IBA sets guidelines for unbiased coverage of Knesset elections

Although it has not yet been determined if and when general Knesset elections will be held, and recent developments suggest that Kadima might not hold primaries in September if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert suspends himself and names Shaul Mofaz as his replacement, the Israel Broadcasting Authority is nonetheless readying itself for election coverage. Because the IBA is a state-operated entity, it has to be more careful than other media outlets in its political coverage. IBA Director-General Moti Sklar has asked the IBA's legal adviser Hannah Matzkevitz to set down strict guidelines for reporters so the elections can be reported in objective a manner as possible. IBA correspondents covering election-oriented events can broadcast them based on their news value only, said Matzkevitz, who acknowledged that determination of news value was, however, a subjective matter. But while the news value of an item might be subjective, she continued, bias towards one candidate or another was undeniably propaganda, which is absolutely forbidden - not only at election time, but at all times. While she refrained from mentioning that this rule is violated from time to time by certain broadcasters, she did say that it was doubly important at election time not to broadcast material that could be construed as an attempt to influence the electorate. Matzkevitz also stipulated that none of the candidates for election was to appear on Israel Television or Israel Radio in the 60-day period prior to balloting. Matzkevitz wants the IBA to be clean of political bias. Even the polls that are regularly featured on both Israel Television and Israel Radio cannot be broadcast without being first presented to Sklar for approval. Poll results, she said, should contain the name of the organization that commissioned the survey, the institution that carried it out, the date on which it was conducted, the segment(s) of the population that responded, the number of people approached for the survey, the number that actually participated and the margin for error.