IBA head Gavish quits, throwing reform into doubt

Israel Broadcasting Authority chairman Moshe Gavish announced his resignation on Tuesday, a week after Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein, who is responsible for the implementation of the Broadcasting Authority Law, expressed the opinion that Gavish, a dollar-a-year man, would remain at his post. Gavish, who commissioned a survey that led to recommendations for reform which were largely accepted by the previous government, the institutions of the IBA and its employees' various unions, resigned because there has been so much foot-dragging with regard to moving the reforms from declarations on paper to action. Gavish's resignation seems likely to return the chaos to the IBA that seemed to have subsided in recent weeks as management, staff, the Union of Israeli Journalists and the Histadrut Labor Federation prepared to begin adopting reforms designed to make public broadcasting more efficient. He notified Edelstein that he intended to wind up his duties at the end of the month, due to uncertainty regarding the implementation of the reforms. Gavish told a news conference that he was not sure whether the prime minister, the minister of finance and Treasury officials were at all interested in getting the reforms off the ground. Under these circumstances it was impossible to reach any kind of accommodation with employees and their unions, he said. Gavish believes that reforms are possible, but depend on the government's priorities. If the agreements required to put the reforms in motion are not signed, he has predicted the IBA's deficit this year will come to NIS 300 million. For several years now, the Finance Ministry has threatened not make any more funds available to the IBA unless it gets rid of its deficit, which in effect means cutting down heavily on its payroll. So far there has always been a last-minute reprieve. In the past, the unions, whose major interest was in saving jobs, fought tooth and nail against the IBA, and generally speaking emerged victorious, so much so that several employees threatened with dismissal were reinstated. Such victories impeded any progress with reforms until Gavish declared publicly on several occasions that every effort would be made to treat employees slated for dismissal with the utmost dignity and with adequate compensation. His resignation came as a surprise to many of the people who have worked with him. Last week, Gavish and IBA director-general Moti Sklaar, who had each been involved in every phase of the revision of the IBA code of ethics, sat in on a meeting of the IBA ethics committee in which the new code was approved. Unless Edelstein can persuade Gavish to change his mind, he will have to go hunting for a new IBA chairman, and he may discover that given the headache and heartache that have accompanied chairman to date, there won't be many candidates.