IBA Sends in Co-hosts to Look Over Neubach's Right Shoulder

A group of protesters have been demonstrating outside Israel Radio's Tel Aviv offices all week.

Despite the growing protest of Israel Radio's staff, Keren Neubach will not be hosting her popular "Seder Yom" program on the Reshet Bet radio station alone this morning. As on every other morning this week, she is to be joined by a rightist co-host. On Thursday, it will be satirist Meir Uziel, who also co-hosted the show on Wednesday.

The Jerusalem Journalists Association on Wednesday canceled the broadcast of the show's second hour, from 9 A.M. to 10 A.M., in protest of several recent moves to restrict and "gag" IBA staff. Demonstrations and show cancelations are expected on Thursday too. A group of protesters have been demonstrating outside Israel Radio's Tel Aviv offices all week.

Since Sunday, the Israel Broadcasting Authority has placed a co-host beside Neubach. The change was intended "to diversify the broadcasts and increase the listening figures to morning programs," IBA said. But authority officials admitted behind the scenes that the purpose was to "balance" the show, which they said "is driven by a one-sided agenda."

Rightist columnist Menachem Ben, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a lecturer, writer for Makor Rishon and a member of Habayit Hayehudi party and Uziel have co-hosted the show this week.

Rightist journalists Amnon Lord and Uri Elitzur, who were also asked to co-host the show, firmly refused to be "the program's rightist kashrut supervisors," as they put it.

Kedar told Haaretz after co-hosting the show on Tuesday that he thought he was supposed to comment on Middle East and Syrian affairs. "They committed an obscene act," he said, referring to the management.

Senior IBA staff members were angry at the changes, which were made without consulting the show's staff and without holding any pilot shows.

"It's an attempt to push Neubach out," one senior official said. "The move was apparently due to political pressures on the IBA to harm the program, because it deals with social and economic issues in a critical way."

IBA workers say this is one of several moves intended to "settle the score" with people who were appointed by the previous IBA management.

The planned reform in the IBA, in which the Prime Minister's Office will have a significant role in overseeing broadcasts, is to be signed in the next two weeks. Since the current management's appointed director general Yoni Ben Menachem and Israel Radio manager Michael Miro, the workers' fears have increased. It started with the attempt to cancel the personal statement hosts used to make at the opening of current affairs programs. Several reporters and editors were moved to different programs and analysts' personal comments in Friday's midday news broadcast were canceled. The management refused to appoint a permanent host for the popular "Hakol Diburim" show and restrictions were imposed on covering the social protest last summer.

Neubach herself, who has won a number of prizes for her journalistic work and much praise for her program and critical social commentary, was the target of several moves by the IBA's new management. She was removed from hosting the television program "Mabat Sheni" and an attempt was made to fire her radio show's editor, Mirit Hoshmand.

The journalists' association said the radio management's moves have harmed broadcasts. "Imposing co-hosts ostensibly to 'balance' 'Seder Yom' is a farce incarnate. The co-hosts were foisted on Neubach without coordination or any justification," the statement said.

Knesset members from left and right have slammed the goings on in Israel Radio.

"They keep balancing our shows with rightist people. Why don't they balance us with anyone from the left?" asked a senior IBA worker. "Why don't they appoint a co-host to Judy Nir Moses Shalom, or Miro's shows?" [The two voice their personal opinions on their shows.]

"Now it is clear to all that these people [the management] are petty politicians, whose considerations are not journalistic. The latest steps reflect politicization and lack of professionalism. These are people who cannot bear to hear different opinions," a senior staff member said.

IBA commented: "Reshet Bet is bound to preserve a balance according to the authority's ethics code ... all claims of political interests are a spin of interested parties trying to undermine the radio managers' success, as reflected in the last TGI survey showing an increased listening rate."

"Adding co-hosts is an acceptable radio practice in the past 20 years. The claim that a pilot program is needed is a spin by interested parties ... appointing guest hosts is a managerial prerogative."