Media Comment: The ‘New Order’ at Educational TV

Opinionated anchors deal with social issues from their personal point of view, paying special attention to social, cultural topics.

TV 311 (photo credit: Hemera)
TV 311
(photo credit: Hemera)
The Educational TV (ETV) station is a governmental entity, funded by the Education Ministry, operating as an autonomous unit. It broadcasts a daily infotainment program, Ossim Seder Chadash (Implementing a New Order). The ETV website promotes the program as: “The headlines confuse you? You don’t find yourselves in the media sea of words and news? Ben Caspit and Gal Gabbai organize the important items for you on a daily basis. The opinionated anchors deal with social issues from their personal point of view, paying special attention to social and cultural topics within Israeli society.”
This seemingly innocuous description is rather heavily loaded. The program broadcasts interviews with many social activists.
Studying eight programs broadcast between April 10 and April 24, Elisheva Arnovitz and Ziv Maor of Israel’s Media Watch found that there is indeed a new social order – and it that of the program and its hosts.
Shmulik Zezik was one of the people appearing on the program during the review period. He was described for the viewers as “an educator and social activist.”
That he is a member of Meretz, a party political agent, was conveniently ignored.
Asma Agbariya was presented as “an activist in the Ma’an workers organization.”
It so happens that Agbariya also ran for elections on the ticket of the Arab Da’am political party.
Michal Rozin was interviewed on the issue of sexual attacks. She was described as “the executive director of a central organization that helps sexually molested women.” In fact, she is active in Meretz and was formerly a lobbyist for the New Israel’s Funds Shatil group.
There are additional examples and all seem to indicate that part of the “new order” is to hide the true identity of the people chosen to be interviewed, and so blindside the viewer and keep him confused, preventing him/her from discovering that “social order” would appear to be a code name for “left wing.”
HEADLINES ARE an important factor in creating an atmosphere and guiding the viewer. Arguably, they are even more important than the content which they presume to describe. Indeed, ETV itself relates to this aspect by noting that “in the headline industry, what we really need is moral interpretation, knowledgeable criticism and most importantly, a social aspect.
So, after 700 programs, New Order continues to do what is important – organizing the issues.”
It is then of interest to look at the headlines of the “New Order” program itself. In their research, Arnowitz and Maor presented the headlines of 32 items to two people; one who identifies with the right, the other with the left. The right-winger identified two headlines as right-wing oriented, 18 as left-wing oriented and 12 as neutral.
The left-winger identified four as serving the right wing, seven items as left-wing and 19 items as neutral.
Here are some nuggets: “The molesting colonel – the IDF carries out unwanted tasks”; “Sending Israeli youth to Poland causes emotional damage”; “The refugees in Israel have no place to return to,” and so on.
It would seem that Gabbai and Caspit and their editors take pains to paint the headlines with a distinct red color. This of course makes it easier for the viewer to finally understand the “right” order of things.
When analyzing the items themselves, one finds that approximately 30 percent were left-leaning and only 10% right-wing oriented.
Of the people interviewed 14 were left and only seven right. Quite a lopsided order.
GAL GABBAI does not hide her weltanschauung.
In February 2011, an item was headlined: “Trips to the West Bank, a love of the land or a provocation?” She then described Judea and Samaria as Palestine and had to apologize for the “error” a week later.
In an interview with Naftali Bennett, former executive director of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, she educated her confused viewers on the issues having to do with the Migron settlement: “The situation in Judea and Samaria is not a regular one. The ruler there is the army commander and every argument becomes loaded.”
This is not the first time IMW researched this program. In 2009, a similar study revealed a clear bias for preferential interviewing of Labor party representatives and that journalists from the Yediot Aharonot newspaper were “stars” as compared to other news outlets.
In the present study, it turns out that this aspect has been corrected. Only one MK was interviewed during the period – MK Zevulun Orlev from the Jewish Home party.
The journalists were much more distributed with no noticeable bias among the mainstream media. Haredi and Arab media outlets, however, were not not on the screen.
THIS SHOW is not the only infotainment program on ETV. The Media File is a weekly program that reviews the media with an emphasis on the local scene. Like the New Order, diversity and pluralism are not a major concern.
For years, B. Michael (Michael Brizon) and Yair Garboz have treated this program as their personal opinion column. Both are identified with the extreme left wing. A Garboz pearl is: “The right in Israel thinks it is patriotic but in reality it is simply racist.”
B. Michael’s wisdom is, for example: “Our trust in a Creator is the basis for all the wars that were and that will be.”
Yet ETV and the Media File program insist on giving both of them the right of expression and is not willing to provide its viewers with a modicum of balance.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar has shown in the past that he can wield influence on his TV station. Their daily news roundup has been changed and it is the only major news roundup program in Israel where the right wing has two – Sarah Beck and Erel Segal – out of four presenters. Yet the message of fairness, balance and pluralism has not yet filtered through.
Educational TV in Israel is an anomaly which should be banished. It has no ethical code, no public oversight and is no longer needed. Why should the taxpayer foot the bill? Isn’t the billion shekels of tax money the IBA receives annually not enough? Indeed, Israel needs its own “New Order” in its public media.
The authors are, respectively, vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch,