IBA Announces More Layoffs, Programming Cuts

The Israel Broadcasting Authority yesterday announced a string of cuts, including the removal of several programs and pushing up the end of broadcasting to 11:00 P.M., beginning this Sunday. The move joins previously announced cuts and layoffs made over the last few days.

Programs to be axed include a nightly news show, a financial news show and several cultural and musical series. A short program on culture and economics will be broadcast during the vacated airtime, to be hosted by Uri Levy.

Shows that will remain on air will also be effected by the cuts. It was recently determined that both studio time and operations outside the studio would be cut back. The flagship news show "Mabat" was trimmed down to 27 minutes, which means six to nine reports will be given up each night. Its sister show "Mabat Sheni" has also suffered cutbacks in terms of the investment made in its content, as have the programs "Welcoming the Shabbat" and "Telecinema." Projects in development, including a motoring show and a series on the history of food have all been put on hold.

These cuts come on top of a decision by IBA director-general Moti Shklar to remove the editors of both "Mabat" and "Mabat Sheni."

IBA has been negotiating its restructuring for the past two and half years, but the agreement has been stalled by incessant clashes between the administration and the workers' committees. The radio technicians began imposing sanctions recently, which are affecting broadcasting.

The combined woes of the IBA prompted Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein, in charge of implementing the reforms, to issue strong reprimands against IBA employees.

"What we have here is a Western-style stand off," Edelstein told Israel Radio, itself a part of IBA, yesterday. "People paying the license fee will soon stop getting not just quality content, but any content for their money." Edelstein said he believed the reforms were stalled because the workers didn't appreciate the full gravity of the situation.

"The feeling inside the IBA is that we're being shut down while negotiations are still ongoing," one employee told Haaretz yesterday. "They're cutting shows and worsening the situation, but they're acting strangely. It's probably another way to pressure us."

The IBA issued the following statement: "The decision to cut shows and reduce transmission hours is not some kind of a management whim. The committee's insistence on running the radio and television is going to doom the broadcasting authority."

"The management and the director-general are doing everything they can to reduce damage to our content, which is why when cuts are made certain priorities are set," the statement said.