IBA chief seeks to curtail political influence.

A new bill is pushed to stop "scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" practice

IBA 224 (photo credit: )
IBA 224
(photo credit: )
The most important change in the operations of the Israel Broadcasting Authority if the bill calling for reforms there is implemented will be the waning of political influence. The bill passed its first reading in the Knesset last week. Up until recently, most discussions on the reform have focused on the IBA's burgeoning deficit and the need to make drastic cutbacks in staff to reduce the IBA's heavy expenditure on salaries. However, no less important in the new order of the IBA will be its release from political interference, a factor that has plagued public broadcasting in Israel for almost 60 years. Part of the reason politicians have been able to wield so much influence on the content of public broadcasting is their "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" relationship with managers, editors and reporters. IBA chairman Moshe Gavish, anxious to put a stop to this situation, explained in a letter to IBA staff following the presentation of the IBA Reform Bill to the Knesset that no legislation could curtail political influence without the cooperation of the staff. It was incumbent on reporters and managers, he stated, to prevent politicians from exerting any influence on the decision-making process in the IBA. As such, reporters and department managers were asked not to cater to party interests or to the personal interests of any politicians. In addition, reporters were cautioned against interviewing politicians on issues in which the reporters were personally involved. "It is impossible to report objectively on someone to whom you are obligated or to make a correct decision about interviewing a public figure to whom you are obligated," wrote Gavish, adding that there had been several recent instances that illustrated this point. Gavish did not cite the specific cases, but emphasized that such conflicts of interest had caused considerable damage to the IBA. Employees who believed they have a legitimate grievance on any work-related issue were free to come to any IBA institution to state their case, Gavish wrote.