Media comment: Hiding facts

Netanyahu, before the elections, acceded to Channel 10’s blackmail.

Channel 10 (photo credit: screenshot)
Channel 10
(photo credit: screenshot)
The headline “Channel 10 may shut down after Knesset rejects debt payment” appeared in The Jerusalem Post on December 12, 2011. The station then owed NIS 60 million in royalties and franchise fees. MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud), at the time the chairman of the Economics Committee, noted that “Channel 10, as a financially weak company that will require government support, cannot be the watchdog of democracy. At best, it would be a poodle.”
Another headline, in Haaretz on December 14, read: “Channel 10 expects board to shut down station on Dec. 31” – but the year was 2012, 12 months later. And on December 28, Haaretz ran the headline: “Channel 10 halts broadcasts, blames Netanyahu” and informed readers that the station had begun an on-air protest campaign using a denigrating photo angle of Netanyahu and warning of imminent closure following failed last-minute attempts to bail out the station. But this was only six months ago, in 2014.
If you are thinking that December is a jinxed month for Channel 10, we’ll quote this Ynet report, published on a July 14, whose headline informed us that “Channel 10 may go off air in one month.” The reason provided by Yossi Meiman, who owns a controlling interest in the channel, was that “his media group may stop financing its broadcasting.” However, other “sources” in the media group informed the reporter that the “crisis emanated from a regulatory failure.” The year then was 2009. Finally, in a May 20, 2015 review of the never-ending saga of the closure of Channel 10, Haaretz’s headline was: “Channel 10 may shut down after buyers back off.”
The financial aspects, the responsibility of the owners, the proper government regulatory system and the parliamentary oversight should all be considered. But perhaps first and foremost one should consider, three years later, Shamma-Cohen’s observation that a financially weak company cannot be a robust watchdog of democracy.
Channel 10 broadcasts the daily hour-long London & Kirschenbaum interview show which our monitoring has exposed time and again for its left-wing biases.
Raviv Drucker produces a weekly investigative program and appears frequently, several times a day on average, on the network. His personal bias against Netanyahu (the two have been in court airing mutual recriminations), characterized by a nasty snideness, is well recognized. There’s a biting satire show, Gav HaUmma (The Nation’s Back), and the daily evening news broadcast, which has proven unwilling to back down from in-your-face criticism of government positions.
JUST LAST week, the first part of a documentary on opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog’s election campaign was aired on Channel 10’s HaMakor (The Source) program.
It was a devastating portrayal of a politician. The second part was even more damaging. Reuven Adler, hired to save Herzog’s campaign, was heard calling Herzog Tzipi Livni’s key-holder.
Gideon Levy demanded in his May 21 column that Herzog immediately resign, adding that the Zionist Union’s head shouldn’t have been the party’s candidate for prime minister, should have resigned the day after his defeat and, at the least, “should quit his post...
in the wake of the documentary.” The Twitter accounts of political reporters erupted.
The film uncovered the evident collusion of central elements of the media who were probably aware of multiple aspects of the developing failings of Herzog’s campaign and the negative comments from within the campaign headquarters. The film’s director and sole interviewer, who sat in Herzog’s cars, accompanied him seemingly everywhere and participated in senior staff meetings, is Anat Goren. Goren is the life-partner of... Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker. The couple have three children.
Attila Somfalvi of Ynet, in line with his boss’s preference, saw the “good,” tweeting that Herzog “at certain moments was a real man: he didn’t blame anyone, didn’t sidestep his responsibility.” Haredim10’s Sari Rot’s tweet read: “am I the only one who wasn’t shocked how bad [Herzog] was? I actually think he was human, considerate, a mensch.” Drucker, incidentally, publishes a personal column on the Haredim10 website, an example of secular/haredi coexistence. Avishai Ivri, main writer at Channel 1’s “We’ll Be the Judge” satire crew, wryly commented that perhaps PR whiz Reuven Adler should have run himself. He probably would have lost but, Ivri typed, it “wouldn’t have been such a sad joke.”
Orit Galili, formerly of Haaretz, admitted that the journalist referred to in the film as warning Herzog the Friday prior to the elections that Netanyahu would win was herself. Kol Israel’s Keren Neubach was blunt: “I can only wonder what made Herzog allow Goren to film him in such embarrassing moments... and why anyone presumed he could win.”
That last Neubach observation is the heart of the matter.
Herzog’s “march of folly” was open and as the film clearly shows, obvious to many media people; the producers, director, cameramen, support crew, editors and their assistants and perhaps even Raviv Drucker himself. Herzog’s victory was very much in doubt, but this was kept a secret. Journalists hid the reality from the public.
As Israel Hayom’s Haim Shine wrote on May 19, the film showed journalists “who saw Herzog’s audience- less election conferences in Beit She’an and Beersheba but still tried to convince us that Herzog was our salvation.” More important for him, and for democracy, was his demand “that the media take a look at itself and atone for its sins, the sins of arrogance, deception and exploiting freedom of speech.”
Channel 10 violated professional ethics. Its editors must have known about Goren’s devastating report, but they preferred silence to honest reporting. Why then should we the public believe anything controversial emanating from this channel? The latest in this saga is the channel’s accusations against the prime minister who, on his last day as finance minister, implemented a recommendation of the Second Authority for TV and Radio (SATR) to impose upon the channel a payment of NIS 16.8m., a past debt of the channel for the right to its broadcasting concession.
Channel 10 immediately cried foul, accusing Netanyahu of purposely harming the negotiations to find a new financier for the channel. It promptly petitioned the Supreme Court to annul Netanyahu’s decision, and Justice Anat Baron ordered the prime minister to respond to the claims within a week.
Netanyahu, before the elections, acceded to Channel 10’s blackmail. Despite six months’ breathing space to mend its ways, the channel showed no gratitude to the politicians’ largesse. Why should the Treasury overlook the channel’s debts once again? Channel 10 is a blight on Israel’s media industry. It does not uphold accepted media norms, it wastes the public’s money and it does not hesitate to blackmail the political system prior to elections. We can only hope that the prime minister will not once again cave in to the channel’s pressure and that the Israeli public will for once and for all be rid of it.
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (