Electionscape: TV ads a chance to change channels

Ads shown at different times on the three channels will likely reduce viewership.

anshel pfeffer 298.88 (photo credit: )
anshel pfeffer 298.88
(photo credit: )
Tuesday night's election broadcasts will be shown at different hours on all three main channels. If the last elections are anything to go by, instead of tripling the audience, it will just give people a chance to switch channels for some more serious fare. In the not so long ago days of the single channel, the broadcasts were an eagerly awaited event, the parties' jingles became national theme tunes and they had a considerable influence on voters' intentions. The old habits remained during the 1996 election, after the advent of Channel 2, and the Likud's shattered glass clips, showing Yasser Arafat leading an ashen-faced Shimon Peres, was attack politics like never seen here before and had a devastating effect on Labor's substantial lead. Ever since, however, the broadcasts' viewing ratings have plummeted and serious analysts belittle their influence. It's quite possible that Channel 10's Raviv Druker's scoop this week, showing Omri Sharon's diaries, detailing political appointments and other shady dealings, might prove to be much more damaging than anything Labor or Likud might throw at Ehud Olmert. Kadima's main asset, perhaps it sole one, is the aura of the leader in a coma. None of the parties dare say a bad word about Grandfather Arik, but the diaries find him guilty by association with his son and serve as a reminder of the rampant corruption during his tenure, and Olmert is also implicated. But the diminished influence hasn't prevented the parties from spending millions on their broadcasts, and to ensure a wider audience, all the parties invited the press to view their broadcasts, which were once kept under wraps before the big night. Labor especially has invested a huge portion of its limited budget on television - it's the last chance to try to portray Amir Peretz as a viable national leader. For that purpose, Labor last week opened its studio in Givatayim to reporters and camera crews so they could film Peretz encircled by Labor's top 10; the underlying message, if Ami Ayalon, Avishay Braverman and Shelly Yacimovich go for Peretz, so can the rest of us. In another corner of the studio, a mock study has been built as a backdrop for Peretz's fireside chats, replete with law books and framed photographs of him with world leaders. But a filming schedule on the wall emphasized one of Peretz's main problems, senior officers Ayalon and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer were slated to appear in the "security film," Peretz wasn't needed. But the main question for the party's strategists isn't how to highlight their candidates' strengths, but whom to attack. In past campaigns the answer was clear, Likud and Labor slugged it out, while the far-right attacked Likud for not being right enough, and Meretz did the same for Labor from the left. The haredim and Shinui demonized each other. But this time, most parties are up against their traditional enemies and also Kadima, and they have to decide where to concentrate fire. Olmert's list is the one to beat. The Likud isn't going to waste much time on Peretz, so Olmert is in for an all-out attack. Kadima will be giving as good as it gets, and the Netanyahu-Olmert fight is going to turn bloody. Labor's dilemma is how to attack Binyamin Netanyahu's financial record without helping its bigger rival. Its strategy will be to try to tar the two with the same brush, as cigar-smoking, poverty-ignoring capitalists. It will be interesting to see how smaller parties eager to sit in the next coalition will be careful not to anger Olmert too much. Shas has already decided to run a poverty-centered campaign and blame its one-time ally Netanyahu. Meretz's and Israel Beiteinu's broadcasts likewise will go easy on Olmert and look for other targets. Despite Kadima's bad fortune over the last few weeks, they still reckon that an Olmert government is a foregone conclusion and they want in.