Cabinet Accused of Seeking to Take Control of IBA

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and MK Eitan Cabel accuse the cabinet of trying to entrench government control over public broadcasting.

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud ) and MK Eitan Cabel (Labor ) yesterday accused the cabinet of trying to entrench government control over public broadcasting.

Their accusation was made during a stormy debate in the Knesset's Control Committee on the new Broadcasting Authority Law the cabinet is preparing.

The debate followed a screening of Doron Tsabari and Uri Inbar's film "Revolution 101," about the struggle to bring about a reform in the IBA over several years.

A previous IBA reform bill, drafted by Tsabari and sponsored by Cabel, passed a preliminary reading a few years ago, when Cabel served as a minister without portfolio.

The cabinet decided not to advance Cabel's bill, which separates between the government and IBA. Instead, the cabinet is drafting a bill in which the government is involved in electing IBA plenum members and has an influence on appointing the IBA'S director general.

Eyal Gabai, Prime Minister's Office director general and the official in charge of IBA in the PMO, started to explain the method of electing the IBA plenum and director general according to the bill.

Cabel said that "a major factor of the IBA's destruction was the link between politics and its managers. Why relinquish power? If this clause [the government's involvement in appointing IBA officials] passes, I will do everything I can to close IBA down."

Politics and power

Tsabari, who directed the film, said that "politics are a matter of power and the IBA, despite its sorry state, is power. A committee to appoint executive members is a guise behind which the government will elect the IBA executives, who will be working for the politicians."

"You prefer a paralyzed broadcasting authority," he said, addressing the politicians. "How come Channel 1 (11 ) hasn't had a satirical program for more than 30 years? Channel 1 cannot harm the government. It cannot undermine the existing order," he said.

Producer Uri Inbar said, "The IBA is a paralyzed, gagged entity. The way it has been managed for dozens of years made it that way. There's an inherent conflict of interest between the public and its elected officials on this issue. What is good for the elected officials is power and control of the screen. The public's interest is the opposite."

The lawmakers present appeared to agree on that. Rivlin said the bill could turn public broadcasting into a government mouthpiece. "When we were in opposition, I agreed with then opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. We thought if the IBA becomes a government authority rather than a public one, we would have to privatize it," he said.

Gabai said the bill is balanced and the problems will be solved.

He said if no understandings are reached on a reform in the IBA, other changes will be made and another body will carry out public broadcasting.

Dr. Amir Gilat, the recently appointed IBA chairman, replied, "The movie deals with the past, while I am dealing with the future. I believe the reform, which is being formulated, will be implemented soon because everyone understands the window of opportunity is about to close in a few weeks."