Peres: Channel 10 good for democracy, can't close
Israeli president says proposals have been made that would resolve the situation.
President Shimon Peres met with the heads of Channel 10 television on Wednesday to discuss the station's financial crisis, which could lead to its closure if it fails to repay a NIS 60 million debt to the government. Earlier this month the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee voted not to give the station any additional time to make the payments, but the matter is to be reconsidered by the committee on Thursday.
At Wednesday's meeting at his Jerusalem residence, Peres said proposals have been made that would resolve the situation. "I call on all those involved in the issue to make every effort to overcome this passing crisis," the president said.
Peres said a commercial station such as Channel 10 is essential to the country and its democracy. Currently Israel's two other major broadcast channels, in addition to cable and satellite stations, are public broadcaster Channel 1 and the commercial station, Channel 2.
Foremost among possible solutions to the current crisis, according to Peres, was that the government convert the NIS 60 million debt into a fund that would be invested in original television production. The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee rejected this suggestion a week and a half ago, although it attracted the support of Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon.
At the beginning of Wednesday's meeting, Channel 10 CEO Yossi Warshavski said the broadcaster was not asking that the debt be forgiven but simply that payment be deferred so the station could be kept open. He also said he viewed the refusal to further defer payment as an act of political vengeance. Labor party head Shelly Yachimovich previously said the committee's decision was motivated by a desire to get rid of a channel not interested in flattering the government.
A source at Peres' office said on Wednesday that the president intends to take up the issue of Channel 10's future with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.