Channel 10 Board of Directors Freezes Immediate Firing of 150 Workers

Channel 10's directorate announced yesterday it will freeze dismissal notices that were sent to 150 workers. The firings have been suspended, for now, in response to an appeal from Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini.

"The Histadrut chairman turned to us with a request for the suspension of the dismissals, so long as negotiations ensue with the prime minister and the communications and finance ministers," the station's directorate stated. "We decided to assent to this request and delay, for now, the execution of the dismissal plans."

The Channel 10 workers committee responded by e-mail: "We welcome the change in the directorate's position, and look forward to the full removal of the dismissal threat."

Yesterday Eini met with worker delegates and instructed them not to comply with anticipated dismissal notices. "Everything that can be done to prevent the closure of this channel will be done," vowed Eini. "We won't assent to the dismissal of workers."

Channel 10 faces a NIS 60 million deficit and its directors warn that this could lead to its closure. In January the channel's franchise agreements expire, and as things stand Channel 10 will not meet requirements for a permanent broadcasting license.

Meanwhile, the channel, which is perceived to be more left-leaning than channels 1 and 2, remains the target of right-wing forces.

The Israel Society for the Public's Right to Know has launched a campaign calling for the channel's closure. The society's members include Nobel Prize laureate Yisrael Aumann, former MK Geula Cohen and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's sister-in-law Daphna Netanyahu. In the past, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Energy and Water Resources Minister Uzi Landau headed the group.

"It is not right to expect that the government should intervene and help a commercial company pay its debts - that certainly wouldn't be right in the case of Channel 10, which has not met its concession obligations," the society declares. It calls on the public to write to Netanyahu and urge him to pull the plug on the channel. Referring to the impending worker dismissals, Prof. Eli Pollak, a former chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel and now head of the Public's Right to Know, declared in a statement sent to the media: "We greatly regret the fate of workers at the channel who are not personally responsible for its failure. Yet more important than the workers' interests are the interests of the wider public, and those require that the channel be shut down."