Idan Plus Channel Offerings Expected to Be Broadened

Legislation that would greatly expand the number of television channels available to viewers who use an Idan Plus converter box, rather than Hot cable or Yes satellite TV, got the endorsement of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee last week.

Users of Idan Plus buy a converter box for a one-time charge and then have unlimited access to a number of stations without further charge. The proposed legislation now leaves open the possibility that some of the newly added stations would be available for a subscriber fee, but that six initial stations will remain free. The bill now goes to the full Knesset for votes on second and third reading, after which, assuming that the Knesset gives its consent, the number of Idan Plus channels will be expanded from the current six channels to 18 stations. Up to now, Idan Plus has provided access to Channels, 1, 2, 10, 23, 33 and Channel 99, the Knesset channel.

The additions will include Music 24; Channel 9, which broadcasts in Russian; and the Arabic-language broadcaster Hala TV. The other new stations will focus on one specific program area, such as nature, sports or broadcasts for children. A news station may also be added. The new subject-specific channels will have the option of supporting their operations through advertising or through a subscription fee. The proposed law requires that at least three of the new stations invest 8% to 12% of their revenues in original content.

The Idan Plus service is offered through the Second Television and Radio Authority, the government agency that founded it, but the proposed legislation also leaves open the prospect that it could be spun off as a private company.

Cellular telephone providers Partner, which does business as Orange, as well as Cellcom are expected to bid for Idan Plus. The winner would be expected to produce its own programming as a precursor to a broader multi-channel service. Each of the cellular companies is currently limited to offering content on the Internet.

Craig Jewell