IBA union reps go to court to keep beloved radio programs on air

Anchors of late night talk shows on Israel Radio's Reshet Bet have spent the last two or three weeks making their farewells to faithful listeners.

IBA 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
IBA 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Israel Broadcasting Authority Union representatives petitioned the National Labor Court on Sunday in an attempt to get a stay of execution against measures that would force the temporary or permanent suspension of programs. Anchors of late night talk shows on Israel Radio's Reshet Bet have spent the last two or three weeks making their farewells to faithful listeners. The Jerusalem Post reported six months ago that the late night talk shows were to be taken off the air because of the costs involved in staffing studios. At the time, "The Israel Connection" - hosted by Elihu Ben-Onn - was also in danger of being axed, but advocacy by the Jewish Agency and representatives of other organizations concerned with maintaining and bolstering Israel-Diaspora relations allowed the program to remain on the air in its regular time slot. However, all other late-night talk shows will either be moved to a daytime slot, and another frequency - probably Reshet Gimmel, according to Broadcasting Authority Spokeswoman Linda Bar, who says that everything is in limbo until July 10. That's when the IBA's radio programs committee is scheduled to convene to discuss the situation. Broadcasters whose late night programs are in danger of disappearing or - at best - being rescheduled for daytime broadcasts, include Jo Jo Abutbul, Yoav Katz, Netiva Ben-Yehuda, Amnon Pe'er, Moshik Timor and Benny Dudkevitch. The quiz show hosted by legendary quizmaster Shmulik Rosen on Reshet Aleph is also likely to disappear from the airwaves. Rosen, 82, was such a permanent fixture on Israel Radio that when he retired, his fans demanded that he brought back and the IBA agreed only if he accepted a symbolic fee of NIS 200 per program. Now even this seems too much, and his fans are willing to pay out of their own pockets for him to remain on air. Rosen is one of several IBA pensioners who work for next to nothing so that they can continue presenting their programs. Ben-Yehuda, like Rosen, has a faithful following which is willing to do almost anything to keep her on air. A writer and historian who fought in the Palmah in the War of Independence, Ben-Yehuda is a writer and historian who has produced dictionaries, poems and stories of her own and other people's experiences before and in the immediate aftermath of the creation of the State. Ben-Yehuda had a strict rule that all the songs played on her program had to have been composed before the state of Israel was founded. Many young people became avid fans of her program and occasionally called in, and their voices have also been heard among the protests that have reached the IBA since it was announced that her program might be cancelled. Some of them are creating a Web site that will be based on songs that have been aired on the program. "No one really wants to get rid of the programs," Bar told The Jerusalem Post, "but because of the IBA's dire financial predicament, the programs have to be temporarily suspended for the sake of saving money. Otherwise, the IBA will simply collapse." The various unions represented at the IBA are claiming that the IBA management wants the broadcasting authority to die a quiet death. The new regulations about saving on studio expenditure, they point out, also apply to television, so that a program such as Yaakov Ahimeir's "Seeing the World" cannot be aired live, but has to be recorded on a regular working day to cut back on studio expenses. But more important, they say, is the fact that radio and television will keep airing repeat broadcasts until listeners and viewers get fed up and stop listening and watching. Once the ratings take a nosedive, the unions note, it will be extremely difficult to win back lost audiences. But Bar says that the changes are vital, and will be in force only until the proposed IBA reforms are implemented. But the reforms that have generated controversy between the IBA and its employees for well over a year are unlikely to be implemented until the issue of honorable dismissals of some 600 employees, with adequate compensation, is settled.