Correspondent: The Move to Shut Us Down Is Against Public Interest

Knesset Finance Committee rejects Channel 10's request to delay its debt repayment, forcing the station to immediately repay NIS 45 million, likely leading to its closure.

The Knesset members who Monday brought Channel 10 one step closer to being shut down are not looking out for the public interest, a correspondent for the television station's news show said on Monday.

"It's tough because the legislators, the members of parliament, are the ones responsible for the public interest - and this move does not accord with that," said Baruch Kra, who covered legal affairs for Haaretz before becoming the legal correspondent for Channel 10's news show.

The Knesset Finance Committee rejected Channel 10's request to delay its debt repayment on Monday, forcing the commercial station to immediately repay some NIS 45 million, which will likely lead to its closure.

"The law says you have to pay and that's fine, but ultimately they are faced with the public interest, and that is that Channel 10 should continue to broadcast," said Kra. "There is a different news channel here that provides an additional voice to news coverage."

Kra is one of many who are accusing Likud of trying to shut down the television station as part of a political vendetta, in reprisal for unfavorable coverage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has filed a libel suit against Channel 10 News and one of its leading reporters, Raviv Drucker, over a report about the Netanyahu family's donor-funded luxury flights and hotel stays.

About a month before the finance committee hearing on the television station's debt repayment, a high-ranking official at Channel 10 News said officials in the Prime Minister's Office and the Likud party told two Channel 10 executives that the government would ease up on the television station if it either fires Drucker or places him on unpaid leave.

And in September, U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a close ally of Netanyahu and the owner of the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, demanded that Channel 10 apologize for a story it aired about him.

"My anger doesn't come from the place of a worker who's losing his job, but from realizing that the motive for closure is political - that is what's hard to take," said Kra. He is one of an estimated 2,500 people who would lose their jobs if the station closes.

But not everyone is convinced Channel 10 is really going to shut down. "The committee decision was expected, but I'm optimistic because I don't believe you shut down a station because of a dispute over debt repayment," said Moti Kirschenbaum, one of the hosts of Channel 10's current affairs program "London & Kirschenbaum." "I'm almost certain they'll find some solution to this."