IBA reforms deal signed as journalists demonstrate

700 IBA employees to be fired, says director general Yoni Ben-Menachem, after more than quarter of a century of negotiations.

Keren Neubach 370 (photo credit: IBA)
Keren Neubach 370
(photo credit: IBA)
After more than quarter of a century of negotiations an agreement for the reform of the Israel Broadcasting Authority was signed in Lod on Sunday.
The heads of the IBA, and representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Finance Ministry and the Lod Municipality signed the agreement.
What was supposed to be an historic and festive occasion was marred by journalists demonstrating outside the former city council building that will serve as one of the three focal points of the IBA until an adjacent and more modern building is built.
The journalists, who had disrupted regular Israel Radio program schedules throughout the day and part of last month, were ostensibly demonstrating against what they consider to be the politicization of the Broadcasting Authority, sparked by restraints put on current affairs anchorwoman Keren Neubach.
Some also demonstrated against the IBA moving its center of operations from Tel Aviv to Lod.
But beyond the surface was the fear of tomorrow.
As was announced by IBA director-general Yoni Ben- Menachem in the aftermath of the signing ceremony, the IBA can now go ahead with the dismissals of some 700 of its employees. Some, especially those nearing retirement age, had already psyched themselves up to leaving and were leaving voluntarily with better severance pay packages than they would have received without the negotiations that preceded the reform agreement.
But there are others in an age bracket too young for retirement and too old for job-hunting in a profession which is increasingly geared to the generation just out of the army, willing to work for minimal wages at the start of a career.
The dismissals, though discussed for the best part of a decade, were repeatedly deferred until agreement had been reached by all the parties, including union representatives. This had happened so many times that some employees were under the illusion that the ax would never fall.
Among the clauses in the agreement are a NIS 200 million investment in the acquisition of original Israeli productions; a NIS 330m. investment in state of the art technology for radio and television; and the centralization of the IBA’s operations to three key areas – Jerusalem, Lod and Haifa.
A broadcasting tower will be built in Jerusalem in the Shaare Zedek compound, and this is to be the IBA’s main broadcasting center.
The signing of the agreement ensures the transfer of NIS 770m. to the IBA, in accordance with the progress it makes in the implementation of the reforms.
The Finance Ministry will give the IBA a bridging loan of NIS 290m. against the sale of the IBA’s real estate holdings in Jerusalem’s Yirmiyahu Street, and part of the IBA’s holdings in the compound that housed the original Sha’are Zedek hospital and has for several years served as IBA headquarters.
The Israel Lands Authority will transfer NIS 150m. to the IBA on condition that it evacuates its premises in Tel Aviv.
Of this latter sum, NIS 110m. is to be used in carrying out the reforms, and NIS 40m. is to go towards the construction of a new building in Lod.
In addition the Finance Ministry will transfer a further NIS 240m. as a loan and NIS 90m. as a grant.
The greatest beneficiary of the reform will be the City of Lod which will receive an infusion of population and job opportunities.
Harel Locker, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, said at the signing ceremony that the agreement was a good omen for public broadcasting, the State of Israel, the City of Lod and Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has ministerial responsibility for the Broadcasting Authority, did not attend the signing ceremony, nor had he given any indication that he would.