Commercial Israeli TV Channels Refused Membership in European Broadcasting Union

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Israel's Netta Barzilai performs "Toy" in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12, 2018
Israel's Netta Barzilai performs "Toy" in Lisbon, Portugal, May 12, 2018Credit: PEDRO NUNES/ REUTERS

Israeli commercial television stations Channel 10 and Reshet lost their bids to join the European Broadcasting Union, while Kan, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, had its provisionary membership extended until December.

Channel 10 and Reshet — the former Channel 2 franchise holder that now broadcasts on Channel 13 — had applied separately for EBU membership a few months ago. Each had hoped to join and to produce the EBU’s Eurovision song contest, which will be held in Israel next year. They were disqualified because as commercial stations they cannot join the association of European public broadcasters.

Nevertheless, before the EBU made its decision, Israeli government officials had considered the prospect that either Reshet or Channel 10 might obtain the rights to the prestigious competition.

Israel’s Netta Barzilai won the 2018 Eurovision song contest, held in Lisbon, Portugal in May.

That means that Israel, and an Israeli broadcaster, are now slated to host the widely watched competition next year. Based on the new developments, that broadcaster will clearly be Kan, as the only Israeli EBU member.

Kan went on the air in May of last year, replacing the Israel Broadcasting Authority. About half a year ago, when questions were raised about Kan’s continued membership in the EBU, which would also jeopardize its production of the Eurovision song contest, Channel 10 and Reshet separately approached the EBU in an effort to become members of the organization.

EBU membership provides a number of other benefits beyond broadcasting the Eurovision song competition, including the broadcast rights to cultural and sports events, access to other content and international cooperation opportunities.

At one stage, Israeli officials raised the possibility that either Reshet or Channel 10 might produce next year’s song competition, but the EBU’s bylaws require that member broadcasters operate as a public service backed by legislation or treaty, and therefore the applications of Reshet and Channel 10 for membership have now rejected.

On Tuesday, the EBU informed Kan, which is formally known at the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, that its interim membership has been confirmed until the EBU’s next General Assembly later this year. About 70 public broadcasters from 50 countries are members of the EBU, extending to countries beyond the borders of Europe, such as Israel.

Kan was recognized only provisionally as a member due to the proposed split of the Israeli public broadcaster into separate news and entertainment broadcast entities. The EBU’s rules require that the international organization’s members produce both.

Legislation scrapping the split received majority support on its first Knesset vote this week, but the bill will require two more votes to become law.

In a letter to Kan, the European Broadcasting Union’s Director General, Noel Curran, took note of the ongoing legislative process and stated that once the legislation is approved, he sees no obstacle to Kan receiving full membership in the broadcasting union this coming winter.

Channel 10 and Reshet did not provide a comment for this article.

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