Miri Regev Trying to Change Army Radio's Tune

The culture and sports minister wants popular Israeli radio station Galgalatz to play more local music, with the aim of 'creating cultural justice.'

Ariel Schalit

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev is set to make one of Israel’s popular radio stations play more local music, with particular emphasis on Mizrahi (or Mediterranean-style) songs.

Regev announced Monday that she is in talks with the heads of Galgalatz, which is operated by Army Radio. She expressed the desire to change the nature of the station, with the aim of “creating cultural justice, and promoting Israeli works and artists.”

In an official announcement, the minister said, “I believe that, along with the station and its willingness to change, I will be able to introduce this step for the benefit of the public and listeners.” She said three main options were on the agenda: Establishing a sister station to Galgalatz that would broadcast Israeli music only; requiring the station to significantly increase the amount of time devoted to Israeli music; and changing the composition of the playlist committee so “it would better represent Israeli society.”

Galgalatz itself explained that Regev and representatives of the station had been in contact for several months, and there was no danger that the station in its present format will close.

The minister became involved with the station’s output after popular Mizrahi singer Maya Bouskilla claimed that the station has been neglecting her and other female singers for years. Additional complaints that fell on attentive ears in the minister’s office emphasized the paucity of Mizrahi music on the station’s playlist – something Regev sees as discrimination that requires change (the term Mizrahi refers to Jews of Middle Eastern or North African origin).

It should be noted that Mizrahi music is not heard as frequently on Galgalatz as other styles of music. In recent years, though, and thanks to a push from Dalit Ofer and Nadav Ravid, this trend has been changing.

For example, this week’s playlist includes songs by Dudu Aharon, Adir Getz, the AWA band and Riff Cohen. This trend reflects the stance of station director Ravid, and his predecessor, that the station should reflect a broad cultural range that is representative of Israeli society. Still, many within the Mizrahi community and outside it claim that even the present situation is insufficient, and there should be additional variety in the mix of songs played on Galgalatz.

Bouskilla told Haaretz Monday she was excited by the announcement. “Quite a number of people thought I embarked on this battle for myself, but it was done for the benefit of all the male and female vocalists who deserve to be heard on this government station. I hope we will be able to make the change in the best possible way, and that Galgalatz will cooperate with love. I’m very happy about this because I didn’t believe it would happen, and I was alone all along. Artists called to support me, but they didn’t express these things in public.”

However, Bouskilla is still unhappy with the treatment she is receiving from the station, citing the lack of airplay for her latest single. “I have a new song that is starring on all the hit parades on the regional stations, but Galgalatz decided not to play it. There’s something unprofessional there that stems, I think, from a desire to take revenge for everything that has happened.”