The Walla news website has scrapped an agreement that was taking shape to produce a free daily newspaper that would have been printed by Globes, the business daily controlled by Eliezer Fishman. News that Walla would not be proceeding with the free newspaper, which would have competed with Israel Hayom, the free newspaper owned by Las Vegas gambling magnate and major Republican Party donor Sheldon Adelson, came in an email to Globes employees from the business daily’s CEO Eitan Madmon.
Walla is controlled by Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq, the country’s largest telephone and internet service provider. Madmon claimed that the agreement, which was first reported by Haaretz and TheMarker on Monday, was scrapped in light of legal proceedings instituted by the Globes workers’ committee and due to media disclosure.
Last week, the Globes workers’ committee asked the labor court to require the newspaper’s management to deal transparently with the committee and to allow the employee representatives to review the agreement that was taking shape. The workers claimed that management had not acted in good faith with the employees with regard to recent layoffs at the newspaper, and in light of their lack of confidence, they demanded that the agreement be disclosed out of concern that their rights would be harmed.
Sources at Globes also expressed concern that the dependence on Walla and Elovitch would do harm to their editorial independence. A hearing on the matter had been due to be held Wednesday. At this stage, it is not clear what the future of Walla’s plans are with regard to publishing a newspaper and whether it will still be published in some other way.
It is thought that Elovitch himself has concerns regarding the step and regarding public criticism over his influence over content at Walla, and that he therefore did not give his approval for the free newspaper.
The case also has regulatory aspects, including the ban on newspaper ownership by anyone holding a broadcasting license. It is also thought that other players in the print newspaper market, such as Yedioth Ahronoth, would have tried to scuttle any effort on Elovitch’s part out of concern that they themselves would have been hurt.
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