PM calls Knesset meeting to save Channel 10

Channel 10 petitions High Court to save it from closure; Center-Left parties blame PM, say shutting down channel is bad for democracy.

Channel 10 protest 370 (photo credit: The Tzipi Livni Party)
Channel 10 protest 370
(photo credit: The Tzipi Livni Party)
The Knesset will hold an emergency session to ensure that Channel 10 continues broadcasting, following an agreement by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Sunday.
The Knesset will discuss the agreement between Prime Minister’s Office director-general Harel Locker and the channel’s management, as well as the issue of continued funding for local news for six months and an extension of Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon’s tenure.
Before the Knesset meeting was called, Channel 10 petitioned the High Court of Justice to intervene and save it on Sunday afternoon, less than a day after the cash-strapped television network announced that it would implement the dismissal of around 500 employees on Monday.
“Prime Minister [Binyamin Neyanyahu] is foiling implementation of an agreement that would allow Channel 10 to continue operating,” attorneys Yoram Bonen and Dor Lahav wrote to the court. They accused the PM of instructing ministers – “without giving any explanation” – not to discuss the deal at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting. One of the reasons given by the PMO for not working to prevent Channel 10’s closure was a previous agreement between Rivlin and Netanyahu not to pass more bills before the election in order to prevent populist legislation.
Two weeks ago, a team headed by Locker agreed to a proposal in which the state would extend Channel 10’s license by two years and loan it NIS 65 million, enabling the channel to repay its debts.
The network is expected to close at the end of the year if the cabinet does not approve the deal beforehand.
Channel 10’s board confirmed Saturday night that it would dismiss its employees in advance of final closure, but it delayed dispatch of the dismissal notices by 48 hours following a request from Locker.
The board convened after it became apparent that the government would not approve the plan to save the network.
Indeed, the matter was not discussed at the weekly cabinet meeting.
“In my many discussions with the Communications Ministry, there were more lies and false promises than there were ministers. At no stage was there any attempt to deal with this industry’s problems.
Instead of encouragement, every effort was made to destroy the industry – and it is almost certain that they have managed to destroy it,” Yossi Meiman, Channel 10’s controlling shareholder, said at the board meeting.
Center and left-wing parties blamed Netanyahu for the channel’s troubles, calling it dangerous for democracy.
The Tzipi Livni Party held a protest outside Channel 10 headquarters in Givatayim on Sunday. Camp Sucker leader Boaz Nol, who has an unrealistic slot on Livni’s list, demonstrated alongside several young activists with bandages over their mouths, symbolizing Netanyahu’s silencing of the press.
“Someone is trying to prevent us from having our voices heard,” Livni said.
“Channel 10 has to decide whether to shut down or listen to the prime minister’s whims and demands. This government is trying to silence us all, so we don’t talk about what is really important – changing national priorities, changing the system of government and bringing peace – but we will keep talking, with a big mouth.”
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich accused Netanyahu of working personally to close Channel 10, because it does not serve his interests ahead of the election.
“The prime minister wants to bring the channel to its knees so it can beg for its life until Election Day, while imposing a reign of fear and threats that will require the reporters to cover him in a positive light,” Yacimovich stated.
“This is anti-democratic behavior that will cause hundreds of families to lose their income, something that, as everyone knows, does not interest Netanyahu.”
Kadima MK Nino Abesadze, who is a Labor candidate in the upcoming election, called for politicians who used to be journalists – such as herself, Yacimovich, and many others – to fight for their former colleagues at Channel 10 so that 500 workers are not fired.
“I wholeheartedly oppose the government’s behavior when it comes to Channel 10, which must continue existing,” Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said. “This harms democracy, freedom of expression, the media market and Israeli journalism.”
Lapid added that electing Yesh Atid will bring about a change that will keep Channel 10 open.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) said the “Biberman” government – an amalgam of “Bibi,” Netanyahu’s nickname, and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman – is working against democracy and any source of criticism, including the media, the courts, academia and cultural and social organizations.
“The prime minister’s use of the election in order to prevent a bill saving the channel from passing is false and cynical,” Horowitz stated.
“As someone who had the honor of working for the channel, I feel the pain of the hundreds of dedicated and professional workers that will be fired for no apparent reason.”