Broadcast Reform in Israel Depends on Kahlon

Kahlon must decide whether to implement Kulanu's platform, which promised to confront strong special-interest groups, or yield to powerful political pressures.

Haaretz Editorial
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Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, May 18, 2015.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
Haaretz Editorial

In Israel’s political climate, the reform at the Israel Broadcasting Authority was a rare event. Thirteen different committees debated the issue for more than 20 years. Governments came and went, commercial television stations emerged, the Internet changed how people obtain information, but the IBA remained static, rotten and politicized, preferring self-preservation over creating value for its viewers and listeners.

Then came Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, who took upon himself a nearly impossible mission. He succeeded in coaxing former Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who got the tacit approval of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and managed to get a historic law passed. There would be no more failed rehabilitation attempts; instead, the old authority would be closed and replaced by a new broadcasting company. Even in Likud they understood the importance of the move and the party stressed the reform in its election campaign broadcasts.

Erdan’s law has two major pillars.The first is a clear separation between the political echelons and the new authority’s management and employees, to prevent political bias, and the second is that the old authority’s organizational culture not be passed on to infect the new organization.

But Erdan hurriedly left the communications ministry when offered the interior ministry, and after the March elections he was not able to take back the authority to implement the law he had passed. The result is that Netanyahu, who is now communications minister, along with Ofir Akunis, the minister made responsible for the reform, are examining a series of amendments that would strip the law of its great achievements by restoring the politicizing of senior appointments, enlarging the budget, increasing the number of employees and forcing the new company to employ inefficient workers from the old IBA.

The only person who can lead the comprehensive reform and work to preserve the public interest is Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. Kahlon must decide if he will back his ministry’s professionals, who support continuing with the reform as is, or cave in to Netanyahu’s and Akunis’ political demands.

Kahlon must decide whether to implement his Kulanu party’s platform, which promised to deal with the ineffectiveness of the public sector and confront strong special-interest groups, or yield to powerful political pressures.

The only solution for the IBA mess is the speedy implementation of the existing law, by the immediate dismantling of the old, wasteful organization, establishing a new company, and appointing the supervisory council members who have already been chosen by the search committee headed by Judge Ezra Kama.