In the past few weeks, the Israeli public has been up in arms because co-hosts have been hired to join Israel Radio presenter Keren Neubach, in order to "balance" her views. There were protests against interference with freedom of speech, as well as claims that the prime minister was using the Israel Broadcasting Authority for his own interests. As if to prove that point, the editor of the IBA's main morning news program was suspended after she broadcast items that were not to the taste of King Bibi and his vassals.
None of this is very new. Ask Geula Even, who was supposed to present the main evening news program on Channel One, but found herself on a peripheral television news broadcast instead. She was forced to sit next to the court journalist of the time, Ariel Sharon's friend, the late Uri Dan. This was, of course, during the reign of King Arik.
For years, Israeli governments have intentionally weakened the broadcasting authority. Channel 1 has already become irrelevant, and now they have turned to the only remaining thing of significance - Reshet Bet. In the past, however, it was done more behind the scenes. Who can possibly follow the dismissals of some of the best IBA journalists - and there were plenty - and the subsequent appointment of temporary managers without tenders but with total dependence on those who had appointed them? Now it is being done in a blunt, vain way. And since that is the case, there is a big fuss about it.
It is simple to shout that the IBA is shutting people up, but it's more difficult to realize that the commercial TV and radio stations do the same thing, only in a much more subtle manner. It was not without reason that the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi bought so many television stations; because when the people are busy with reality shows and game shows, they can't be bothered with politics.
And indeed, Israel's commercial networks fill their prime time with reality shows and game shows while prime radio time is filled with inconsequential programs. There is, in fact, not one political program among them. There is no public platform where it is possible to hold an ideological or political public debate on whether to draft the ultra-Orthodox into the army, for example, or on whether or not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. And of course not on the economic affairs of our country.
The State of Israel is at a boiling point, but there is not one place where it is possible to hold a serious discussion about the issues causing it to bubble over. Serious doesn't have to mean a heavy documentary; it can also mean "Crossfire."
The so-called decisive reply to this, after which there are supposedly no further complaints, is that the public wants to see reality TV programs and has no interest in more serious programming. The reality is different. The public watches what it is given at prime time, which is when it has time to watch television. "Survivor" and "Beauty and the Geek" had low ratings when they were first broadcast. In fact, the ratings of all the reality shows went up with time. Perseverance pays.
Another fact is that political programs have proven very successful over the years, and today, "London and Kirshenbaum" and Gal Gabbai and Ben Kaspit's "Seder Yom" get excellent ratings in the pre-prime time viewing hours during which they are broadcast. The legend that all that counts are the ratings and that it doesn't matter what you give us as long as it sells, is a lie.
The commercial channels are controlled by big money - both the owners and the advertisers. Over the years the screen has been adjusted to fit the advertisements, both in appearance and in content. That way, the news programs also look like reality shows. After all, it's impossible to broadcast content that spoils the show for the advertisements and the advertisers. Moreover, ratings for ideas that are opposed to the interests of the wealthy could cause them genuine damage, so why give them a stage?
There's the perfect mixture of capital and government for you. An amalgam of the interests of the wealthy advertisers and of the politicians. Neither group wants to allow a real forum for political discussion.
No wonder those TV personalities who wanted to talk politics - Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich, Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz, Habayit Hayehudi MK Uri Orbach, and former Channel Two presenter Yair Lapid - were forced to leave television and become politicians. And still, the television doesn't give them a stage to talk. Quiet, we're on the air, we don't want to annoy any kind of owner.
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