MKs Seek to Replace Channel 10 With New Israel News Channel

Channel 10's fate appears to be following Knesset Finance Committee decision to decline channel's request for more more time to pay off its debt.

Knesset Economic Affairs Committee Chairman MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen is advancing a tender to launch a new TV news station - after he personally led a politically-motivated process to shutter the Channel 10 news company.

Channel 10's fate appeared to be sealed when the Knesset Finance Committee declined to give it more time to pay off its debt. The channel has lost NIS 1.3 billion in its 10 years of operations.

Channel 10 officials at Knesset Economic Affairs Committee meeting - Michal Fattal - November 8,2011
Michal Fattal

Now, Shama-Hacohen wants to issue a tender for a news-only TV station that would broadcast under a license from the Communications Ministry's Cable and Satellite Broadcast Authority.

Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon opposes the government's decision not to give Channel 10 more time to pay up. That decision, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will be implemented by Shama-Hacohen through his committee.

Knesset sources said that fast-tracking an alternative news channel may be a response to the criticism for shuttering Channel 10. Such a move would ensure that the country's commercial television would not be left with one license holder (Keshet ) and one news station (Channel 2 ). Were Keshet's competitor Reshet and Channel 10 to merge, then Channel 10's news operations could be sold to the new licensee, said the sources.

There have been attempts to create a news-only station since 1998, but it hasn't happened yet because such a station would not be financially viable, in part due to Israel's limited advertising market.

However, should Channel 10 close, the NIS 300 million or so in advertising money that the station received every year would be freed up. If this money were used to buy advertising from the new news station, this could help it get by. Operating a news-only station would cost an estimated NIS 60 million to NIS 80 million.

Knesset sources said that if no other solution were found for the debt-riddled Channel 10, Netanyahu would likely support the initiative to launch a new news station.

However, industry sources said a new news channel was unlikely to fill the hole Channel 10 would leave.