Israeli Coalition Fears New Broadcast Law Won’t Be Passed in Time Over Disputes

Lawmakers will also have to complete reforms of the news broadcast format before the new broadcast corporation law goes into effect on May 15.

The offices of the new public broadcasting corporation, Kan, Oct. 25, 2016.
Kan Spokesman's Office

The coalition is concerned that there is not enough time to pass the bill establishing the new broadcasting corporation before the original law, closing the broadcasting authority and establishing the corporation, goes into effect at the end of this month. The lawmakers will also have to complete reforms of the news broadcast format before the new broadcast corporation law goes into effect on May 15.

Disagreement over the wording of the reform has prevented it passing so far.

Coalition chairman MK David Biton (Likud) has put together an estimated timetable for completing the legislation: On April 19, only 11 days before the original broadcasting corporation law is to go into effect, the Knesset will begin marathon voting on postponement of broadcasts for two weeks. A week later, April 26, is the date set for voting on the first reading of the news corporation bill in its new form. During the following two weeks, the bill will be debated in one of the Knesset committees. Thus, the Knesset will have to complete the complex legislation very close to the date set for the start of broadcasts.

Biton wants the bill to be debated in a special committee established for that purpose, rather than in the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee. MK Eitan Cabel of the opposition Zionist Union party, the Chairman of the Economic Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon and to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud), urging them to thwart Biton’s attempt to establish the special committee.

A source in the coalition told Haaretz that Cabel’s bid had failed, in part due to concerns that if the bill were debated in the committee, Cabel would keep it from being approved.

“It is inconceivable for the coalition to channel debates on bill to committees that are not in charge of that area, to influence the outcome of the debate ahead of time,” the letter said.

“In a democratic country, every member of the legislature has his or her own views on issues on the public agenda. This fact alone does not justify steps whose purpose is to disrupt normal procedures in the Knesset,” it said.

The Knesset is to hold a special session on Wednesday on “Prime Minister Netanyahu’s attempts to take over the media in Israel.” The session, bringing the Knesset out of holiday recess, was called at the request of Meretz and Zionist Union, signed by 25 other MKs. The debate is largely declarative, allowing opposition MKs to speak out against actions of the prime minister’s that *they believe should not have been carried out while the Knesset was in recess.