Israeli TV Channel Fined for Keeping Conservative, Reform Judaism Off Screen

Channel 20 breaks licensing terms requiring broadcast time for non-Orthodox Jewish groups

Channel 20 staff from "The Patriots" show, February 25, 2016.
Nadav Cohen Yonatan

Channel 20 has been fined 100,000 shekels (nearly $30,000) for failing to give broadcast time to non-Orthodox Jewish groups. The fine, imposed by the chairwoman of the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting, Yifat Ben-Hay Segev, was preceded by several warnings following complaints on the matter. Channel 20, also called the “Heritage Channel,” was given its license conditioned on a commitment to give proper coverage to all branches of Judaism.

The council examined the channel’s broadcasting in April and May of this year following the complaints, and found that there was no coverage at all of Reform or Conservative Judaism. Last month the Reform movement petitioned the High Court of Justice, but the council said it had completed its investigation more than two months before.

The council also required Channel 20 to report to it every month on the non-Orthodox Jewish coverage it broadcasts.

Ben-Hay Segev said Tuesday that the council’s decisions “would strictly ensure that the channel met existing terms, including giving expression to a variety of opinions and streams. Thus, excluding various groups from the broadcast is a breach of the terms of the license.”

This is not the first time steps have been taken against Channel 20. It was recently fined 100,000 shekels for airing an interview with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu although it had not yet received permission to broadcast news. Last year it was fined 150,000 shekels for a similar breach after it covered terror attacks at Sarona in Tel Aviv and in Istanbul.

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) said, “I welcome the important decision to fine Channel 20. Now it will be clear to its editors and directors that they do not have a franchise to decide who is a Jew and who is not. Three weeks ago I held an emergency meeting at the Knesset on this matter and it’s good the issue did not end with the meeting, and that the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting rose to the challenge.”

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform movement in Israel, said: “We are pleased that the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting finally took a clear step against the exclusion of Reform Jews from the screens of Channel 20, and against the crude disrespect for the rule of law and obligations it took on itself. The financial sanction conveys a message that incitement, baseless hatred and exclusion cannot be considered heritage broadcasts or a patriotic, national position.”