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  • The reality show of Israeli democracy
Channel 10 officials at Knesset Economic Affairs Committee meeting - Michal Fattal - November 8,2011
Channel 10 officials at the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee meeting, November 8, 2011. Photo by Michal Fattal
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Yoaz Hendel, the head the National Information Directorate at the Prime Minister's Office, joined up to defend his employer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, over the expected closure of Channel 10. "Not every reality show on Channel 10 is defending democracy," he said Tuesday evening at a conference at the Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv. Hendel used the word reality, which has taken on lots of dubious meaning over the years, in an attempt to play down the station's importance.

But Hendel is wrong: Even a Channel 10 reality show plays an important role in defending democracy. First, the broadcasting of the show itself allows the viewer to choose it and not a different one on a different channel at the same time. In this way, and without any connection to the program's quality - after all neither Netanyahu nor Hendel are television critics - viewers' ability to choose a station and watch "Survivor" is an exercise of cultural pluralism.

Reality shows' other role is even more important: to pay for a strong and independent news organization that is not dependent on political patrons, as are the Israel Broadcasting Authority and Educational Television. A news organization can feel secure to broadcast significant investigative reporting about the government - including the prime minister's trips abroad - without fear that this will lead to its closure.

It seems the prime minister and the eight coalition members in the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee were thinking about these two aspects - cultural pluralism and criticism of the government - when they voted against postponing Channel 10's debt payments. The committee members' cries of joy after they won a majority - bringing closer the firing of hundreds of employees - betrayed their true motives. Most of the hands raised with the aim of closing the station were raised as part of the antidemocratic legislative campaign engulfing the 18th Knesset, which mars the face of the legislature.

The overriding goals of the current Knesset session, with the prime minister's support, remain silencing the pluralistic discussion and revenge against anyone who dares criticize the government. Channel 10 meets those criteria extremely well.