State funding hasn't come through, and community TV is in danger of closing
Closure would affect programs created by and for groups as varied as at-risk youth, retirees and adults with special needs.
Major media outlets aren't the only ones in trouble: Community television, too, is in danger of closing.
Community television is comprised of productions by a variety of different organizations. It has existed for 20 years now, surviving thanks to volunteers and government support totaling some NIS 3 million annually. Of the latter, half is from the Communications Ministry and half from the Finance Ministry.
But this year, the Communications Ministry has so far transferred only NIS 750,000 to the recipient organizations, while the Finance Ministry hasn't transferred any money at all. As a result, many of the groups involved in community television are now in danger of shutting down.
Community television includes the production of news magazines, local news and alternative news, as well as video film clubs. In 2011, the NIS 3 million budgeted by the state was distributed among 62 different organizations. In total, this budget allowed some 2,000 creators, organized into some 160 different groups, to produce shows, including 17 news magazines that were broadcast on Channel 98. The budget received by each organization ranged from NIS 15,000 for the smaller ones to NIS 160,000 for the larger ones. The average was NIS 40,000 per organization per year.
Budget recipients vary greatly: youths in community centers, older people and retirees, people with special needs, and more. For example, the 2011 budget lists among its recipients the Israeli Diabetes Association, the IDF Pensioners Organization, the Amal 1 school network, the Galilee village of Kishorit for adults with special needs, an association for the elderly, and the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel.
But because of the money that never arrived, many activities have already shut down and others are on the verge of closing.
"It's been part of my work for many years," said Anat, a film instructor at the Bikurey Itim Center in Tel Aviv and the Jewish-Arab Center in Jaffa. "We work with youths, adults and pensioners, people for whom this is their life, pensioners who continue coming even when their spouses are ill, because this gives them a reason to go on, a voice. With the elderly, for example, we produce a 30-minute television magazine once a month about issues that interest them, such as the implications of the social protest for retirees. I was supposed to start teaching again today, but they called all the instructors to tell us not to come because there is no budget."
Many of those involved fear that one reason the budget hasn't been transferred is the government's displeasure with the criticism leveled at it by some of the supported programs, such as "Hayarkon 70," an alternative news show that won the Pratt Award for Environmental Journalism.
Yochai Rotenberg, chairman of the Israeli Association of Television, Radio and Communal Communication, issued a letter to all the affected organizations in which he informed them about the situation and announced protest measures. Yesterday, for instance, gagged volunteers carrying hooded cameras were slated to go out to major intersections to protest the lack of funding.
At the same time, the association is planning to lobby ministers and Knesset members and considering a petition to the High Court of Justice.
"We're talking about a ridiculously small amount of money they're trying to save by taking away our budget," Rotenberg said.
The Communications Ministry responded that it has already "allocated the entire sum at its disposal, NIS 750,000, to support local news, just as it has every year. The 2011 allocation was unusual in its scope and a one-time occurrence only."
The Finance Ministry said it is looking into the issue.