American billionaire and President of the World Jewish Congress Ron Lauder is increasing his managerial hold on Channel 10, in what officials in the organization say will lead to relief in the tension between the media outlet and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, of which Lauder is a major supporter.
Last week, Channel 10 head Yossi Warshavsky resigned after four years in office, saying he no longer had the strength to fight for the deficit-stricken channel's survival. Warshavsky will be replaced by Channel 10 CFO Yoav Heldman.
On Thursday, the channel's board of directors announced the nomination of several officials considered to be Lauder's emissaries to the organization, in a move which effectively increases his influence on the channel's day-to-day operation.
In the session, the board named Lauder aide Avi Balashnikov as deputy directorate chairman, a position which until now did not exist, as well as appointing Michal Greiski as head of the finance committee, which is made up of officials linked to Lauder as well as those linked to head of the directorate Yossi Meiman.
In its current makeup, despite the fact Meiman retains his role as chairman, Channel 10's board shows a strengthening of Lauder's power, with market officials estimating that the new appointments make the U.S. billionaire the organization's de-facto manager.
It must be noted that it has been a while since any of the channel's stockholders have transferred funds to the crippled organization, with the exception of Lauder, who gave Channel 10 eight million NIS a few months ago, mainly to allow to pay suppliers.
Channel 10 has been in the throes of a severe financial crisis in the last year, making its near future uncertain, following the stockholders withholding of further funds and the channels NIS 45 million licensing and royalties debt, which prevent the outlet from receiving its permit.
Channel officials have repeatedly asked its debt be divided into installments, adding otherwise the organization could shut down. However, until now the Knesset's Finance Committee has rejected this officer, with Channel 10 officials claiming that the Prime Minister's Office was working to shut it down.
Recent months have apparently brought a reported disconnect between Netanyahu and Launder, once a staunch supporter of the premier, leading one channel official to estimate that the media outlet will affect a more positive attitude toward the PM.
Last year, several senior members of Channel 10's news division resigned in protest over the apology the station broadcast to American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who owns the Israeli daily Israel Hayom and is considered close to Netanyahu.
The apology, which was said to have been demanded by one of the station's owners, followed a 20-minute profile of Adelson broadcast by the station in January which Adelson contended was inaccurate. The resignations are expected to be followed today by the departure of "Hashavua" reporters Avner Hofstein, Paz Schwartz and David Deri.
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