Media comment: Kan- go home

It was a huge struggle to get the word “Israel” into the official name of the public broadcaster.

Arye Deri at the President's residence 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Arye Deri at the President's residence 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Two weeks ago, Shas leader Arye Deri recommended that the Kan broadcasting service be closed down. Israel would save annually over a half-billion shekels, he argued, which could be spent on more important social services. Communications Minister Ayoub Kara agreed. Sadly though, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prevented the issue from snowballing and perhaps finally leading to the dissolution of this unneeded, self-promoting, law flouting, post-Zionist and silly broadcaster.
Let us start with unneeded. Why should any country use valuable resources for public media? Only if the money is spent on a product which is not available commercially and serves an acute public need should it be included in the state budget outlay. Indeed, Israel does need a public broadcaster and for many reasons, which we detailed in many previous articles. But the government must also show that the funding is really for a public broadcaster, not a self-serving organization whose main purpose is to supply its employees with salaries. The history of the past 30 years shows that this cannot be achieved. Ergo, the public broadcaster should be liquidated. Let us be a bit more specific. Suppose that the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, which advertises itself as “Kan,” were to now try to convince us as to why we should view and listen to its broadcasts using the following reasoning:
“If you want to know why the Jewish community in Austria calls upon Israel to boycott Heinz-Christian Strache [head of the Austrian Freedom Party] listen to our program next Sunday. If you are interested in the latest leading theater productions on Broadway, become a permanent participant in our weekly world cultural roundup. If you want to understand what really is happening in Libya, who are the various actors and what their aims are, follow us on Kan 11 TV. Perhaps you want to get to know Israeli NGOs. We have just started a weekly program providing them with a platform in which they can present themselves and answer questions from our audience.”
And the sales pitch continues:
“It could be that you are interested in world finance – if so, then tune in to our international economic program. If Israel’s foreign relations mean anything to you then join us in following the performance of our diplomats, their successes and failures.
“Religion is an intensely debated issue in Israel. If you want to understand the Conservative, Reform and Orthodox movements, their history, their motivations, tune in to our Jewish program.
“What about TV drama? Well, why don’t you check out our Jewish history drama series? It is all about Jewish politics, money, power and sex. And yes, we also have a few satirical presentations, like this list above, making fun even of ourselves.”
We could continue in this vein endlessly if space permitted. The message, however, is clear – there are many products which the public broadcaster could and should provide, but instead, it promotes – especially over its radio network, on an hourly basis – not its programs, but its people.
Before every news program on Kol Yisrael radio we are told the names of the people who will present the program after the news. It is as if the news is less important than who is going to inform you of it. This celebrity status element is beginning to place the news content in second place.
As for the content, that element is considered not interesting and therefore the message is that the public does not need to know it. The approach is “hear the voice” rather than “hear what is being said.” After all, what can be more enticing than hearing Lian Vildau or Yaakov Eichler?
The news nowadays always stresses the “scoops” of Kan’s reporters. And so, this week, we heard that veteran Carmela Menashe, Kan’s defense affairs correspondent, had a “scoop” about a general who is under suspicion of keeping army equipment in his personal possession. A scoop is something a reporter brings to light and which no one else does. Is this really why we have a public broadcaster?
To our mind, a public broadcaster should prefer quality programming rather than “scoops.” To make it worse, claims of scoops are not always precise. Mordechai Gilat, the former investigative reporter of Yediot Aharonot and Israel Hayom, after being fired by Israel Hayom was given a job at Kan. He is always credited with “scoops” by Kan, but too often these are either not really his or at best wishful thinking. For example, in mid-August he “knew” that the prime minister would be involved in the police investigation of Bezeq. Two months later, this has not yet happened.
But why not aggrandize yourself? You know that no one will take you to task and anyway all media outlets work in the same fashion. The truth is that this self-aggrandizement is actually theft of the public airwaves for self-promotion. This is not why we need a public broadcaster.
We claimed that Kan flouts the law and yes, it does, daily. The law stipulates that Kan broadcast from Jerusalem. But the leaders of Kan, its CEO, Eldad Koblenz, and the chairman of the board of directors, Gil Omer, could not care less. They established the offices in Modi’in, for after all who wants to drive into Jerusalem every day?
But this is not enough. They lie to us on an hourly basis when they open the news with the statement “Kan Kol Yisrael from Jerusalem.” They should be saying Kol Israel from Modi’in, but in their post-modernist world, truth is not a commodity to be taken seriously.
Post-Zionist, did we say? Of course. It was a huge struggle to get the word “Israel” into the official name of the public broadcaster. Minister Ophir Akunis (Likud), in his short tenure as communications minister, managed to put into law the name “The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation.” None of us will ever hear the public broadcaster use this name. No, it is “Kan,” “here” – for in the post-modernist version of life, only the here and now is of relevance, and the rest be damned.
We the consumers should speak our piece: we are not interested in Kan. We do not care only for the here and now. We do not want to pay for it. So Kan – go home!
The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch (