Proposed TV Law Threatens Next Year’s Eurovision in Israel

Letter from European Broadcasting Union warns that splitting Israeli TV would put 2019 show, scheduled for Jerusalem, in question

People celebrate the winning of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 by Israel's Netta Barzilai with her song "Toy" ,at Rabin square in Tel Aviv Israel, May 13, 2018.
\ STRINGER/ REUTERS

The European Broadcasting Union has declared that if the proposed law splitting the Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation takes effect, Israel’s membership in the organization could be revoked – and then it won’t be possible to hold the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel.

The announcement came in a document sent by union director General Noel Curran, which was obtained by Haaretz.

The letter was sent last Friday to broadcasting corporation chairman Gil Omer and CEO Eldad Koblenz, following their request for an update on the membership situation of the broadcasting corporation in the union.

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“As you know, IPBC currently has interim status (giving entitlement to all rights and obligations of the EBU) with the EBU, pending the next General Assembly in June 2018, when a proposal will be made to extend this position until resolution of the so-called amendment 8 legislative proposal,” according to the letter. “We are not aware of any ... organization that operates the news in a totally separate entity with a separate governance.”

The letter adds that if the split is approved, the union may have reservations and the request for membership will be reexamined by the supervisory bodies, to ensure that the broadcasting corporation will be able to retain the core values of public broadcasting companies.

The letter was discussed on Monday, at a meeting among Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara; Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev; Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and others to find a way to keep next year’s Eurovision in Israel.

A letter sent to the corporation heads reads: “As published in TheMarker, the government is examining a possibility of leaving the law to split the corporation in place. But in the event that the High Court of Justice decides to allow Amendment 8 and to split the corporation, there will be a temporary order to delay the split for a year or a year and a half, so that it will be possible to host the Eurovision contest in Israel.”

In addition to the issue of the split, the union has expressed a fear in the past of political intervention in the broadcasting corporation. Although Kara has already declared that there will be no such intervention, Regev is trying to achieve exactly the opposite: She demanded control of the content to be aired in the sections between the songs at the Eurovision contest in Israel, which feature promotional material about the host country.

The Communications Ministry said Regev’s activity is liable to prevent the contest from being held in Israel. In previous Eurovision contests the narrative sections were handled by the Broadcasting Authority alone. But now Regev is demanding that the narration be controlled by the politicians. Regev noted that during the presentation of Israel’s rating at the recent Eurovision contest, moderator Lucy Ayoub said “Good evening” to the moderators in Arabic too.