Anger and Tears as Plug Pulled on Flagship News Show on Israeli Public Broadcaster

Anchors at 'Mabat' are lost for words as they try to understand why their veteran show has now aired for the last time

News anchors and the television crew during the final broadcast of "Mabat," May 9, 2017.
Channel 1 screenshot

With her voice cracking, Channel 1 anchorwoman Michal Rabinovitz delivered the final edition of evening news program “Mabat” on Tuesday night. “That’s the end of our broadcasts,” she said, a moment before the studio crew stood together and sang the national anthem, “Hatikva.” “This is the absolutely final edition of ‘Mabat’ after 50 years of broadcasting, which started in 1958. This happened earlier than we expected, and it took us by surprise,” she added.

Employees were only informed that “Mabat” was broadcasting for the final time a few hours earlier.

In the news show before “Mabat,” anchorwoman Geula Even struggled to hold back tears as she reported the closure.

The official liquidator of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, David Han, announced Tuesday that broadcasts would cease from Wednesday morning, but that 20 employees would remain so the Eurovision Song Contest semifinal can be broadcast on Thursday (with the final on Saturday).

Many senior IBA figures came to the studio to bid farewell. Veteran anchorman Yaakov Ahimeir heavily criticized the hasty and unexpected closure. “Not only did they kill us, but they gave us a donkey’s funeral,” he said. “They didn’t even give us a chance to say goodbye, to say thank you to all the people here in the studio. I, like many others, don’t understand this,” he added.

Ahimeir said shuttering the IBA was a “badge of shame on this government, which makes decisions like this.

Another veteran “Mabat” anchor, Haim Yavin, spoke by phone, and expressed his anger at the closure of the IBA and the way it was done.

“This is a tragedy and folly,” he told viewers. “‘Mabat’ has written magnificent pages in the history of Israeli television and journalism. Now, with a single move, they cut it off. Why? What are they creating instead? Where is this leading us? This is about the whim of one man, although he’s prime minister, but it’s a whim.”

Veteran anchorman Yaakov Ahimeir, left, during the final broadcast of "Mabat," Tuesday May 9, 2017.
Channel 1 screenshot

Another IBA stalwart, Uri Levy, said he felt “very angry and insulted” by the move. “I came here when I was a kid, 25 years old, and we broadcast so many events. We got as far as Beirut to broadcast to the studio, and look how we end up,” he said.

Rafik Halabi, former chief editor of “Mabat” and head of the news division, also spoke on the broadcast. “It’s heartache. I can’t use any other words other than ‘Shame on you’ about the way decisions are made by this government.”

Ya’akov Eilon, a news anchor on “Mabat” for two years, said, “This should have been done differently. ‘Mabat’ should have gone on broadcasting for another 50 years. You don’t close something like this. We are with you and hope some good will come.”

President Reuven Rivlin sent his best wishes to IBA employees. “You were the pillar of fire of public broadcasting,” he said, adding, “Thank you for your devoted work.”

Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) tweeted: “The darkening of ‘Mabat’ and [radio channel] Reshet Bet tomorrow, without coordination or preparation, is an aggressive move that hurts the devoted workers and the public.”

MK Oren Hazan (Likud) tweeted: “Feel the pain of the IBA and ask myself – and not for the first time – where is your heart, MKs?”

Zion Nanus, from Channel 2 News, said: “About an hour before it went on the air, the employees heard for the first time that ‘Mabat’ – which has been broadcasting continually for 50 years – will be broadcast tonight for the last time. Shame on you. Unbounded amateurism and cynicism.”

Veteran journalist Amnon Levy also weighed in, tweeting: “My heart is with the IBA employees. They do not deserve the scorn they have received. Shame on the government, and also those of us in the media who did not do enough to preserve their dignity.”