The Israel Broadcast Authority Law stipulates, among other things, that broadcasts provide suitable expression of diverse prevalent public opinions, cultivate good citizenship and reflect the goings-on in the state, its struggles, artistic work and achievements.
On the face of it, these are worthy objectives of a state authority funded by the public. However, it appears the Israeli government does not intend to treat the IBA as a public apparatus, but to control and direct it as though it were a political asset.
The appointments of Yoni Ben Menachem as IBA director and Michael Miro as radio manager seem to point in this direction. The two may have an impressive professional record in journalism, with many years' experience, but it is impossible to ignore their closeness to the prime minister and his associates. Thus the fear - even if unjustified - that they might turn the IBA, particularly its radio outlets, into a means to serve the government rather than the public.
Media, both private and public, are not free of pressures. This is the quality of public discourse, in which each group, ideological stream or view struggles for its proper share in the debate on the state's character and future. But there is a difference between a private medium, whose owner sets its agenda, and a public medium expected to serve as a voice for all.
The authority's conduct has been harshly castigated for many years. Some of the complaints have been about deficient management, redundant workers and extensive waste, which were also mentioned in the State Comptroller's reports.
Other complaints have been about the political pressures that politicians on all levels, especially from the Prime Minister's Office, exercised and still exercise on IBA employees.
While the reform is supposed to fix the IBA's managerial failures, its journalistic independence must be preserved by amending the law, so that its managers are appointed by a public, neutral authority, untainted by political bias and removed from government control. Without this essential change, the IBA will continue to be seen as a mouthpiece.
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