Channel 10 rattles legal sabers after claims it sold air time
Channel 10 threatens to sue over accusations it engaged in 'pay for play' with interview subjects.
Channel 10 is threatening a libel suit against journalist Anat Balint and The Seventh Eye website after Balint accused the channel of demanding payment for interviews on its program "Economic Night," hosted by Sharon Gal.
Balint's early-July investigative report on The Seventh Eye – a website founded by journalists for the discussion of professional issues – gave numerous examples of how air time is sold on commercial television stations, particularly Channel 2 morning programs. She said she had received information indicating that a price list presented to an unnamed public relations professional in 2010 asked NIS 15,000 (about $3,700) for an on-camera interview on "Economic Night."
On July 9, Channel 10 said it would send letters to Balint and The Seventh Eye warning that it intended to sue them for libel. In her report, Balint, a former Haaretz journalist, discussed the battle over the rights to promotional content on television channels.
This was not the first time Channel 10 had been accused of selling news coverage. Israel's public regulator the Second Authority for Television and Radio penalized the station for an apparent violation of broadcasting standards – including unauthorized advertising on "Economic Night" – by taking away 20 minutes of its advertising time. Parties involved in the violation included the real estate group Or City, food giant Strauss Group, Arlozorov Towers and owners of the day -trading school TradeNet Capital Markets, including its chairman Meir Barak.
Channel 10 did not mince words in dismissing the recent allegations.
"We vehemently deny these claims and are shocked by the ease with which any source can cast these foul aspersions. We operate according to the rules and guidelines of the Second Authority for Television and Radio," it said in a statement.
The Seventh Eye report initially ran with a headline about the alleged NIS 15,000 fee for an "Economic Night" interview, but the headline was changed after Channel 10 objected.
In explaining the incident, The Seventh Eye editor Uzi Benziman said, "The channel complained about a headline that contained a piece of information extracted from a large number of examples that were presented in the report, and claimed that an injustice had been done. We changed the headline following their complaint. Now they are claiming that the essence of the findings is false. We quoted the report. Currently we are investigating."
Balint, for her part, defended her work.
"What was written in the report 'Inside the Box: Embedded Branding in Israeli Commercial Television' was thoroughly checked and relies on a variety of sources," she said. "'Economic Night' is one of many programs that are mentioned. It is worth referring to the report, which appears on the website of the Israel Democracy Institute, to see exactly what happened on the program. It should be noted that the Second Authority for Television and Radio investigated a series of complaints regarding forbidden advertizing on 'Economic Night' program in 2010 and found nine cases where advertisers or commercial groups were given more coverage than is permitted.”