Former IBA director-general Joseph Barel dies, aged 79

Barel was passionate about the importance of an English-language news broadcast, and the prevelence of such today shows he was ahead of his time.

IBA logo (photo credit: COURTESY OF IBA)
IBA logo
(photo credit: COURTESY OF IBA)
Joseph Barel, an Israel Prize laureate and a former director-general of the now defunct Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), died on Thursday and was laid to rest at the Har Hamenuhot cemetery in Jerusalem.
The Egyptian born Barel had suffered from cancer for several years, and was 79 at the time of his death.
His original career choice had been pharmaceuticals, for which he had studied in Cairo. However, after his arrival in Israel in the late 1950s, he switched his preference to broadcasting and became an Arabic newsreader on Israel Radio.
Later, when television came to Israel, Barel was appointed director of the Arabic-language division of what was then Israel Television, and was awarded the Israel Prize for Arabic Television 's contribution to Israeli society and to the State.
When he served as acting director-general of the IBA, one of the first goals that he set was a nightly news program in English.
He fought for this with great tenacity, despite vehement opposition from the IBA plenum and the IBA management committee, whose members could not see the need for broadcasting news in English. Some members were even opposed to broadcasting in Arabic. 
Barel's moment of triumph came on October 14, 1990, with the initial English-language broadcast.  The IBA News, as it was known, remained on air for a little over a quarter of a century, long after Barel was no longer associated with the IBA.
Barel, who was promoted to director-general in 2001, believed that the news in English was a very necessary service for diplomats stationed in Israel. Later, it became a link to the Jewish world, and was broadcast in the US and on El Al flights.
Although the IBA's successor, the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, which runs KAN 11 television, does not have a slot for news in English on television, the fact that i24 News does broadcast in English and that several Israeli newspapers have English-language  digital news sites indicates that Barel was ahead of his time.
As director-general, Barel also sought to have a wider range of journalistic opinions, but the state comptroller disapproved of the  free rein that Barel gave to right-wing journalist Uri Dan, who was a devoted follower of Ariel Sharon before and during the latter's term as prime minister.
The state comptroller also chastised Barel for fiscal mismanagement of the IBA, and he was removed from office in May 2005.