Last-minute Loan Deal Between Treasury, Broadcaster Saves Israeli Eurovision

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Netta Barzilai after winning the Eurovision song contest
Netta Barzilai after winning the Eurovision song contest in Lisbon, May 12, 2018.Credit: Armando Franca/AP

A solution has been found to enable Israel to host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, after two days of frantic negotiations on Monday and Tuesday between the Finance Ministry and Israel’s new public broadcasting corporation.

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The Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation, known as Kan, will take out a 50 million shekel ($13.5 million) loan to help cover the cost of hosting the event, which is broadcast around the world. Kan was required to post a 12 million euro ($13.7 million) deposit by Tuesday with the European Broadcasting Union, which sponsors Eurovision.

In return, the Finance Ministry will commit to cover the loan amount if the competition is ultimately not held in Israel, due to extenuating circumstances such as an earthquake, war or a political boycott of the event organized by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Kan, which represents Israel on the EBU, had said it was willing to cede production of the event to another Israeli broadcaster, rather than endanger its own financial stability. The public broadcaster had said it would not take an outside loan because that it was afraid it would lead to a large budget deficit that would harm its ability to operate and meet its commitments if something went wrong with the Eurovision show.

On Monday, treasury officials made it clear to Kan management that if the Eurovision contest was not held in Israel next year because of the broadcaster’s refusal to take out a loan, then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would do everything in his power to pass a law to close down the new public broadcaster during the next Knesset session — with the full backing of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

Israel earned the right to host next year’s televised song contest after Israeli singer Netta Barlizai won this year’s competition in Lisbon in May with her song “Toy.” Kan warned Sunday that if the government failed to provide funding for the production of the event and to provide required the deposit due on Tuesday, Israel’s right to host the contest, with all the high-profile publicity that it brings, would slip through the country’s hands.

Kan said the hosting of the Eurovision in Israel was of great importance to the Israel’s image and as an economic boost for the country.

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