Media Comment: Eilat and the journalists

The Eilat conference provides us with some concrete evidence of the extent of liberalism among journalists.

Eilat (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
For the ninth time, the Tel Aviv Journalists Association convened this past week the Eilat Journalists Conference.
The meeting is big, bringing together hundreds of journalists, decision makers, NGOs, radio and TV producers for three days of meetings and deliberations. Arguably, it is the most influential media conference of the year, although this year only the Jerusalem Journalists Association was a joint sponsor, whereas in 2013, for example, the conference hosts included the Second Authority for TV and Radio, Channel 2 news and ACUM (Association of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers in Israel). In previous years, the event was televised live on Channel 2’s Mako website, but this year it was not.
As noted by IBA veteran newscaster Arieh Golan, the employees of the IBA were not backed by their colleagues on TV channels 2 and 10 during their struggle to stop the implementation of the new broadcasting law, which closes down the IBA and effectively implies that all of them will lose their jobs. We note that the employees of the IBA fully backed their colleagues at Channel 10 when it was threatened with closure, but this loyalty was not reciprocated. It would seem that the journalists simply can no longer get their act together. Solidarity is out while individualism is in.
One of the central events at the meeting is presenting an award for lifetime achievement.
This year, Sima Kadmon of Yediot Aharonot was honored. The choice is quite ludicrous as Kadmon is better known for her meanderings and wishful thinking than for factual reportage. Dr. Dror Eydar, a senior commentator for Israel Hayom noted bitingly: “Pay attention to the citation this year: ‘Ms. Kadmon was exceptional in her brilliant analysis of the elections and their results.’” What were these brilliant insights? Eydar helps us remember: “In the beginning of December [2014] when the election campaign started, she wrote that it looks even more promising for Evet Liberman who is becoming a realistic candidate for prime minister. He might even become a Prime Minister by rotation.” A week later she wrote, “If the trend which started during the Protective Edge operation continues, the Likud might even end with 15 Knesset seats and lose the leadership of the Right.” She also warned that Shas would disappear from the political scene. Suffice it to say that someone on the prize committee did not do their homework, or as noted by Eydar, had a really good sense of humor.
The prize to Kadmon is another indication of the extent of the disconnect from reality of too many of our journalists. It could not have been more evident than in the panel dealing with the future of public broadcasting (EP participated in this panel). One of the panelists was veteran TV anchor Haim Yavin who was also a recipient of the prize in 2008.
Yavin exhorted the anxious members of the IBA listening to the discussion to take steps, demonstrate and use their power to stop what he termed the destruction of public broadcasting in Israel. Yavin most certainly deserved to receive a prize for his lifelong efforts in extorting outrageously high salaries (reported at NIS 1 million per year in 2002 and 2003) for sitting in front of a microphone and abusing the public with his personal views. No other journalist succeeded in getting so much out of the public broadcaster. This has now stopped. Is this what he meant by the destruction of public broadcasting? Others on the panel also warned about the dire future. Understandably, Arieh Golan was concerned, but when asked what his vision was for public broadcasting he could only claim that he broadcasts to over 400,000 people daily on his morning radio program. He did not respond to the claim that the public had no choice since Kol Yisrael and the army radio station share a monopoly on national radio broadcasting.
We will put our reputation on the line and predict that within five years, this supremacy will no longer exist.
In this column, we have often related to our vision of a public broadcaster who puts the public interest in front of its own. It should be dominated by Zionism, a healthy respect for Jewish history and Jewish heritage.
None of these came to the fore in the Eilat conference. Disconnect, did we say? Journalists are notorious and proud of supporting democracy, equal rights, pluralism and such. The Eilat conference provides us with some concrete evidence of the extent of liberalism among journalists. IMW took the trouble of analyzing the makeup of the participants in the 22 panels. Only four had women moderators. Of 172 journalists who participated in the panels, 34 (less than 20 percent) were women. Gender equality? Only for others, it appears.
Pluralism? We identified 35 journalists as being left-wing and 23 as right-wing. But of the moderators, 13 were identifiably Left while none at all were Right. One wonders if ever the day will come when the organizer of this meeting is not Shalom Kittal but someone identified with Israel’s Right, for example Makor Rishon editor Hagai Segal.
One issue which was in the air but not discussed in depth was the question of the future of the army radio station Galatz.
Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot surprisingly announced last week, in the wake of discussion on the defense budget, that he thinks Galatz should be removed from the military as it cannot maintain its independence if it is a branch of government, and that there is no justification for spending NIS 20 million per year from the defense budget on it. And we add: especially since too many of the staff are civilians.
Many of us, who for years have noted that Galatz is not really needed, might have been joyful at the prospect, but hold your horses.
Eisenkot is far from the first chief of staff to demand disassociation from or dismantling of Galatz. Prime minister Ehud Barak did the same while he was IDF chief of staff but nothing developed and in fact, when he was prime minister the station continued to operate.
We suspect Eisenkot did not really mean for his decision to be implemented. Hopefully he’s not so naïve as to think he would be able to carry out such a policy. It could be that Eisenkot was merely using the Galatz issue to try to impress the public with what he considers to be the extreme budgetary constraints on the IDF. If the IDF cannot afford NIS 20m. for Galatz, how can it afford increased training, hardware and software? Unfortunately, we cannot identify the political will, in either the defense ministry or in the Prime Minister’s Office, to actually implement Eisenkot’s suggestion.
While other issues were raised at the conference, perhaps the best aspect was that the participants could take advantage of our great southern resort town.
The authors are vice chairman and chairman respectively of Israel’s Media Watch (