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Employees in the English news department of the Israel Broadcasting Authority are taking the IBA to Labor Court in a case that may determine the future of English-language news programs in Israel.

The case, which will be heard on June 14th, is an appeal on behalf of the IBA employees and the National Federation of Israeli Journalists, and will demand that the court prevent the IBA from making any further changes to the English programming.

"Workers are being harmed by the IBA management board's decisions, and what we're asking is that the IBA restore us to the status quo," Steve Leibowitz, IBA English news department head and signatory of the petition told Anglo File.

Programming for the IBA English news has been volatile in recent months, following a decision to render television's Channel One an exclusively Hebrew language station. The IBA's news program, which boasts an estimated 100,000 viewers a day, was taken off Channel One on May 2, after nearly 14 years on the station. The IBA, meanwhile, is broadcasting an extended English-language news program on Channel 33 - a station that is accessible in most parts of the country only to cable or satellite TV subscribers.

Staff at the IBA English news desk say that work conditions have deteriorated along with the recent changes. They also say that the IBA's decision to absorb the English desk into the Hebrew desk will negatively affect the quality of the programming, as well as lead to a series of layoffs. Among other things, the English news department has been informed that under the restructure they will no longer be allowed to send their own reporters out into the field.

"They want us to disband our desk and take away our independence, so that we are directly under control of Mabat [Channel One's main evening news broadcast], which has always treated us like a bastard child," Leibowitz said. "It's completely incomprehensible."

Under the new plan, a 17-minute soft-news program in English will be broadcast on Channel 33 weekdays at 4:30 P.M. A seven-minute bulletin news program would then follow both Channel 33 and Channel One. This means that someone watching channel 33 will only get the day's news stories at the end of the program - something that "doesn't make any sense" to Leibowitz.

A spokesperson for the IBA said that the issue was an internal matter and was therefore unavailable for comment.