Dan Margalit Fired From Educational TV After Ministry Nixes No-bid Contract

Television presenter claims he was targeted over the tender issue because of his criticism of government corruption.

Journalist, commentator and presenter Dan Margalit was forced out of his Educational Television job on Wednesday after it emerged he had been given his contract without going through the normal tender process. Margalit is best known as the presenter of the 5 P.M. current events program "New Evening" ("Erev Hadash" ) on the station.

Last week the Finance Ministry ordered the CEO of Educational Television, Yaffa Vigodski, to cease Margalit's employment immediately because the contract with him does not conform to the norms of proper administration. The previous contract with Margalit was signed for the period between January 2009 until June 2009. The contract was approved then subject to the publication of a tender for other potential presenters.

Margalit, Eyal Toueg
Eyal Toueg

When Margalit's contract expired, over a year ago, Educational Television extended it without holding the required procedure and without authorization from the Finance Ministry. Recently Educational Television requested extending the contract for a third time but was turned down.

A public organization wishing to circumvent the requirement for a tender must define the party in question as a "sole provider" of a particular service. In this case, however, since there are other presenters working alongside Margalit, Educational TV was unable to use this tactic.

In response Margalit asked to continue to moderate the program without pay until the conditions of his employment are normalized but the Finance Ministry refused the request.

Margalit's leaving Educational Television joins Channel 10's decision to take "Council of Sages," the weekend political panel Margalit moderates, off the air. About two weeks ago Haaretz reported the program will take a long break with the start of the High Holy Day period with the date and format of its return not yet determined.

Margalit's name and the conditions of his employment at Educational Television hit the headlines several weeks ago when it was reported that his salary at the publicly-funded channel is NIS 70,000 a month. In response Margalit published in his opinion column in the freebie daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom that his salary is actually NIS 35,000 and said the reports were disseminated because of his positions against the connections between money and government.

Journalist Nahum Barnea of the mass circulation daily Yedioth Aharonoth responded to this in his column and wondered why Margalit receives such a high sum from the state. According to Barnea, the employment of Margalit, as well as of other leading journalists at Educational Television, is aimed at keeping the station open and pressuring politicians to support it.

According to the figures on the Internet site of the accountant general at the Finance Ministry, the most recent contract approved for Margalit was for an amount exceeding NIS 500,000 a year. The explanatory material accompanying the Educational Television request, which appears om the site, notes the contract with Margalit as one of the presenters of "New Evening" (alongside Ronen Bergman, Maya Bengal and Tali Lipkin-Shahak ) is essential because he has been "identified with the program for more than 27 years."

The Finance Ministry may move to examine all its contracts with presenters and other talents in the wake of the Margalit affair. The Finance Ministry has confirmed the details.

"It is necessary to apply for the tender and I will do so next week," Margalit told Haaretz. "This is what the accountant general has been requiring all along and I have no idea why this is cropping up now."

Educational Television said it had been asked by the accountant general to carry out a number of procedures as a condition for continuing the contract for moderating the program.