Editorial

No Need for This Public Broadcaster

There is no justification for funding public political broadcasting to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels a year.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at a press conference focusing on his deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the new public broadcaster on March 30, 2017.
Ofer Vaknin

The agreement reached Thursday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon must not be called a “compromise.” It is in fact utter surrender by Kahlon in the face of Netanyahu’s obsession with the media, because Kahlon, who is also chairman of the Kulanu party, is afraid of early elections. Kahlon could not stand the pressure and was crushed under Netanyahu’s thundering gallop to destroy the possibility that Israel would have an independent media body detached from political influence and interference by those acting out of self-interest.

According to the agreement between Netanyahu and Kahlon, all the activity of the corporation’s news division, which currently employs hundreds of people, will be dismantled. The division will be taken out of the corporation’s hands, and in the future an independent news division will be established that will include the corporation’s employees as well as those of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and apparently new directors will be chosen for it. This means that the IBA in its current format will continue to control public broadcasting for an unknown period of time, including the news broadcasts of Channel 1 and Reshet Bet radio.

Netanyahu was occupied with two issues in the whole saga of the establishment of the corporation. One was to make sure that the new entity, which he called “leftist,” would not broadcast news, and that its heads, Gil Omer and Eldad Koblenz, would have nothing to do with current events. The other was that no matter what, no significant obstacle would be created between the new broadcasting body and the politicians. In other words, Netanyahu demanded that the government, and particularly its head, could continue to influence the content of the broadcasts and the nature of the coverage. In that sense, the agreements Netanyahu reached with Kahlon are a total victory for the prime minister.

After Netanyahu dragged the whole country to an early election to protect his media patron Sheldon Adelson and the propaganda paper that is distributed in the hundreds of thousands, the prime minister managed to drag the political world into pre-election vertigo once again, all to preserve his control over public broadcasting. Netanyahu’s plot to strike a blow at independence of broadcasting succeeded, but his crude moves only show that there is no justification for funding public political broadcasting to the tune of hundreds of millions of shekels a year. That body, which is a tool of the politicians, has no right to exist, and should be done away with entirely.