Israel's Channel 10 Faces Closure After Knesset Rejects Delay of Debt Repayment

Move comes less than three months after affair in which Netanyahu ally and billionaire Sheldon Adelson pressured the station into apologizing for a piece it aired on him.

The Knesset Finance Committee rejected Monday a request by Channel 10 to delay its debt repayment, forcing the major Israeli channel to immediately repay some NIS 45 million in debt, which will likely lead to its closure.

The decision not to postpone the payment was made in a vote with a majority of eight against five, in which all members of Netanyahu's coalition voted against.

A meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee.
Michal Fattal

Channel 10 CEO Yossi Warshavski was given a single right of speech who pleaded to those present. After emphasizing that the company has met all the obligations it took upon itself, and that its shareholders are currently in the process of expanding their financial base, he suggested the Knesset committee had ulterior motives in opposing the delay.

"There is a type of out-of-place revengefulness in not postponing the debt," said Warshavski.

In September, Channel 10 faced turmoil when a piece aired by the news outlet concerning American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and owner of the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, reportedly angered the billionaire. Adelson's demand that the news channel apologize for the piece led to the resignations of three top Channel 10 officials.

In November, a high-ranking official at Channel 10 News said officials of the Prime Minister's Office and Likud party told Channel 10 executives that the government would ease up on the television station's obligation to repay the debt by December, if it either fires leading political analyst Raviv Drucker or places him on unpaid leave.

At the Knesset meeting Monday, Warshavski said the channel's permit is due to expire on December 27, and that without the debt's delay, he will be forced to advise shareholders to close down the station. "When Channel 10 closes down there will be one news channel left, which will operate under the two concessionaires of Channel Two," said the Channel 10 CEO.

Labor party head Shelly Yachimovich said Monday's decision was motivated by a scathing desire to get rid of a channel that is not interested in flattering the government, and called upon Netanyahu, as someone who praises market competition, to change his mind and allow for the continued life of the channel.

Knesset Economics Committee chairman Carmel Shama-Hacohen said the committee is "not a rescue fund," and that it intends on conducting a thorough investigation to promote industry reforms. "We believe that Channel 10 will continue to broadcast despite its bleak forecasts," said Shama-Hacohen.

Read this article on Hebrew.