88FM's fate up in the air

Israel's only alternative music station threatened with closure.

radio 88 (photo credit: )
radio 88
(photo credit: )
88FM, considered by serious Israeli music aficionados and musicians to be the country's only true alternative music station, is in danger of closing down. The station was founded in 1995 in order to provide a high-quality alternative to commercial radio stations and is broadcast 24 hours a day. Unlike other stations, which tend to broadcast hits taken from a restricted play list, FM 88 established itself as promoter of emerging musicians, jazz, blues, world music, electronic music, and indie-rock. The station's fate will be determined in the coming weeks, when the Knesset's Finance Committee meets to decide about the implementation of the Dinur Committee's recommendations for a reform of the Israel Broadcasting Authority. The recommendations involve a series of changes in how Israel's publicly owned radio and television stations will be managed, budgeted, and supervised. They also include restricting the range of radio broadcasts and cutting the number of radio employees. Closing down 88FM was one of the recommendations made by the Dinur Committee, which argued that it was not necessary for the station to remain part of the country's public radio broadcasting system. The committee had also suggested examining the possibility of privatizing the station. The committee is scheduled to vote on the issue within the next month, and its spokesman suggested privatization would be the committee's most likely recommendation. Some of Israel's top musicians, including Ehud Banai, Yehudit Ravitz, Riki Gal, and Aviv Gefen, have spoken out publicly against closing down the station. For these artists and for the station's regular listeners, it represents an oasis for an eclectic mix of quality music whose broadcasters insist on maintaining their own personal touch and high standards and on not giving in to the dictates of rating, thus promoting musicians that are not part of mainstream Israeli culture. Those opposing the closing down of the station also point out to the small number of employees and minimal production costs that its operation currently requires. Yoav Ginai, the director of 88FM, could not be reached for comment. Linda Bar, spokeswoman for the IBA, confirmed that "Employees of 88FM were very upset about the Dinur Committee's recommendation to close down certain radio stations, including 88FM." Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report.