Sirens in Ramat Hahayal

What's that wail recently heard in central Israel?

Could it be the faint echo of missile warning sirens, warning of attacks on Nahariya or Afula?

No, no, that earsplitting howl rising and falling in Ramat Hahayal, Tel Aviv, has nothing to do with the war up north.

Granted the sound has intensified in the last week, but that's only because when the guns are booming, if you want anybody to hear your yowling - you have to pour on the decibels.

To be specific, that unearthly howl of anguish is emanating from the offices of the commercial television chiefs, as they try to urge to public to press the regulators into relaxing the terms of the tender they won to run the channel just eight months ago.

All that caterwauling has been effective: the Second Broadcasting Authority Council decided to let Channel 2 and Channel 10 accept and advertise sponsorships without limit.

The Keshet and Reshet people who run Channel 2 are right in their basic claim against the Second Broadcasting Authority Council: its demands of commercial TV producers are insane, and always have been. A commercial channel is a commercial channel, it's in the business for the money, and cannot be shaped into a tool to educate or cultivate the People of Zion.

Instead of the regulators trying to turn commercial TV into a tool of culture, what the state should do is dismantle Channel 1, sever the politicians' connection to it, and reestablish it as a true public broadcast channel.

The claim that the Second Broadcasting Authority Council is a wasteful body squandering millions is gospel. It is a political body whose main purpose is to safeguard its strength. The SBAC is mainly a way for politicians to involve themselves with Channel 2 and rub shoulders with journalists and big business.

How could they know they were in the Middle East

But none of that matters right now: the Channel 2 concession was sold through an open tender in which anybody could compete. All the contenders read the terms of the tender and bid accordingly. Some thought it would be impossible to make a profit under its terms and declined to participate at all.

The winners were two companies, Reshet and Keshet. They declared that based on the terms of the tender, they wanted to run the channel and could make money at it. Eight months later they're crying Time out, they're screaming that the tender terms are meaningless, start everything from scratch.

Did anything that couldn?t have been expected happen in these eight months?

Keshet and Reshet offered concession fees of NIS 300 million to run Channel 2. That enormous sum greatly increased their risk of losing money on running the channel. Yet they knew that when bidding.

So, did anything happen to justify their wails that they can't meet the tender terms? No, it did not. It's just that enough time has passed to make them feel comfortable about demanding that its terms be eased; and to make the Second Broadcasting Authority Council ignore its one and only function, which is to make sure that the winners comply with the tender terms.

This whole mess makes us feel that the next time the government issues a tender, the bidders should openly state what their real terms are.

1. The bidders hereby declare they are submitting offers solely and only in order to keep the right to control the TV market, which comes packaged with power and prestige. The bid shall not be based on any economic sense, only the desire To Be Channel 2.

2. The bidders shall state that their business plans are based on Israel's economic climate being somewhere between Switzerland and Belgium. In other words, the economy quietly sails forward on tranquil waters, unmarred by the ripples of terror attacks or war. If it suddenly turns out that Ramat Hahayal is in Middle East, the bidders reserve the right to demand fundamental changes in the tender terms.

3. The bidders declare that they have no real commercial experience in the advertising and television markets: over the first ten years of their franchise Channel 2 had been a monopoly over commercial television. They therefore clarify in advance that they will lose the battles with the big procurement companies of the advertising agencies over fees. But they are exempt from all their commitments anyway.

4. The bidders view themselves as the foremost avenue for advertising, and are unaware of the technological developments of the last decade (commonly known as "Internet"). If it transpires that that silly Internet thingie - which they hereby announce they hold in utter contempt - is eroding the market share of TV in advertising, they reserve the right to demand a change in the tender terms.

5. For the last ten years, the managers and shareholders of the bidders have been taking gigantic wages as the company wallowed in cream. They hereby declare that such conditions shall not derogate from their right to sob about the "crisis in television" to their heart's content, and to withhold pay from suppliers, producers and artists.

6. The bidders are controlled by some of the most powerful and wealthy businessmen and companies in the land. But they hereby declare that these characteristics will only come into play during the "beauty contest", when the winners are chosen, but will not act to their detriment when the dirge to change the tender terms begins.

7. The bidders hereby state that they have vast knowhow in manipulating the media and the artists, and that at the moment of truth, they will be able to turn their losses - which are a regular part of business in a competitive market - into an urgent national problem that should keep the press and the Knesset committees on their toes.

8. The bidders hereby remind the Second Broadcasting Authority Council of the real balance of terror: Unless the watchdog lets them change the tender terms with retroactive effect, they reserve the right to smear it over its massive budget with X (fill in the blank) tons of mud.

Meanwhile, until a new tender is published, the Second Broadcasting Authority Council should demand that Reshet and Keshet declare whether or not they can meet the terms of the tender.

If the winners believe the tender terms allow their owners to keep the profits when times are good, and to roll over the losses to the public when the wheel of fortune turns, then a liquidator should be appointed on the spot, who will transfer the channel's management to new people who do undertake to fulfill the terms of the tender.