MKs Send Broadcast Authority Report to State Watchdog in Effort to Stanch Heavy Losses

The Knesset decided yesterday to send an internal report on the condition of the Israel Broadcasting Authority to the State Comptroller's Office for handling.

After a spirited discussion yesterday at the Knesset Finance Committee dealing with the extensive cuts in budget and personnel of the IBA, as well as mismanagement and a stalled reform process, it was decided that the matter must now pass on to the State Comptroller.

In recent weeks the struggle between the management of IBA and the unions has intensified as efforts to reform the organization have stalled.

As part of the reforms the main news broadcast, Mabat, was cut to less than 30 minutes, while the production of a number of programs, including those dealing with business and culture, was stopped, and broadcasts will come to an end at 23:00.

The unions of the technical staff at the state television and radio stations are carrying out work stoppages which are disrupting the regular broadcasts.

"Israel lacks an appropriate public broadcast authority. People pay a fee and they do not know why," MK Yulia Shamalov Berkovich (Kadima) said yesterday.

She recommended that the IBA be closed down and a new broadcast authority be established to take its place.

Committee chairman MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) asked that the IBA unions not carry out their struggles at the expense of the viewers.

However, Akunis asked the director general of the IBA, Moti Shklar, to restore programs like "From Today to Tomorrow," that were removed Sunday because of the decision to cease broadcasts at 23:00.

MK Nachman Shai (Kadima), a former Chairman of IBA, expressed doubts whether the proposed reforms for the IBA will be implemented, like many reform programs before that were never manifested.

"The harm caused to the viewers and listeners is unacceptable," he added.

Shklar told those at the meeting that the IBA "has been dying for years" and stressed that in his view it must be closed down and opened as a new institution.

In response to the committee's deliberations, the IBA issued the following statement: "The director general of the IBA believes that the evaluation reports make it easier to find a drastic solution to the problems accompanying the IBA for decades. The management of IBA has rallied to assist the internal comptroller in unveiling the reports, and will cooperate with the State Comptroller in order to examine the findings if it is so required. The internal comptroller is enjoying extensive cooperation which she receives from the management of IBA in an effort to identify the problems and resolve them."

The statement added that "only in the last year dozens of new regulations were prepared whose purpose is the correction of shortcomings that were discovered over the years and preventing others from occurring. It is clear to all that in order to deal with the serious problems with which the IBA is confronted, it is necessary to undertake thorough care, and this can be implemented only through extensive reforms that will rehabilitate the IBA."