Landes report: Dismantle IBA, outsource its activities

Committee on public broadcaster recommends changing name, cutting staff by half, selling assets and setting up new format.

ISRAEL BROADCASTING AUTHORITY headquarters is seen in the capital’s Romema neighborhood. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
ISRAEL BROADCASTING AUTHORITY headquarters is seen in the capital’s Romema neighborhood.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The IBA should be gradually dismantled and its productions outsourced, the Landes Committee said in a report issued on Wednesday.
The report by the committee, which Communications Minister Gilad Erdan set up last year to investigate the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s operations, favors cutting the IBA’s staff by more than half, selling many of its assets and setting up a new format for public broadcasting.
Though the report was officially presented to Erdan on Wednesday, he was informed of its contents long before that.
The Landes Committee recommended a name change in addition to turning the broadcasting authority into a broadcasting administration with little relation to the IBA’s current structure.
Committee chairman Ram Landes, a creator and executive producer of numerous TV programs, is CEO of Koda Communications, which produces state-funded local news programs.
Israel’s Media Watch has said that Landes could be facing with a conflict of interests.
The Landes Committee is the 14th in a series of committees appointed by ministers and IBA chairmen in the last quarter century to probe the IBA’s activities. Previous committees’ recommendations have so far been largely ignored.
The Knesset gave Erdan, unlike his predecessors, responsibility for both commercial broadcasting channels and the IBA, a move that may lead to reforms where previous attempts failed. Erdan has expressed dissatisfaction with the IBA and his intention to replace it with a radically reorganized body.
A solidarity rally organized by Israel Radio journalists drew more than 200 print and electronic journalists to Beit Sokolow, home of the Tel Aviv Journalists Union, on Tuesday.
Channel 2’s Ilana Dayan was the only one quoted from the rally.
Dayan said that public broadcasting, unfettered by financial considerations, must be allowed to continue as a truth-seeking alternative to commercial broadcasting.
Erdan’s attempts to act on the committee’s recommendations may be stymied by the bureaucracy around the authority and by opposition leader Isaac Herzog. Herzog used to be responsible for the IBA and still identifies with it, even setting up a Knesset lobby for the authority in May 2013.
The Knesset would have to amend the Broadcasting Authority Law for the Landes recommendations to be adopted. Erdan is scheduled to present the committee’s recommendations to the Knesset Economics Committee next week.
The Jerusalem Journalists Association, which had previously agreed to large-scale layoffs, has meanwhile changed leadership and has withdrawn that commitment.
Unions within the IBA are expected to fight any attempt to close it down.
All non-journalist unions at the IBA are under the umbrella of the Histadrut labor federation, which has guaranteed their job security in the past.
The Histadrut is preparing to meet with IBA union heads next week.
The IBA owns and leases studios and offices in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. The Landes Committee wants it to sell many of these facilities to cover its deficit. This includes the historic Shaare Zedek building on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem which has served as IBA headquarters since 1995.
Erdan may have to contend with the Society for the Preservation of Heritage Sites in Israel if he pushes the IBA to sell the building.