The chairman of the Second Television and Radio Authority Tuesday rejected criticism of a vote by the authority's council to reduce the number of hours that women are on the air on ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Barama.
According to the decision made two weeks ago, every week the station will have women on the air for four hours, rather than the six hours of a previous agreement.
The council's vote, which followed a stormy meeting, was tied and the authority's chairman, Ilan Avishar, used his casting vote to break the deadlock.
Council members criticized the decision and Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat demanded earlier this week that the issue be reconsidered.
"This is not about knuckling under," Avishar told Haaretz on Tuesday. "On the one hand there are considerations of multiculturalism, and on the other hand there is a culture war and people trying to goad the ultra-Orthodox, whether from the direction of Reform Jews, feminist groups, other groups," he said.
"Some of the criticism is not pertinent," he said, adding that critics "wanted to see the station destroyed and not improved."
As for the claim by industry observers that putting women on the air for more hours would not hurt the station economically, Avishar responded: "Economics is not the issue... About a third of the target audience, which is ultra-Orthodox, said they would stop listening to the station [if women were given more air time]."
A survey taken by the Midgam market research institute at the council's behest was presented at the meeting where it voted to reduce the hours of women on the air. The survey, of a representative sample of Sephardi, traditional, Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox respondents, found that 80 percent of all those polled said they would continue listening to the station even if there were more women on the air.
Before the meeting the council was also given two rabbinic opinions - by Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and by Rabbi Mordechai Neugershal, a "Lithuanian" ultra-Orthodox leader.
Yosef said there was no prohibition in Jewish law against women on the radio, "since it is not singing but only speaking." However, he also said both male and female listeners to the station would ask not to hear women on the air.
Avishar added that "the gaps are not that great. To raise such a hue and a cry over four hours instead of six, when those four hours are significant in terms of women's presence, seems petty to me."
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