New Law Will Address Channel 10's Debts to Film Industry, Minister Says

The Finance Ministry, with the Communications Ministry's support, will soon submit a bill to allow Channel 10 television to continue broadcasting even without a new tender for the franchise being issued.

The ministry started work on the bill about 10 days ago - around the time Deputy Attorney General Avi Licht released his legal opinion on whether Channel 10's franchise could be extended without a new tender, even though such a tender is required by existing law.

The Second Authority for Television and Radio has been postponing its decision on whether to hold a new tender for about a year now while it sought a way to extend Channel 10's franchise, even though the channel does not meet the legal requirements for such an extension. But Licht said a decision could no longer be put off and recommending amending the law.

The communications and finance ministries intend to solve the Channel 10 problem in the framework of the overall reforms they are proposing for television broadcasting.

Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) told the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee yesterday that he supports the new legislation.

Kahlon said the new bill would essentially enshrine the agreements reached between the channel and the ministries. As to the question of Channel 10's unpaid commitments to the Israeli film industry, which were not provided for in these agreements, Kahlon said this, too, would be dealt with in the new law.

The rest of the hearing focused on the new television broadcasting law.

Committee chairman Ofir Akunis (Likud) said the panel will begin going over that bill line by line next week.

Tender for Arabic channel coming soon

During the meeting, MKs were informed that the Council for Cable Television and Satellite Broadcasting intends to publish a tender in the next few weeks for an Arabic station.

This is the third attempt to launch such a station, after the first two attempts did not work out.

The idea is to establish a dedicated cable and satellite channel for broadcasting in Arabic, similar to the existing Russian channel, or to the music channel.

Council chairman Nitzan Chen told the Economic Affairs Committee that after a lot of hard work, several groups of Israeli Arab businessmen have expressed interest, and willingness to invest, in such a channel.

Preparations for the tender are at a very advanced stage, Haaretz has found out.

Once the tender is published, it will take about three months until a winner is chosen, and the station should start broadcasting six months later.

The station will also be available for free via the new digital converter.