Israel's Channel 10 to go ahead with worker dismissals
Embattled television station will fire 150 employees, after last-minute negotiations with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz fell through.
Channel 10's board of directors announced yesterday it intends to go ahead with its decision to fire 150 employees. The workers will join the ranks of the unemployed on Sunday.
The board reached this decision last week, but temporarily froze it as requested by Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini. Eini wanted to try to work out a compromise deal with the Finance Ministry for the refinancing of the television channel's debts to the state.
Channel 10 CEO Yoav Heldman met yesterday with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, but their discussion ended without a new agreement. Steinitz offered to delay collection of the channel's debts for two months, but the channel's managers and employees viewed this proposal as an insubstantial offer.
Avi Balashnikov, the Channel 10 board's deputy chairman, said: "We've tried to meet with the finance minister for almost a year, and have been kept away on various pretexts; and today we were told that the finance minister wants two months to study the matter. Such policy is a death sentence for the channel. Steinitz will be remembered in the history of communications in the State of Israel as the man who single-handedly killed the country's commercial network."
A well-placed source among the channel's directors spoke of political motives underlying the government's decision not to allow refinancing of Channel 10's debts. "This is the execution of a channel that dared to broadcast reports that were unpleasant to the government," the source said. "In Russia, Putin sends three singers to jail who dared to protest against him; in democratic Israel, when a channel that dares to broadcast criticism of the ruler, hundreds of its workers find themselves on the street."
Channel 10 is in the middle of arbitration with the Netanyahu family after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused it of libeling him by airing its so-called Bibi Tours investigation in 2010, which raised allegations that the prime minister was double billing for his trips abroad.
Channel 10's union yesterday stepped up its campaign against the dismissals. During the channel's 5 P.M. news broadcast hosted by Rafi Reshef, some workers barged into the studio and waved placards in front of the cameras, protesting against what they described as the station's impending closure. The action was the latest demonstration since Channel 10 employees began various protest measures 10 days ago.
Channel 10 directors announced yesterday evening that they would beef up security in the station's studios to preempt any future programming disruptions.