Netanyahu Kills Bill That Threatened Eurovision 2019 in Israel

Scheme to separate Kan into news and entertainment divisions would have imperiled Israel's hosting of the song contest, the European sponsor warned

Israeli singer Netta Barzilai, winner of the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sara Netanyahu in the Prime Minister's Residence, May 16, 2018.
Haim Zach/GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to scrap legislation that would have split Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, into two entities, one for news and the other for other programming, according to Israel Television News Company reporter Amit Segal.

Killing the legislation paves the way for allowing Israel to host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, after local singer Netta Barzilai won the 2018 competition in Lisbon.

The contest is sponsored by the European Broadcasting Union, whose regulations demand that the host broadcasters, which must be members of the EBU, produce programs with news and also entertainment-related content. Any separation of divisions at the Kan corporation would disqualify it from membership in the EBU, and thereby also disqualify Israel from hosting the popular competition, which it entitled to do after Barzilai won it.

About two weeks ago, the EBU issued a formal warning that Kan’s membership in the European umbrella organization was provisional and could be reconsidered if the split was carried out.

In the coming weeks, a new amendment is to be introduced that will scrap the law calling for the division of the corporation, which went on air for the first time in May last year. The amendment will also render moot a legal challenge to the split that is pending before the High Court of Justice, which for the time being has ordered suspension of the move while the case is debated.

After a motion was filed with the court to receive an urgent ruling due to the need to resolve the matter of hosting Eurovision in Israel, Justice Hanan Melcer ordered the state prosecutor’s office and the Knesset to present their positions on the issue by Thursday – which may have prompted Netanyahu to backtrack.

The original plan to split Kan, which operates a number of public television and radio stations in Israel, was part of an attempt by Netanyahu to curb its operations or close it down altogether, soon after it began broadcasting.