The crisis over the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation (Kan), which at least on the surface had threatened to lead to early elections in Israel, apparently ended today, at least as far as relations between Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are concerned. The journalists in the new corporation, on the other hand, have already announced the beginning of a public campaign, and have threatened a petition to the High Court of Justice.
Under the compromise hammered out between Kahlon and Netanyahu, with the active mediation of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the new corporation will not deal with news and current affairs, even though it has already recruited journalists and managers for precisely that purpose. A new news and current affairs broadcasting company will be established within the corporation, referred to in the agreement as "the News Corporation," with a separate management and council, similar to the news companies of commercial channels Channel 2 and Channel 10. "Globes" yesterday reported this aspect of the emerging agreement.
Under the agreement, only employees of the old Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), which is supposed to be dismantled to give way to the new corporation, will be allowed to work in the new news company. This includes those already hired by the corporation. "Employees of the News Corporation will be employees of the news division of Israel Television and the Voice of Israel hired by the corporation," the agreement states. This means that dozens of journalists hired by the corporation from various communications bodies, such as Galei Tzahal (Israel Army Radio), will be fired.
Until permanent managers are appointed, the managers of Reshet Bet (radio) and Channel 1 (television) will manage the new company. The manager of Reshet Bet will be the editor-in-chief of news. The supervisory council of the new news company will be selected according to the existing format set forth in the Public Broadcasting Law, which constituted the basis for the establishment of the corporation, i.e. a selection committee with no ostensible political involvement. All this means that Eldad Koblenz and Gil Omer, the general manager and chairman of the broadcasting corporation, have in effect been excluded from dealing with news and current affairs.
The changes involved require legislation, and a two-week postponement in the operation of the new corporation has therefore been agreed. It appears that Netanyahu's supporters have deliberately made sure that the new news company will be defined as a news and current affairs company, which rules out any possibility that the heads of the existing corporation will engaged in core current affairs activity, including, among other things, production of an investigatory program (producer Haim Slutzky was to have produced such a program for the corporation). According to an announcement by the Prime Minister's Office, a "Supervision Bill" designed to make all broadcasting agencies, both public and commercial, subject to a single supervisory council whose members will be chosen by the government, will be suspended or held back "at this stage."
Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon said at a press conference, "The battle in the past few days has been a battle over principle, not ego. We succeeded in reaching together with the prime minister an agreement that ensures journalistic freedom and freedom of expression and at the same time maintains the budget framework. There will be no political influence on any journalistic body, and politicians will also be kept far away from the news corporation that will be set up."
The compromise, however, is not being universally welcomed. The journalists' committee in the new broadcasting corporation, together with the Israel Journalists Association, announced a campaign, starting with a demonstration on Saturday night in front of the government complex in Tel Aviv. According to the announcement, this measure is a protest against "the corrupt attempts by the government to take over the free press in Israel, especially public broadcasting, while wasting hundreds of millions of shekels of public money and abusing more than a thousand employees of the Israel Broadcasting Corporation and the Israel Broadcasting Authority. We call on journalists, producers, social organizations, and everyone who cares to join us."
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union), a former IBA chairman, said today, "Congratulations on the creation of Out on a Limb, the new name of the public broadcasting corporation, from which everyone was glad to climb down in a typically Israeli compromise. There is no public broadcasting like this anywhere else in the world. There will be no Authority, no Corporation, and no news. Everyone has lost, above all the Israeli public. They destroyed the IBA and built nothing in its place."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on March 30, 2017
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