IBA Buys Rights to Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Games

Games to be aired on Channel 1 despite opposition from supervising minister, who deemed deal inappropriate.

Israel Broadcasting Authority on Monday approved a new contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, which gives the IBA the rights to all the team's games for the coming basketball season, despite opposition by the supervising minister.

According to the contract, the IBA will pay the team $3.8 million to broadcast its games on Channel 1. A similar deal worth $3 million was signed with the team three years ago.

The 2006 contract was approved by 10 members of the IBA board, while five opposed and two abstained.

The deal was approved despite opposition from Minister Eitan Cabel, who has responsibility for the IBA.

Cabel, who only took up the post last week, arrived early for the meeting and in a surprise move, appealed to the IBA board to vote against the agreement. Cabel said even though he was personally a fan of the team, he found it inappropriate for a public channel to spend money on the acquisition of rights to a team's games, and that such a move was more suitable for a commercial channel.

The IBA last renewed its agreement with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2003, at the initiative of then CEO Yosef Barel, who was later fired. The 2003 agreement also sparked a great deal of public criticism. Opponents of the deal argued that it was not the place of a public channel to invest in the wealthiest basketball team in the state when a commercial channel could broadcast the team's games.

The IBA ruling body is composed of public relations personnel who are appointed by elected politicians. Many of its members were appointed by Ehud Olmert before he became prime minister, and were loyal Likud members.

One of the proposed reforms of the IBA is the plan to sever the connection between the ruling body and the political world.