Israel shuts down national broadcaster
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL – Knesset approves new Public Broadcasting Law, which includes complete overhaul of public broadcast in Israel “We don’t want to destroy anything, only to build something new,” says reform committee head MK Karin Alharar. The Knesset on Tuesday voted in favor of the bill to overhaul public broadcasting in Israel and replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority with a new government body. Forty-five MKs voted in favor of the bill, 11 MKs voted against it, and one MK abstained.
The new Public Broadcasting Law, promoted by Communications Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) and backed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), retires the Israel Broadcasting Authority Law of 1965 and entails reforms that were lauded on Tuesday as “historic.” The reforms were outlined by the Knesset’s Public Broadcast Reform Committee, headed by MK Karin Alharar (Yesh Atid). The legislation met fierce opposition from IBA employees, as it spells the dismissal of many of them.
“We had one goal in mind — to create innovative public broadcasting where current public broadcasting is no longer perceived as relevant. The new law aims to improve [public broadcasting]. We don’t want to destroy anything, only to build something new,” Alharar said after the vote.
As part of the reforms, the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which includes Channel 1 and Israel Radio, will be closed in March 2015, and the annual TV fee Israelis pay the IBA will be canceled. The IBA’s Educational Television channel will also be taken off the air. Some 1,700 of the IBA’s employees will be dismissed, and those who are eligible will be offered early retirement. Employees will be offered severance packages amounting to 1 million shekels ($291,000) each on average. Overall, the move stands to cost Israeli taxpayers some NIS 1.7 billion ($495 million). According to an agreement reached with Histadrut labor federation Chairman Avi Nissankoren, 190 employees will be reassigned to the new broadcasting organization, which will try to absorb an additional 35 percent of IBA employees into its ranks.
The new broadcasting body is set to include designated TV channels in Hebrew and Arabic, a children’s channel, and eight radio stations. Reshet Bet — Israel Radio’s news station — will remain on the air, but its seven sister stations, dedicated to Israeli and classical music, and featuring broadcasts in English, Arabic, Russian and Amharic, will be shut down. In a further departure from the old Broadcasting Authority Law, which only allowed the IBA’s TV channels to air public service announcements and sponsorship slides, the new channels will feature commercials. The new law, however, bars any product placement or other form of embedded marketing in public broadcasts.
Erdan thanked the MKs for supporting the legislation, saying, “Today you have backed a move that will give public broadcasting back to the Israeli public.” Lapid welcomed the Knesset’s vote on the bill, saying, “This isn’t just another reform, this time we are really changing things. We need a new broadcasting authority.”