Israeli Right-leaning TV Channel Fined for Coverage of Terror Attacks

Channel 20 covered attacks in Tel Aviv, Turkey, but license forbade it from broadcasting news without a special permit.

The studio of Channel 20, May 5, 2015.
Daniel Tchetchik

Israel's right-leaning Channel 20 was fined 151,200 shekels for broadcasting news in violation of its license.

The Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting decided on the measure after the channel broadcast live from the scene of an attack in Turkey. A few weeks earlier, Channel 20 broadcast a news report from the site of an attack at Tel Aviv's Sarona complex.

Channel 20's license only allows it to broadcast news if it first attains advanced written permission from the council. The channel did not receive such a permit in either case cited.  Last year, the channel was fined 252,600 for similar violations.

The channel has drawn fire from the council on numerous occasions.  

In March, the broadcast regulatory body criticized Channel 20 for a sexualized satirical portrayal of MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union), saying it would examine whether the station thus violated its franchise terms.

In February, the council issued a warning to Channel 20 after the television station equated Reform Jews with imitation sneakers and fake watches in a Facebook post.

Representatives of the right-wing channel, which is dedicated to Jewish heritage programming, stated in the post that the Reform stream of Judaism cannot be considered Jewish.

The council’s chairwoman, Dr. Yifat Ben-Chai Segev, wrote in a statement that the council would impose a fine on the channel if it continues to exclude Reform Jews from their broadcasts.

“The council wishes to reiterate that it will strictly enforce the stipulations of the license, including the provision requiring the channel to give representation to all public streams. ... Ignoring this regulation will lead to the council enforcing its resolutions,” wrote Segev.

Channel 20, which is a self-described "heritage channel," has sought to broadcast news for some time. Its executives believe that doing so will raise the struggling station's market share. The High Court of Justice rejected its petition in March to broadcast news stories. However, the government may approve panel recommendations that all commercial stations operating in Israel be allowed to broadcast news without regulatory interference.

"They are trying to forcibly close us," Channel 20 stated in response. "What Channel 10 fails to do in the High Court, it does not in the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting." The broadcaster added, "We will weigh our next steps."