The Israel Broadcasting Authority's management committee, facing mounting public pressure over its threats to make sweeping cuts to foreign-language news broadcasts, on Monday asked the administration to sit down with union representatives and work out a viable emergency plan. The Management Committee, headed by attorney Moshe Gavish, extended the grace period to solve the IBA's severe budgetary crisis until next Monday, when the committee is expected to reconvene. It also made it clear to the administration that it would offer a proposal of its own if necessary.
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Everyone on the committee will have a much clearer conscience if union representatives and the IBA administration can work out an agreement as to which workers will be made redundant, rather than the management committee issuing a specific edict which might leave hundreds of IBA personnel unemployed.
The employees knew this and that accounts for the stormy protest they staged at the Management Committee's meeting on Monday.
At that meeting, the Management Committee was supposed to decide the fate of foreign news broadcasts and certain cultural broadcasts on Israel Radio and Israel Television, but failed to reach a final resolution.
It didn't discuss the IBA English News on television and as far as the radio stations were concerned, it decided not to close down any radio station for the next few days, nor to do anything that would harm the interests and imperil the future of public broadcasting, which last year celebrated its 70th anniversary.
Meanwhile, the administration has been told to give first priority to negotiations with union representatives so that whatever plan is agreed upon can be implemented as quickly as possible. The Management Committee was not considering weeks but days for that process to begin.
Gavish empathized with the workers' protest, saying that it expressed genuine pain. "The workers are really fighting for the preservation of public broadcasting," he said, "but they have to understand that our situation is so bad that we have to find ways to survive this difficult period until the recovery program is approved."
In previous years, there was acute hostility between the Management Committee and the IBA workers, who saw the former as the enemy intent on doing away with their jobs.
Gavish hastened to dispel this impression, and stated that the Management Committee did not see the workers as another side of the conflict, "because we're all on the same side." The workers must understand that without concessions, the IBA cannot continue, he said, adding that if drastic measures were not taken immediately, there was a real danger that there would be no money for salaries in August.
The IBA was no longer a monopoly, he said, competition was tough and income was down by 40 percent over the past three years.
One veteran broadcaster who manages one of the IBA media departments told The Jerusalem Post that nothing is as it used to be. In the old days, even when the IBA had the competition of Channel 2, he said, there were still surplus funds to take care of crisis situations, and the IBA still enjoyed something akin to monopoly status. "That no longer exists, and the money is all dried up," he said.