Channel 2 News Head Accuses Netanyahu of Trying to Kill Off Israel TV Channels

Avi Weiss says prime minister wants to split Channel 2 in order to aid a new media group headed by Sheldon Adelson

Prime Minister Netanyahu has a hard time letting go of the public broadcaster
Amos Biderman

The move to promote media competition by splitting Channel 2 into two separate channels is an effort to topple commercial television, the CEO of Channel 2 News said Monday.

Speaking during a panel event at a journalism conference in Eilat, Avi Weiss aimed his criticism squarely at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who also serves as communications minister), saying, “What’s urgent to the prime minister and the people around him is to leave scorched earth, so that a new media group headed by Sheldon Adelson will find it easier to compete.

“The first target is Channel 2, and then to kill off Channel 10,” Weiss said. “If competition is important, why destroy the corporation?” he asked, referring to Kan, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation that is meant to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority next year. “Let’s admit that they’re fooling Israeli citizens,” he added. “They want ‘our media.’”

Weiss made his remarks after MK Yoav Kish (Likud) argued that splitting Channel 2 would promote competition and enrich the market with platforms boasting a varied ideological range. “I believe the real drama in the media will occur when Channel 2 is split,” Kish said. “It’s a move that will benefit competition. The situation now isn’t good, it’s only semi-competitive.”

In response, Weiss said, “Tell the truth, you want your own media. I don’t recall Ehud Barak or Ehud Olmert being coddled by the media. Olmert is in jail because of it. If we would run more favorable reports on the prime minister, and particularly about his wife, this discussion wouldn’t be taking place.”

MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union), who also appeared on the panel, added that all governments want the media to report on them favorably, “But what can we do? It doesn’t work that way in a democracy, where there are checks and balances.”

For the first time in the country’s history, she said, “the prime minister wants to control the media personally and exclusively, whether by regulation or by using force and running messengers. Even if 80 percent of the newspeople were right-wing, it wouldn’t be enough for him. He wants a media that’s subordinate to him.”

The Communications Ministry said in response, “The prime minister and communications minister has instructed the ministry to advance the opening of the market to competition, to enable variety and freedom of choice for Israelis. Ever since Channel 2 News realized they were going to have competition, they have been trying to preserve their monopoly by terrorizing the public with cries about the undermining of democracy and freedom of expression.”