Proposed Bill: Public Broadcaster Would Require Knesset Approval for Budget

Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar claims that Kan should be subject to oversight, but the shift eliminates a safeguard to protect its independence

Geula Even Saar at the Kan studio, 2017.
Rafi Delouya

Likud Knesset member Miki Zohar has submitted a bill that would eliminate the current legislative provision that provides Kan, the public broadcasting corporation, an assured level of funding set in advance. The proposed legislation, which Zohar said was submitted in coordination with Communications Minister Ayoub Kara and which is also thought to be supported by Netanyahu himself, would instead require Kan to obtain the Knesset’s consent every year for its budget.

The change would eliminate a safeguard shielding Kan, which operates a range of public television and radio stations, from political influence or potential attempts to undermine it through funding cuts. For his part, however, Zohar told TheMarker that it would only subject Kan’s budget to the same oversight that other public agencies are subject to.

“If tomorrow there is an across-the-board spending cut, why should [Kan] not be part of it? Based on the ratings that it gets, they don’t need to even spend half of this money. This is a government entity that gets a lot of money. I have no criticism for them regarding balance, because, to my surprise, they are providing relatively objective coverage, but there still needs to be oversight of them.”

Kan was established in 2016 to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which had its own independent sources of funding that included television license fees collected from the country’s households by the authority itself through a bureaucracy that became increasingly inefficient. A public panel, the Landes committee, recommended that the public broadcaster be spared the responsibility to collect the fees and instead be given a budget directly from the state that would come from vehicle licensing fees.

FILE PHOTO: Likud MK Miki Zohar at a Knesset committee meeting in Jerusalem, February 20, 208.
Olivier Fitoussi

To shield the authority from political influence, the panel recommended assuring the public broadcaster a regular revenue stream that would not be subject to annual government budgeting, but Zohar’s bill would eliminate that safeguard. The legislation that he is proposing would also require Kan to boost its spending on original content from 200 million shekels ($58 million) to 240 million shekels and the quadrupling of its annual investment in sports broadcasting from 15 million shekels to 60 million.

The bill was submitted to the Knesset as the Israel Police continue their investigation of suspicions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought more favorable press coverage from the Yedioth Ahronoth daily and from Walla, the news website of the Bezeq telecommunications company, in return for government policies that would favor Yedioth and Bezeq. Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing in the two cases.

As a practical matter, efforts by Netanyahu to limit the independence of Kan have been thwarted up to now by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who heads the Kulanu party, and by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.