Israel cancels 'God TV's Evangelical Christian channel

The Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting threatened to suspend Shelanu TV’s license, pending a review by the council.

Senior man watching tv (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Senior man watching tv
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The license for Shelanu TV, the Hebrew-language Christian evangelical TV channel which has been accused of seeking to proselytize in Israel, has been suspended.
Shelanu TV, owned by parent company God TV, began broadcasting in Israel on the Hot cable network at the end of April after it received a license from the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting earlier this year.
But when exposure of the kind of content broadcast on God TV, including comments by channel CEO Ward Simpson about the importance of bringing people to embrace Christianity as well as a strong reaction by then communications minister David Amsalem, the council threatened to suspend Shelanu TV’s license, pending a review by the council into Hot’s contract with the channel.
God TV, which reaches some 300 million homes around the world, is dedicated to preaching the Christian gospel and the task of the “Great Commission,” a doctrine in Christian theology to gain disciples for Christianity and to preach the religion.
Proselytizing, seeking to convert people to another religion, is not illegal in Israel, although the law prevents proselytizing to minors without their parents presence or consent, and promising any monetary or material compensation for converting to another religion.
Council chairman Asher Biton wrote to the Hot company on Thursday informing it that the license had been suspended since, he argued, Shelanu TV was appealing to Jews as its target audience and not to Christians in Israel, as he said had been written in the original license request.
Biton said that the license request had “written explicitly that the channel is intended for the Christian population,” although noting that the channel would “integrate several programs with content designated for Israel,” adding that “the designated content will include programs for the Christian population in Israel.”
The Council said that after its oversight department examined the issue “it was apparent that the channel is not appealing to the Christian population in Israel but rather specifically to Jews,” and that therefore “the characterization of the channel that was submitted does not reflect its broadcasts.”
Biton continued saying that after the review into Shelanu TV’s license was announced “the channel continued to appeal to Jews through efforts to teach them about the principles of Christian/Jewish messianic faith and to convince them of its validity.”
It said that this attitude commensurates with the message put out by Simpson in his video announcing the new channel.
Biton said that when he had granted the license he had not intended to approve a channel that seeks Jews as its target audience and that if he had known the nature of Shelanu TV he would have directed the approval process down a different path including a hearing in front of the full council.
“A channel which seeks to address the Jewish people which dwell in Israel [and present it with] the gospels of Jesus will never be broadcast on Hot and this was known to the senior officials of the channel, as was stated in the hearing,” wrote Biton.
In his decision, Biton acknowledged however that proselytizing in Israel is not illegal, and that if a request was presented to authorize a proselytizing channel further examination of the issue would be required given that proselytizing to minors is illegal and since children often have free access to TV.
Hot has seven days to stop the Shelanu TV broadcasts, but is able to appeal the decision if it so wishes.
If it does, Biton said that if a new license request is made which accurately depicts the nature of the channel and its broadcasting, the issues of “freedom of expression against the injury to religious sensitivities would be examined.”
He added that religious channels of different faiths designed for their own religious communities have been broadcasting in Israel for many years “in accordance with the religious policies of the Council.”
Hot’s written submission requesting a license for Shelanu TV says it is “a Christian channel which advances positivity, hope, and a close connection with God.”
It also said that initially Shelanu TV would broadcast content not specifically for the Israeli public but would gradually integrate “content designated in principle for the Israeli public.”
It said its target audience was “men and women of all ages,” but did not specify further what faith community it was intended for.
The decision by Biton to grant a license stated specifically under the description of the channel that it was “intended for the audience of viewers in Israel.”
Shelanu TV said in response that in the existing license it is written “unambiguously” that “the channel will broadcast Christian content in Hebrew to the general Israeli public.
The organization said that “it is therefore unclear at all what was not correct, apart from political considerations.”
Shelanu TV said it would submit a new license request for broadcasting in Israel.
“We are saddened by the unprofessional decision of the chairman of the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting,” the organization said, alleging that it was made because Biton is close to [former communications minister] Amsalem who condemned the license granted to Shelanu TV before he left the ministry.
“The directors of the channel hope that the Council will approve the new request to broadcast the channel, and thereby avoid a severe diplomatic incident with hundreds of millions of Evangelical Christians who love and support Israel around the world,” said Ron Cantor, a “Messianic Jew” in Israel and spokesman for Shelanu TV.