What can be done about this? It's simple, say Zadik and Agmon: Outlaw cross-ownerships in media entirely. Don't let a single business group own interests in more than one media outlet, they recommend. Tighten requirements for allowing a business group to buy an interest in a media company, not to mention the requirements for allowing one media company to buy an interest in another.
Furthermore, diagonal ownerships should be tightly supervised, they assert. And most importantly, the daily newspapers should be subjected to rules of disclosure and transparency regarding the economic interests of their owners.
Online news websites should be subject to these same requirements, Agmon and Zadik add. They also encourage technological investment to improve television over the Internet, which could diversify the sources of content.
As for the advertising market, they suggest intervention in the supersize fees that the ad companies charge, giving media companies a bigger share of the advertising revenue pie, at the expense of the ad companies. The regulator possibly could encourage the media industry by lowering VAT on newspapers or tax relief, they speculate.
"The clearest finding in the report is the tight relationship between the big business groups in Israel and the media," said Wilf. "It clearly proves that the media serves the aspiration of the big business groups to maintain their monopolistic status and block competition from arising. It is also true that political and party interests are involved in the ownerships of the media companies, but at least these tend to be transparent and known to the general public."
"The same names we know from the discussion on economic concentration and ownership of business pyramids and monopolies appear in this report too," Wilf said, referring to Nochi Dankner, Mozi Wertheim, Ofra Strauss, Eliezer Fishman, Shaul Elovitch, Yitzhak Tshuva and Yossi Maiman. "The report proves there is a systemic problem, not a personal one."
To defend democracy and advance the cause of competition, several steps must be taken, says Wilf: Dismantle the pyramidal holding structures and monopolies, for one. Strengthen public broadcasting and the direct connection between the public and elected officials using online social networks. All will be discussed at the Knesset Economics Committee, she promises.
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