Battle of the ballot box sparks TV ratings war

Judging by the ratings chart, the election coverage resulted in a significant rise in ratings for Channel 10.

Shortly before Tuesday's elections, the 13-year-old daughter of Rishon Lezion resident Alex Gilon tried to get to the bottom of the advertising campaigns she had been watching on television for several weeks. "She wanted to know which political party Channel 2 represented," Gilon told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday afternoon. "We had to explain to her that they were advertising themselves," he said, referring to channel's election-oriented promotional ad, in which a ballot bearing the number 2 flashed across the screen, in tandem with a voiceover stating "Israel votes 2." "I think it has all been a little exaggerated," Gilon said of the campaigns launched in recent weeks not only by Channel 2, but also by Channels 1 and 10. Nevertheless, the Gilon family - like thousands of other Israelis - chose to spend Tuesday afternoon at the Channel 10 election event at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Gilon kept himself busy snapping pictures of his children getting signed autographs from the stars of The Models, one of Channel 10's popular reality-TV shows. He planned to leave shortly before the channel's live news broadcast was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. "The news isn't the attraction here," Gilon said. Others at the square tended to agree that the fanfare there was, above all, Channel 10's attempt to win the elections rating war. "Channel 10 is basically here to advertise itself," said Naomi Lyth, a young political activist handing out pamphlets at the square. Indeed, Channel 10's election "happening," which culminated with a live broadcast of the exit poll on a gigantic screen, was the media climax of an election campaign in which politicians vied for attention with the country's three main TV channels. Judging by the ratings chart published just prior to the elections, the struggle among the broadcasters to win the largest number of viewers for their election coverage has indeed resulted in a significant rise in ratings for Channel 10. Although Channel 2 news still ruled the rating chart with a 17.1 percent rating on Sunday evening, Channel 10 news came as close as it ever has to its main rival, with its pre-election news broadcast from Rabin Square bringing in a 12.3% rating. Channel 1's Mabat staggered behind with 8.1%. The foreign press, on the other hand, has shown significantly less of an interest in the Israeli elections than it did in the two most recent events to attract massive numbers of foreign journalists - the disengagement and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke. Nevertheless, Thorsten Schmitz, the Israel correspondent for German newspaperSuddeutsche Zeitung, told the Post on Tuesday that the newspaper was "very keen about covering the Israeli elections," which he said would be on the newspaper's front page on Wednesday. Sharon's sudden disappearance as a political force has led, he said, to a major interest in Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and in his plans for a future withdrawal from most of the West Bank. While noting that Germany has always been interested in the Israeli elections, Schmitz also said he found other foreign correspondents in Israel "very much involved" in the elections. According to Hanani Rapaport, manager of JCS News and Production Facilities which supplies foreign TV crews with equipment and editing and broadcasting services, JCS set up 16 stations for live broadcasts in collaboration with the European Broadcasting Union - the same as during the 2003 elections. Rapaport said he believed that international interest in the elections was tempered by the multitude of international news stories currently taking place. "There are a lot of other things going on right now," he said. "There's the general strike in France, the elections in Belarus - while here the results are already known." •