one-year extension before the split. We don’t want them to throw out the budgets and then say the IPBC can’t broadcast the Eurovision – who will be blamed then for wasting government funds?”
Cabel, an opposition MK, attempted a different approach to address the problem, by proposing a bill on Thursday that would replace the old law. The Zionist Union MK, who labeled his proposal the “Bill to Save Eurovision in Israel,” called to amend the current law and cancel the split.
“The split of the IPBC was a political and cynical process,” said Cabel, “and now it’s clear that it is also causing damage to the State of Israel.”
Cabel said the call to create two separate bodies will only “add bureaucracy, functional difficulties and waste of public funds.” If those reasons weren’t enough, he said, Israel’s recent win at the Eurovision, and allowing it to host in Jerusalem, should be “a primary interest of the State of Israel.”
In the two weeks since Israel won the Eurovision song contest, a flurry of reports and rumors have placed Israel’s hosting in doubt.
When the Eurovision tweeted earlier this week that fans shouldn’t “go booking your flights just yet,” some took it as a sign that Israel’s hosting status was in jeopardy.
But both the Eurovision and Kan later said there was nothing out of the ordinary about the message.
“Work has begun on agreeing the specific logistics for hosting the competition, including where and when it will take place,” the Eurovision told the Post in a statement on Wednesday. The final decision will be taken by the host broadcaster in conjunction with the EBU and its members.” The statement urged that reports from third parties – which have been rampant in Israeli media – are “speculation only.” 
Kan released a statement on Tuesday noting that “the details of the Eurovision in Israel will be decided upon soon between the EBU and the IPBC Kan.”