Israelis actually watch less than 10 channels

Consumers Council demands bill for narrow basic channel package.

NBC 311 (photo credit: AP)
NBC 311
(photo credit: AP)
The Israel Consumers Council on Sunday delivered hundreds of letters from consumers to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, demanding that they support a new bill that would require cable and satellite providers to offer a narrow basic channel package.
Under the bill sponsored by MKs Ophir Akunis (Likud) and Yulia Shamolov Berkovich (Kadima), instead of buying a basic package featuring a large number of channels, consumers could choose fewer channels for a lower price.
Sixty-five percent of Israeli households have subscriptions to either cable or satellite television services.
Consumers Council spokeswoman Rakefet Weintraub said the current situation, in which people are offered relatively large basic channel packages, is disadvantageous to consumers, as they don’t watch many of the channels on offer.
She cited a study conducted by the Consumers Council, which found that while the television providers offered basic packages featuring dozens of channels, the average viewer actually watched only a fraction of them, quickly flicking by the majority of the ones included in their package.
“The ICC [Israel Consumers Council] conducted a survey among 1,222 cable and satellite viewers asking them to mark down the channels they regularly viewed. The survey found that out of the 49 channels provided in the basic package of YES [satellite] and the 62 channels provided by HOT [cable], the average viewer only watched 9.5 channels,” Weintraub said.
“The consumers also often purchase additional channels,” she continued. “Depending on the household makeup, it can be children’s channels or sports channels. Either way, they are not included in the price of the basic package, which for both providers is NIS 210. We believe that consumers should only be required to pay for the channels they actually view and that the providers should be made to offer a price scheme that reflects the limited viewing.”
“When the consumer’s voice comes across so clearly regarding a basic service that is present in nearly every Israeli household, it is necessary to act toward passing a law that promotes a narrow basic package, where the consumer will avoid unnecessary payments and only pay for the channels they are interested in,” Consumers Council director- general Ehud Peleg wrote in a letter to the ministers.
“The freedom to choose the channels, is an expression of the autonomy of the individual, which has been recognized as a basic consumption principal by the courts.”
The bill is expected to face strong opposition from the cable and satellite providers, which say that it will hurt their revenue. Content-providers and channels with low viewership may also suffer as the relatively large basic package subsidizes much of the programming. Niche channels that will not be ordered by enough people may have to go off the air.
Weintraub said that while basic channel packages were common in other countries too, the fact that in Israel there were only two multi-channel television service providers led to less competition, and that the providers’ “captive audience” meant that the state must do more to regulate in favor of consumers.
For those who feel they don’t need hundreds of channels and interactive services on their television, using Digital Terrestrial Television technology, consumers can now receive Israeli channels 1, 2, 10, 33 and 99, in digital quality, for free, after a one-time purchase of a special converter.