Defense Ministry Raps Army Radio Over TV News Spat

Yaron Dekel sent letter saying he planned to cancel broadcasting Channel 2 news on the radio, but backtracked

The Defense Minister's chief of staff has instructed the head of Army Radio, Yaron Dekel, to withdraw a letter he sent to Channel 10 in which he discussed the military station's broadcast of the Channel 2 evening news show.

The Channel 10 news program has asked Army Radio for years to broadcast their evening news show instead of that of Channel 2.

While the broadcast of the news on Army Radio would not bring any direct financial gains, it increases the exposure to the show and increases its influence.

In June, the then chairman of the board of Channel 10, Avi Balshnikov, sent Dekel a letter saying Army Radio's continued broadcast of Channel 2 news gave the station preferential treatment and was inappropriate considering the radio station's public standing and requirements.

In response, Dekel said in June he intended to stop broadcasting Channel 2 and produce its own independent news show. But several months have passed and Army Radio is still broadcasting Channel 2 news. So Channel 10 once again appealed to Dekel, this time via a lawyer, stating the continued broadcast represents a violation of the requirement to act fairly and with equality in allocating public resources.

Dekel responded in writing on October 21, and made it clear he intended to cancel the Channel 2 news broadcasts, but the matter is "complex and therefore has been delayed slightly."

Eight days later, Dekel sent another letter to Channel 10: "In accordance with the instruction of the chief of staff of the Defense Minister, I am asking to withdraw my letter from October 21, 2013 and to view it as canceled."

The Defense Minister appoints the commander of Army Radio, and the station is funded through the Defense Ministry budget to the tune of NIS 20 million a year; but the ministry has no authority to intervene in the station's content. The IDF's Chief Education Officer oversees the military content side, while the civilian content is supposedly supervised by a committee of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Army Radio and the Defense Ministry both said ministry chief of staff Haim Blumenblatt's intervention was only for procedural reasons since Dekel acted against regulations in sending the letter himself.

The ministry said Blumenblatt instructed the relevant personnel to answer Channel 10's request, especially as it had a legal aspect; and the examination of the issue has yet to be completed.

Army Radio said it was not a matter of content but one of competition between two commercial bodies.

David Bachar