With Jobs on the Line, Journalists Protest Netanyahu-Kahlon Agreement to Gut New Broadcaster

Journalists at the new broadcasting corporation take to the streets as their jobs hang in the balance following Kahlon's agreement to disband the corporation's news division.

Journalists of the new broadcasting authority Kan protest outside Kahlon press conference, Tel Aviv, 30 March 2017.
Ofer Vaknin

Employees of the new public broadcasting corporation, known as Kan - staged an impromptu protest Thursday against an agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on the future of the corporation that has left their jobs in jeopardy. 

The deal calls for dismantling the corporation’s news division and transferring responsibility for its news programming to a separate company. Employees who were at the corporation’s offices on Thursday said they first heard about it from colleagues working for their rivals, the commercial television stations.

At the demonstration, which took place opposite the government complex in Tel Aviv, the several dozen employees who participated repeatedly cited the uncertainty of their future. Until now nobody has been able to tell them how many will be fired and what compensation they will receive.

“They didn’t brief the workers, and nobody knows what this is going to look like,” said Shira Ariel, an editor at the corporation, called Kan. “There’s a very unpleasant feeling of uncertainty. It’s depressing. There’s a feeling that they sold us out completely.”

“Nobody knows what’s happening,” added Amit Tomer, an economics reporter. “We tried to ask Finance Minister Kahlon. We went to the press conference to ask questions, but some of us weren’t even allowed to enter. We wanted to know when it would happen and what exactly was going to happen. The agreement is very vague.”

Finance Ministry Director General Shai Babad, when asked about these issues at the press conference, was likewise unable to say how many corporation employees would be fired, what compensation they would receive or how the compensation payments would jibe with Kahlon’s promise not to exceed the corporation’s planned budget.

“Once again, we have explosive headlines whose meaning for us isn’t clear,” Tomer said. “We’ve been in this loop for months, trying to continue doing our work. ... But we’re still working, and we’ll continue to work.”

Yoaz Hendel, who formerly served as Netanyahu’s chief spokesman but now writes for the daily Yedioth Ahronoth and hosts a show on Army Radio, signed a contract to anchor a television show for Kan on Thursday morning. “I’m not worried about myself,” he said. “But I’m worried about the public collective here.”

The protesting workers demanded that Kahlon come out and talk with them, and at one point blocked the road in front of the government complex.

“Kahlon, Kahlon, come here!” they chanted. But Kahlon never appeared.