IBA hopes firm can help recapture its relevancy

Consultants aim to pull broadcasters out of the mud; Eitan Cabel: IBA is in total collapse.

iba 88 (photo credit: )
iba 88
(photo credit: )
In a bid to become a relevant broadcaster attractive to viewers, the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has chosen a strategic consulting firm that will have to pull it out of the mud, and quickly, before the Knesset's summer session, when a new Broadcasting Authority Bill comes up for its first reading. The company, TASC Strategic Consulting, was selected by the Tenders Committee and at the recommendation of the Steering Committee for Reform at the IBA. That committee, headed by IBA Chairman Moshe Gavish, included IBA Director-General Moti Shklar, IBA Vice Chairman Dorit Inbar, IBA Plenum Finance Committee Chairman Reuven Shalom, and Executive Committee members attorney Hanna Matzkevich, the IBA's legal adviser, and Maya Goren, coordinator of reform at the IBA. This step is supposed to promote the recovery process being led by the IBA management. In the context of this process, tenders were also issued recently for management posts within the IBA. Last month, the minister responsible for the IBA, Eitan Cabel, had harsh words to say to the Knesset Education Committee about the IBA and about the many changes that need to be made in it. According to Cabel, the IBA is in total collapse. "The IBA has no budget, transmitters or equipment, and the archive is disintegrating. I am looking for a way to keep the IBA alive, because it's practically dead. Today, people watch Channel 11 [the station's position on the cable and satellite TV dial] only when they want to watch Channel 10; they press 11 and then go down a channel on the remote control. If Channel 11 needs to count on people reaching it by channel surfing to get to Channel 10, whose ratings are also not too stellar, it's in really bad shape." Cabel said that he would bring the new Broadcasting Authority Bill for a first reading at the start of the summer session. According to him, in the new law he removed politics from the IBA and tried not to continue waging a battle that has already been decided, but rather to plan the IBA's future for the next 10 years. Cabel said he had received a promise from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and from the Finance Ministry of additional money for the IBA, to ensure fair conditions for retiring employees. TASC will submit the final report by the end of June. It will include recommendations regarding a new organizational structure for the IBA, based on successful models elsewhere in the world. It will also include a business plan for the next five years, which will include recommendations for increasing the IBA's revenues, reducing expenses, the scope of required investments, and narrowing the digital divide between it and other broadcasting bodies. The ultimate goal is to turn the IBA into a leading, quality and modern broadcasting entity. The consulting company will have to cooperate with IBA employees and with the heads of workers committees. TASC, which has taken on a difficult assignment, was founded 13 years ago by Salco Kleerekoper. The company is divided according to the industries in which it works; each area is headed by one of the firm's five partners. The company operates outside Israel as well, including in Greece and Romania. The IBA account will be handled by the division specializing in media and telecom. The company assisted Apax during the latter's acquisition of Bezeq. In the television field it has also worked with Keshet and with Channel 2 News. Sources in the organizational consulting industry note that the main goal TASC will have to bear in mind in working with the IBA is to combine public importance with attractiveness from the viewers' standpoint, to find the golden mean that will encourage public discourse in Israel as well as draw viewers. In dealing with the radio stations, the company will have to make Israel Radio attractive to advertisers, since radio revenues come from advertising. The general idea is to look at the IBA's organizational structure and compare it with similar platforms elsewhere in the world. The company will also have to bring the IBA into the Internet and cellular spheres. Today, a television station needs to have an advanced Web site offering video viewing services. That can be seen in Keshet's Web site being ranked eighth in the recent TIM survey, which measured levels of exposure to Web sites. With an eye on the BBC model, MK Michael Melchior told the Education Committee that in European countries the state channel is the leading one. Melchior said viewing percentages depend on the product that the channel provides. He added that the IBA, when it fulfills its social and public function, is important and essential to Israeli media culture. If it does not fulfill its function, it becomes unnecessary and any investment in it is wasted. The BBC formulated a vision combining traditional and educational values with innovation and advanced media channel. The vision is based on four main principles: progress and innovation; educating to values and appealing to a variety of audiences; meticulous adherence to operational balance; and being international. The BBC's revenue model in Britain is based on collecting a TV fee in the UK and international commercial activity outside the country. In 2006, 77% of revenues came from the TV fee and 23% from commercial activity; net earnings for the year totaled 3.6 million euros. The BBC's commercial activity includes the sale of content, news broadcasts in 33 foreign languages, and operating international channels in English. The BBC has also developed media activity spanning many channels and platforms: radio, television, digital TV, Internet and cellular. Activity by media bodies has gathered momentum on a number of platforms in Israel as well, mainly thanks to the grown of the Internet and to a significant rise in the use of Internet video. Keshet makes great use of implementing the multiplicity of platforms, and recently so has Reshet, which also launched a Web site with advanced technological capabilities and video content. A good example is Keshet's show Eretz Nehederet (A Wonderful Country), which is broadcast on a number of platforms: on television, in the video on demand library, selected segments on Keshet's content site, and on cellular, in the context of cooperation between Keshet and Orange. The range of platforms benefits both the viewer, who receives an option to view anywhere and at anytime, and the broadcaster, which leverages the content for addition revenues and increases the content's popularity.