IBA employees protest freeze by Erdan and Lapid of promised reforms

Some 100 employees of the Israel Broadcasting Authority demonstrate outside the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem.

IBA protests Israel Broadcasting Authority 370 (photo credit: Arieh O’Sullivan)
IBA protests Israel Broadcasting Authority 370
(photo credit: Arieh O’Sullivan)
Some 100 employees of the Israel Broadcasting Authority demonstrated outside the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem on Monday, protesting the failure by Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud Beytenu) to honor an agreement for IBA reforms.
The accords were signed last year following more than two decades of discussions, including six years of intensive negotiations among IBA management, the Treasury and the Jerusalem Journalists Association (JJA).
Last month Erdan, with backing from Lapid, put a freeze on the reforms, leaving everyone directly or indirectly employed by the IBA in limbo. Meanwhile, he began cobbling together an advisory committee to come up with proposals for the structure of a more streamlined public broadcast service.
Veteran broadcaster Yaakov Ahimeir, a high-profile IBA employee who last year was awarded the Israel Prize, warned that the government was ruining its credibility because if it failed to honor a signed agreement there was no guarantee it would honor other agreements it signs.
The reforms package was signed under the auspices of the previous government, something that did not impinge on its validity or absolve the present government of its responsibility to honor it, Ahimeir declared.
The IBA has had a long history of disagreements between staff and management, and with both the Finance Ministry and the JJA.
Achieving the accord was a both a painful process and a Herculean task because it involved the dismissal of 700 employees who, because of their varied professions, were represented by a multitude of unions within the IBA and the Histadrut labor federation.
In the end the agreement provided for better severance conditions, and several staff members were even happy to take early retirement, knowing they were not going to starve. Others waited in trepidation for the ax to fall but did not expect the brusque disregard by Erdan, who, less than three months after his appointment, began talking about closing down the broadcast body entirely.
“We agreed that the IBA is a cumbersome body and that it needs to be reformed and trimmed down. But there’s a big difference between trimming down and shutting down,” a spokesperson for employees, asking for anonymity, told The Jerusalem Post.
“We love the place we work for and we love what we do,” the spokesperson said. “Now we are all terrified of what the future will bring.”
Erdan has also been quite caustic in complaining about mismanagement. What this could bring about is a closing of ranks, as the people in IBA managerial positions are also employees.
As a result of the fact that there are a lot of complex legal issues at play when it comes to the status of the IBA and that the government has several other important matters with which it needs to contend, it is doubtful that any concrete changes will take place on Erdan’s watch.
Many feel that his decisions have only earned him a lot of enemies, especially among those IBA employees with young families to support.
As for Lapid, it is believed that the finance minister is spitting in the well from which he once drank.
Although a print journalist since his army days, he launched his television career just under 20 years ago on the IBA’s Channel 1. Critics speculate that, were it not for the exposure he gained at the IBA, he might not have been able to arrive at where he is today.
In addition, Lapid’s late father, Joseph (Tommy) Lapid, was director-general of the IBA from 1979 to 1984. With his Archie Bunker-style bluntness, the senior Lapid also appeared regularly on Popolitica, Channel 1’s popular weekly round-table screechfest.