Knesset Closes for Visitors to Film a Reality Show for Which It Is Paying – With Murky Legality

As part of a promotional content deal with Reshet 13 for which the Israeli parliament will pay $460,000, it would be able to insert messages into the program, although it is illegal to include promotional content in broadcast

Filming of "Hamerotz Lamillion" in the Knesset, November 4, 2018
Olivier Fitoussi

The Knesset closed to visitors on Sunday due to the filming of a reality TV show on its premises. 

The filming is part of a promotional content deal, in which the Knesset will pay a sum as high as 1.7 million shekels ($460,000) to the show's producer, Israeli broadcaster Reshet 13.The Knesset claims the actual sum may be lower.

The program, called "Hamerotz Lamillion" (The Race to the Million), is the Israeli version of the American reality competition show, "The Amazing Race." 

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The deal is managed by Yakir Yotam, a former Knesset spokesman who was appointed to head of the Knesset content division in 2017. The agreement between Reshet and the Knesset includes filming an episode in the parliamentary compound, along with additional content activities such as TV banners and promotional messages on digital platforms.

The Knesset has refused to disclose the full scope of expenditure or the sum that will be paid to Reshet, claiming the final agreement has yet to be completed, and that the final sum depends on several variables to be determined in the future.

The Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem
Lev Tsimbler | Dreamstime.com

Questions arise around such a deal, which is paid for by public funds. Why does the Knesset need to invest the tax payers' money in self-publicity? Why has the Knesset chosen to allow a production of a reality show on its premises? Is it true that the Knesset would take part in the program? Is there a need to advertise the Knesset and were alternative options looked into, perhaps with other broadcasters in order to promote the Knesset's values?

The problem involved in this being a marketing content deal could have been resolved if the Second Authority regulated the matter, but it has refrained from doing so and the rules have yet to be set. Therefore, it is still illegal to include promotional content in broadcast.

Another option for including content in broadcast may have been to use extant Second Authority rules that allow the Knesset, or any other nonprofit, an opportunity to co-produce content with a broadcaster. However, such a production is only permitted with the approval of the Second Authority, which would have required the sides to request permission in advance - which neither did.

The law upon which the Knesset and Reshet are basing their deal is a permit to mention on-air the names of advertisers who participate in financing prizes. But Second Authority regulations stipulate strict guidelines, which prohibit adding any description or slogan beyond mentioning the name of the financier of the prize.

"Hamerotz Lamillion"
Micha Lovton

Additionally, the very fact that filming is taking place inside the Knesset, with Knesset funding, could be construed by the Second Authority as promotional content.

In response, the Knesset said: "As part of the celebratory events marking 70 years since the foundation of the Knesset, and the desire to attract varied populations of all ages to its activities, values and to the central place it holds in the life of the nation in the past and present, the Knesset elected to creatively incorporate itself into the new season of the show 'Hamerotz Lamillion.' The Knesset stresses that all the financial aspects are still being examined and the whole subject of payment will be determined near the airing of the show and will be announced publically, as is customary."

In response to TheMarker's inquiry, Reshet said: "We are aware of the great interest surrounding the next season of Hamerotz Lamillion."