Citing Financial Distress, Israel’s Channel 13 News Fires Dozens of Journalists

Budget cuts are necessary to palliate to poor financial situation, management argues, but some point to political meddling

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Channel 13 News' political commentator Barak Ravid speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv, July 2016.
Channel 13 News' political commentator Barak Ravid speaks at a conference in Tel Aviv, July 2016.Credit: Moti Milrod

One of Israel’s leading news broadcasters, Channel 13 News, has fired almost forty members of its editorial staff, including several household names.

Political commentator Barak Ravid, formerly of Haaretz, and weatherman Danny Rup were among the big names joining anchor Tali Moreno and political correspondent Akiva Novick, who announced last week they are among those laid off.

Channel 13 News weatherman Danny Rup speaks at a Knesset discussion, Jerusalem, October 27, 2015.
Channel 13 News weatherman Danny Rup speaks at a Knesset discussion, Jerusalem, October 27, 2015.Credit: Emil Salman

Channel 13, which was created in 2018 after a merger between commercial broadcasters Reshet and moribund Channel 10, is in financial straits, its owners say. Major shareholder, Len Blavatnik, an Israeli-British businessman considered close to Netanyahu, wants to drastically cut the budget of the channel’s news division – which has historically been seen as critical of the prime minister.

The move has been sharply criticized on social networks, with many commentators asserting that Barak Ravid's dismissal was politically motivated.

Over the past few days, 37 members of Channel 13 News’ editorial staff received a summons to a hearing prior to dismissal. Channel 13 directors at first demanded broad personnel cuts of more than 30 percent of the news company staff. After the company’s union fought the move to the point of threatening disruptions of the main news broadcast, a compromise was reached by which only 13 percent of the staff – 42 positions instead of 110 – would be cut.

The other names on that list that would be familiar to Israeli audiences include correspondent Smadar Peled, editor and anchor Eli Rachlin, investigative reporter and correspondent Itay Vered, and news food correspondent Amit Aaronsohn.

As part of the arrangement reached between Channel 13’s union and management, journalists with more than two years’ seniority will receive compensation. People who were put on unpaid leave during the coronavirus crisis will receive larger compensation than that offered in general to staff members who are to lose their jobs. According to the agreement, management will not cut the afternoon and early evening news shows produced by Channel 13 news personnel.

Although the moves were made in coordination with the union, this round of layoffs is causing resentment among workers. "Everyone is uncomfortable," a company source said.

Among other things, they pointed out that many of Barak Ravid's exclusive reports were then relayed by other media outlets. Cutting the Shabbat news show was even more puzzling, the source pointed out, as it had the highest ratings for a Channel 13 News show, and managed to close the gap with competitor Channel 12 News.

Channel 13 responded: “We are currently at the height of a process of streamlining that is not simple, either on the organizational or the personal level. We are forced to bid farewell to outstanding professionals. For the sake of individual privacy, the process should be continued within the organization, not outside it."

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