This afternoon, the Knesset gave a first reading to the bill to outlaw the distribution of the Israel Hayom ("Israel Today") newspaper for free. The bill passed by a majority of 43 to 23. Those who voted in favor were from all parties in the house. Nine MKs abstained, among them members of the Labor Party, the party of the bill's promoter Eitan Cabel, such as Shelly Yachimovich.
Despite today's vote, the assessment is that the bill will fall at the committee stage.
The bill, which does not mention Israel Hayom by name, states that it will be forbidden to distribute for free a daily newspaper that is published six days a week and has at least 30 pages on weekdays and 100 pages in its weekend edition. The bill allows free distribution only for six months. Since Israel Hayom appeared, Israel's print newspaper market has changed drastically, as the freesheet cut advertising tariffs dramatically, and while US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the publisher of Israel Hayom, had the wherewithal to distribute the newspaper free even at these reduced advertising prices, other newspapers struggled with the new market conditions and were harmed financially. According to the preamble to Eitan Cabel's bill, its aim is to prevent layoffs in the print newspaper industry and more collapses of newspaper companies. "The market must again function in fair and democratic competitive conditions," the bill states, and continues, "This bill does not ask that the government should provide any financial support whatsoever, but seeks to create conditions that will make possible fair competition in the print newspaper market."
"We are not the losers, but the Knesset, whose vote again demonstrated how disconnected it is from public sentiment," Israel Hayom said in a statement, "This is a day of shame and disgrace for those members of Knesset who turned their backs on the will of the public and of their voters, and preferred to serve extraneous interests of "Yediot Ahronot" publisher Noni Mozes
"The speech of the bill's proposer, MK Eitan Cabel, proved that this is a not 'a bill to save Israeli journalism' but a targeted, personal and vengeful bill against one newspaper alone, Israel Hayom.
"With the public on our side, we will continue to fight this unfair and unconstitutional bill, which interferes with free competition. The bill is a severe blow to democracy, and if it continues through the legislative process it will degrade Israel to the level of a third world country. We shall continue to fight. Israel Today and tomorrow, and always."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the end of the vote, "This is a disgrace to the Knesset." Sheldon Adelson is known as a strong supporter of Netanyahu.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 12, 2014
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014