Analysis: Israel Broadcasting Authority: Shut-down or reform?

The future of public broadcasting in Israel is in the court of the Wage and Labor Agreements Department of the Finance Ministry.

Microphone crowd performance audience 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Microphone crowd performance audience 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The future of public broadcasting in Israel is in the court of the Wage and Labor Agreements Department of the Finance Ministry.
Israel Broadcasting Authority chairman Amir Gilat sent out a letter on Wednesday to members of the IBA plenum.
He wrote that a final agreement had been signed between the IBA and the Journalists Association and was waiting for approval from the Director of Wages at the Finance Ministry.
This is not the first agreement of its kind, and the ministry has previously refrained from implementing IBA agreements to which it was one of the signatories.
Gilat warned in his letter that unless reforms, which have been the subject of years of negotiation between the IBA, the Journalists Association, the Labor Federation and the Finance Ministry are carried out, there will be no justifiable reason for the IBA’s existence.
The IBA is working out its budget for 2014, he wrote, but under the circumstances, there is no way that it will be able to fulfill its obligations to upgrade its technological capabilities and to focus on more local productions.
One of the reasons that the reforms were held up for so long, Gilat explained, was because it had been difficult to find viable, comprehensive solutions, including new wage agreements, the elimination of some 700 jobs and a program that would guarantee increased budgets for content and technological advancement.
If the Finance Ministry approves and honors the agreement, it will simultaneously dissipate the aura of uncertainty that has been hanging over the IBA and its employees for far too long, wrote Gilat.
His letter made no mention of the decision on Sunday by Communications Minister Gilad Erdan to permit YES and HOT television channels to begin broadcasting news in 2014. The decision still requires Knesset approval, which if obtained could make the IBA with its low ratings, even less relevant than it is already, especially if news broadcasts by cable company HOT and satellite channel YES are in the same slot as Mabat News and if their news broadcasts are sandwiched between programs that enjoy high ratings.
When the public broadcasting service had programs that differed greatly from those on commercial television, it still had a raison d’etre, but in its efforts to compete in the ratings war, it has been screening feature programs and series that are much too explicit in sexual and forensic details, and would not be deemed suitable for family viewing.
Gilat concluded his letter by stating that a decision on the fate of the IBA must be taken soon and he hoped that it would enable it to continue to exist and provide a public broadcasting service.