Israeli 'Jewish Heritage' TV Channel Gets Green Light

The fifth public channel with a specific mandate will be available to Israeli viewers for free.

A new television channel dedicated to the topics of Judaism and Jewish heritage received its license late last week.

On Thursday, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan and the Cable and Satellite Authority issued a permit for the establishment of the channel, which will be eligible to launch on the Idan Plus platform.

The new channel will not be permitted to charge its users, and thus will be competing with existing channels for its share of advertisers' budgets.

It is supposed to broadcast 24 hours a day from Sunday to Thursday, and will be off both Friday and Saturday. At least 10% of the money it invests in local productions must be for documentaries or drama.

It will become the fifth public channel with a specific mandate, after the music channel (Channel 24), the Russian channel (Channel 9), the Arabic channel and the news channel, which hasn't launched yet.

The group behind the new channel is a Jewish-Israeli group that was the only contender in the tender process. The group's funding comes from investor Vyacheslav (Yitzhak) Mirilashvili, the son of Jewish-Georgian businessman Michael Mirilashvili. Mirilashvili senior is a partner in Ofer Nimrodi's gas exploration company ILDC Energy.

Former Israel Broadcasting Authority chairman Moti Sklar is head of the partnership and will be the channel's chairman. The partnership also includes Tal Barkai, who currently is responsible for promoting traditional Jewish content on news website Ynet and who had originally been part of another group that had also intended to compete for the TV station tender.

The group presented a list of directors and advisers as part of the tender process. They include Migdal Ha’emek rabbi Yitzhak David Grossman, who heads a nonprofit organization called Migdal Or; the Israeli entertainer Yehoram Gaon and former Sports Channel head Afi Bar.

In 2005 a tender was held for a Jewish heritage channel. The tender was awarded to Shlomo Ben-Zvi and Ami Giniger, but they later lost their license when they didn't meet the terms. Ben-Zvi recently bought control of the debt-strapped daily newspaper Maariv.

Alex Levac