A-G: Okay to extend license for Channel 10

Weinstein says station’s ‘influence on freedom of expression worth preserving’.

Channel 10 logo_311 (photo credit:  Courtesy)
Channel 10 logo_311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein sent a legal opinion on Sunday to the Second Broadcast Authority, saying he does not object to Channel 10’s broadcast license being extended for another year.
The station, one of two privately owned television broadcasters in Israel, faces closure over debts of NIS 45 million in franchise fees and royalties.
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The Second Authority, which regulates commercial TV and radio broadcasting, is now expected to hold a hearing on Monday to discuss a request by Channel 10 to renew its broadcasting license until the beginning of 2013.
The legal opinion, prepared by the deputy attorney-general for economic and fiscal affairs, Avi Licht, comes a week after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to postpone a vote on legislation intended on saving the channel from being closed due to debts. The move was designed to allow the government to find a solution to prevent the private broadcaster from being closed.
In December, the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee dismissed a proposal to permit Channel 10 to reschedule its debt payments.
Licht’s legal opinion discussed whether Channel 10 should be allowed to renew its broadcasting license, which has so far been refused because the channel’s outstanding debts make it ineligible.
Licht said he had taken into account the fact that some MKs and government representatives had advocated different solutions to the issue.
However, referencing the 1990 Second Authority for Television and Radio Law, Licht cited a 1994 High Court of Justice ruling by then Supreme Court president Meir Shamgar, who said the legislation had an “independent existence from the day it came into being,” and “the law and the purpose it serves can be used only as guidelines for its understanding.”
“I am not dismissing other interpretations of the law in this regard,” Licht said, adding that he was suggesting an interpretation that left room for the broadcast license to be extended in this case.
Licht said Channel 10’s “influence on freedom of expression and the expansion of knowledge is important and worth preserving.” The channel is known for its often aggressive investigative reporting.
However, Licht conceded he thought there were “difficulties with the fact that Channel 10, which is meant to be independent and self-managed, sought help over and over again from Knesset and the state to bail it out.”
Channel 10 welcomed the legal opinion.
“Reports by the Second Authority for Television and Radio indicate the channel met all its commitments and even paid its past debts,” the channel said in a statement.
“We welcome any solution that will enable the channel’s continued operation while implementing broadcasting license reforms. This extension of the franchise, as stipulated by the law, until the broadcast license period comes into force, is the first step.”
Lahav Harkov and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.