Israel's Indie Film Industry Trembles, as Satellite Giant Mulls Big Sale

Assaf Amir, chairman of the Israel Film and TV Producers Association, says move is 'liable to cause serious damage to documentary work.'

The satellite television provider Yes is considering selling off its documentary channel because it could face millions of shekels in sanctions, a change that independent filmmakers fear would make it harder for them to get their documentaries aired.

"Since documentary work is not particularly profitable, whoever takes control of this channel will be forced to produce cheap content in-house and bring just the minimum necessary to the market," said Assaf Amir, chairman of the Israel Film and TV Producers Association. "In practice, this move is liable to cause serious damage to documentary work."

Ofer Vaknin

Yes could be facing up to NIS 40 million in sanctions imposed by the Communications Ministry's Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting, which says the satellite provider has not met its obligation to spend half the money allotted to original programming on stations operated by outside companies.

Instead of paying another company, Yes has been paying independent filmmakers to produce their own documentaries.

Uri Rosenwaks, who heads the Israeli Documentary Filmmakers Forum, said representatives of the group have met with council chairman Nitzan Hen and warned him about how a selloff could endanger the documentary industry.

A hearing is scheduled for December 22, after which sanctions, or a fine, could be imposed on Yes.

"In light of the council decision that requires Yes to invest more content in external channels and not in its own channels, the company is considering the possibility of putting out the station for external ownership," the satellite provider said in a statement. "Yes regrets that the work of many years does not merit regulatory appreciation, and we nonetheless intend to continue to support Israeli documentary work."