Gov't Okays Reforms in State-run Media

The government will no longer have the authority to make senior appointments at the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), it was announced at yesterday's weekly cabinet meeting.

The cabinet approved two measures designed to reform the structure of state-controlled media: It adopted the Dinur Commission's recommendations for comprehensive reform of the IBA, and committed to establishing "a union of councils," whose task will be to monitor commercial television stations such as Channels 2 and 10, as well as cable and satellite programming.

The government also resolved to transfer authority over the IBA to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, from Acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert. Since March 2003, Olmert has been leading the effort to adopt the Dinur recommendations, among them reduction of staff at IBA.

The reforms will also impact the content at the IBA, which would hire outside studios to provide the bulk of its non-news programming. But the most significant change will be the reduction of the political echelon's influence over the IBA. The government will no longer name its director general, rather, the appointment will be done by a public committee. Also, the IBA's budget will be subject to approval by the political echelon only once every five years.

The key questions now are whether Livni will continue advancing the reforms and who will succeed former IBA director general Yosef Barel, whose ouster was the result of those reforms.

Communications Minister Dalia Itzik is strongly promoting the Dinur reforms and has already stated her intention to appoint current cable and satellite head Yoram Mokedy to head the "union of councils," instead of establishing - as first suggested - a national media authority that would eliminate the Communications Ministry.