Deputy Attorney General Avi Licht is recommending that Patrick Drahi’s i24 news station not be allowed to air on HOT, the multi-channel television company that Drahi also controls. Licht cited the Economic Concentration Law as behind his decision, making this the first time this law has been used in the field of communications.
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i24news, based in Jaffa, went on the air about a year ago. The station airs news in English, Arabic and French, and is broadcast in countries around the world.
Even though i24news does not broadcast in Hebrew, Licht said the station should be related to as an Israeli station and not as a foreign station, since the owners, the executives, many of the journalists and the offices are based in Israel.
To date, the cable and satellite authority has not allowed the station to be aired on HOT, because the Communications Law blocks the owner of a broadcast network from also owning a news channel. This is justified as an attempt to keep wealthy network owners from influencing news reporting.
Drahi is both the controlling shareholder in HOT as well as an investor in i24news.
Licht explained that the Concentration Law, which was passed at the end of 2013, is intended to keep large corporations from amassing too much power and influencing government decisions.
In order to air on HOT, i24news also needs Antitrust Authority approval.
I24 launched a campaign calling itself the “Iron Dome of the global media” during Operation Protective Edge. Recently, an NGO calling itself the Civilian Coalition petitioned the High Court of Justice against the cable authority, arguing that it was illogical that i24news could be broadcast on televisions around the world but not in Israel, and that blocking the channel violated freedom of speech.