Sometimes a specific event encapsulates the entire story, even if the participants are not aware of the impact of the metaphor. The demonstration by Channel 10 employees outside the home of Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz last Saturday night was one of those occasions. On the face of it, the workers, who are struggling simultaneously to save their own livelihoods and an important broadcaster, did everything right. In cooperation with representatives of the new journalists' organization, they gathered in Mevasseret Zion, where the minister lives, equipped with megaphones and protest banners, and began a guerilla operation: watching one of the channel's flagship programs together. "We have brought a generator and a large screen," one of the protesters explained, "and we are planning to stay here all night."
But complications arose when it became apparent which program from the channel's repertoire the demonstrators had chosen to showcase: not a well-researched, investigative program like "Shomer Masach" or "Hamakor," not the channel's professional news broadcast, not the intelligent "London and Kirschenbaum" program - instead, an installment from "Survivor VIP" was shown on the makeshift screen. On the face of it, a natural choice: the program that gets huge ratings, that is considered the channel's flagship series. Even the banners and slogans that dealt with the channel's struggle for survival connected with the program that was broadcast on the screen.
However, it is precisely in this connection that the great tragedy can be found. This tragedy is shared by all the viewers in the country and goes beyond the issue of the many employees in the television industry.
Channel 10 and the people who work there are very close to my heart and many of them are my friends. I worked for a year as a reporter for the channel's news program in the past decade; last year, I appeared on an entertainment program on the channel. The thought that Channel 10 will disappear from the local media map, together with its independent and high-quality news company, should disturb every Israeli with an awareness of the need to protect democracy. In addition, the thought that hundreds of my colleagues will all of a sudden lose their place of work is difficult for me to digest: About half a year ago, I myself was fired from a large media network that carried out "efficiency measures" and I am aware of the implications.
I feel sorry for my friends and colleagues at Channel 10 whose employment future is shrouded in mist. I also pity them since, as part of the struggle for their future, they were forced to watch an installment of "Survivor VIP" together. It is a humiliating and embarrassing program, a song of praise to emptiness and vulgarity. And it is an insult to intelligence, beginning with its out-of-place title and continuing with the participants: a team of former celebs running around in skimpy swimsuits after their forgotten 15 minutes of fame has ended. A considerable percentage of the viewers of this inferior production are children and young people.
It is difficult from an ideological point of view to justify the need for a channel whose main contribution to Israeli culture is this program. Commercial television is trapped by the caprices of the advertising market, which is characterized by a great deal of fluctuation. Over time, it is not only dependent on the taste of the public, but also shapes it. The complicated and controversial model of regulation is designed to ensure that, in return for their access to the masses, the commercial channels be obliged to invest in original productions, maintain a reasonable balance between junk and quality, and set a standard to prevent the infiltration of commercial interests.
In actual fact, what is seen from the screen in Israel is total collapse, both of the regulation with all its aims and of the franchisees that are going bankrupt, as well as of public broadcasting, which is infected with politicization and corruption. Meanwhile, an entire generation is growing up here inanely staring at the underpants of Yedioth Ahronoth's crime reporter Buki Naeh on "Survivor VIP." Classic opium for the masses that ensures the public will be stupefied, and afterward will pay the price.
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