Focus on PSM | Israel
Wednesday 17 May 2017
Since last summer, Israel’s public media landscape has been affected by countless debates and controversial proposals regarding the future of public service broadcasting.
After a heated dispute on whether to create a new broadcaster, a new hybrid seems to have been formed, amidst criticism and disagreement. To get a sense of what’s going on, we’ve pulled together the latest developments in the country’s troubled public media sector:
- The first approval: In 2014 Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed a law that envisioned a new public broadcaster for Israel, which meant the closing of the existing Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), which was considered irrelevant and expensive at the time. At the end of July last year, members of the Israeli government outlined and approved the details of a new public broadcaster, the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation (IPBC), which was set to air on 1 October 2017. However, the approval was delayed after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several other members of his coalition were adamant that the future broadcaster not to be independent of the government. “It’s inconceivable that we’ll establish a corporation that we won’t control. What’s the point?”, said Miri Regev, the Culture Minister.
- Trying to find a compromise: As Netanyahu grew increasingly against the idea of establishing a new broadcaster, the Knesset restarted its debate into the future of PSB and proposed instead to invest in and improve the old IBA. However, this would have put at risk many of the new employees already destined for the new broadcaster. Yet such an intervention would have proven more costly and would have put the broadcaster’s independence severely at risk. The launch of the new broadcaster was therefore delayed while the parties found a compromise.
- The debate continues: Over the following months, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon continued to debate the future of public broadcasting in the country. Calls for an early election and a general strike, fuelled the already unstable political climate.
- A new deal: The crisis was averted after the two parties reached a deal. Netanyahu and Kahlon decided to merge the two broadcasters. Members of the old IBA will now be running the IPBC’s news division. This new corporation will have to manage six radio channels and three tv channels except those including current events and news content. In addition, 65% of IPBC’s employees will have to be from the IBA, and all IBA senior workers (aged 40-50) will be granted a place and prevented from any future dismissal. The deal was approved amidst strong criticism that it would undermine freedom of the press, as the new broadcaster will not have any editorial powers over the news division.
- The last broadcast: On Tuesday last week (9 May), the IBA employees were suddenly informed that their broadcast that day would be IBA’s last, bringing the broadcaster to an abrupt end after nearly 70 years.
- Live and on air: Last Monday (15 May) the new broadcasting identity went live via its radio channel, hosted by the previous IBA news anchor. However, there were some technical issues as previous IBA employees attempted to sabotage the inaugural broadcast. Technical equipment was withheld and the digital department did not grant access to the mobile application. While there are still many editorial details to be finalised, the new broadcaster, also known as KAN, will feature a selection of old IBA programs and new ones.
In other news
- Freedom of speech, undermined: The current media landscape in Israel leaves little space for a plurality of opinions and criticism. The Prime Minister is known for picking out journalists or news outlets and portray them in a negative way when their reports are critical against him or the government. Journalists also practice self-censorship for fear of losing their job if they speak about controversial truths – the number of gag orders issued in the country has tripled over the past 15 years. In addition, several journalists have been detained without specific charges or trials and the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) accused Israel of restricting political speech and freedom of expression. Israel is ranked at 91/180 in Reporters without Borders’ 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
The links above are to original stories, which are not produced by PMA. ‘Focus on PSM’ pulls together stories from regions experiencing periods of heightened debate about the role of public media. PMA does not necessarily endorse these stories nor do they necessarily reflect the view of PMA.