Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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About half of all television show creators in Israel receive less than 500 shekels ($142) per month in royalties. Now Channel 2 does not want to pay them at all, although the royalties constitute less than one percent of its revenues. Pay attention, dear reader. You are busy, not always free to delve into the meaning of sentences, so it is worth repeating: The royalties constitute less than one percent of Channel 2’s revenues.

It is the strongest media outlet in Israel, with monstrous ratings that have no equal in the democratic world. Nevertheless, it does not want to pay. Less than one percent. It doesn’t feel like paying. For creators, this is an issue of life and death. For Channel 2 it is a drop in the bucket.

“You are a strong and aggressive man,” television host Erez Tal told Ronnie Miley, the contestant evicted from the Israeli “Big Brother” house last season for verbal bullying. “You trampled upon people here ... and you did not let go until they were twitching. Your method is to take a person’s vulnerable point and crush him.” Tal should say this to the channel that broadcasts him.

The position of a single TV creator versus the broadcasting companies employing him is that of a leaf blowing in the wind. This is not a good situation. In a healthy society, a creator’s position – his professional and cultural interests more than his financial one – is strong. He has a backbone. That is not the situation here.

Channel 2 is a company that deeply influences Israeli society, and its primary goals are to achieve the maximum number of viewers and maximize profit. When the creator facing this company is weak, it is not good. The lone creator has no ability to demand that Channel 2’s franchisees, Reshet and Keshet, give him his fair share of royalties. He is also incapable of personally following the different airings of his show and collect the money he is owed. When he is alone with Keshet or Reshet and they demand that he give up or compromise on royalty payments to get a job, he does what they tell him.

Many screenwriters, directors and editors of documentaries and studio programs find it difficult to make a living. The gigs they get are often few and far between. They have no job security. Royalties on reruns of their works, pitiful as they are, are like oxygen for them.

This is the reason behind the establishment of TALI – the Collecting Society of Film and Television Creators in Israel (the copyright collective for Israeli screenwriters and directors, of which this writer is a part). It does what we are incapable of doing alone. This is accepted practice the world over. Of course TALI is a cartel, but one of the justifiable ones. However, it needs the approval of Antitrust Commissioner David Gilo to continue its activities. There is no precedent in the world for an antitrust authority that broke up a copyright collective representing creators of television shows. But Gilo, for whatever reason, has refused to grant his approval. Now, Reshet and Keshet have announced that they are demanding the closure of TALI. Gilo is expected to announce his decision next month.

And what has Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat to say? “Reality TV is not culture,” she said not long ago. “It dumbs down my mind ... it makes me stupid.” She added she wanted to see investment in original shows. But aside from announcing incredibly weak support on Facebook, she has not done anything. She is not fighting for the creators of original productions. Minister Livnat is abusing her position. It is her moral and ministerial obligation to take care that TALI continues to exist. Otherwise, there will be no culture here, and she will be the minister of stupidity.