Israel’s Channel 10 signed an agreement with the Jewish National Fund in May of last year committing the television station to run 14 news reports highlighting the nonprofit organization.
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The agreement, the substance of which has been obtained by TheMarker, commits the station to air weather reports from JNF sites, feature JNF maps and broadcast other content promoting the organization. Channel 10 says the agreement was rescinded due to ethical concerns and never implemented.
The agreement called for JNF, in return for promotional content on air and on the Nana10 website, which is affiliated with the station, to pay the station 1.5 million shekels ($431,000) in six installments. JNF made a 400,000 shekel ($115,000) down payment on the agreement before it was rescinded, but Channel 10 is refusing to refund the money, claiming the organization owes it 320,000 shekels ($92,000) in connection with the contract. JNF rejects the claim.
“We don’t make it a practice to relate to the content of arguments that are the subject of legal controversy with media entities,” JNF said. “The JNF acts in accordance with the customary and legally permissible rules.”
JNF, also known by its Hebrew name, Keren Keyemeth LeIsrael, was founded in 1901 to purchase land on behalf of the Jewish people in what was then Ottoman-controlled Palestine. It came to amass large land holdings around the country, many of which have been used to develop forests and other recreation areas and more recently to address environmental needs.
An agreement to feature promotional content in broadcasts on Channel 10, certainly on the news, would violate the regulations of the Second Television and Radio Authority, which oversees commercial television broadcasting. The agreement with JNF was signed when Rafi Ginat was Channel 10’s CEO and Golan Yochpaz was its director of news operations. Sources at the station said that management at Channel 10 News was initially unaware of the agreement and demanded that it be scrapped for ethical reasons upon learning of it.
The agreement called for a major report on the relationship between JNF and Channel 10, featuring the station’s weatherman Danny Roop. In addition, eight times a month, Roop was to deliver the forecast from JNF forests and make reference to the organization. The station also agreed to broadcast “verbal messages” from JNF, including, for example, content related to upcoming holidays.
Last week, Channel 10 broadcast an expose on alleged wasteful management practices at JNF on its Hamakor (“The Source”) investigative journalism program. Hamakor also reported on JNF’s public relations efforts, including the allegation that the organization was paying Channel 10’s news competitor, Channel 2 News, 1.5 million shekels ($430,000) a year for production of special video footage in a number of languages, including some shot overseas. Members of the JNF board claimed that this agreement called for coverage of the organization on Channel 2’s news broadcasts. The station denied this allegation and said the JNF footage was produced by a third party and had no connection to the station’s own broadcast content.
In response to the Hamakor expose, Channel 2 mentioned the agreement between JNF and Channel 10. Channel 10 countered that “there were contacts” and that “the cooperation did not come to fruition.” Nonetheless, Channel 10 is demanding 320,000 shekels from JNF, claiming that the agreement required the purchase of five weather stations and the creation of an Internet platform on the Nana10 website, for which it is seeking reimbursement.
“No promotional content [for JNF] was ever included in Channel 10 news’ main broadcast and none will be included,“ Channel 10 said in a statement. “As we stated on Hamakor, in the investigative report about JNF, Channel 10 news found an ethical defect in carrying out an agreement such as this.”