The IBA's Ideological Buddy System

Giving Keren Neubach free reign during state-sponsored broadcasts was a mistake – but what is the right way to fix it?

Countless news items as well as editorials have been written and broadcast recently about Keren Neubach, who presents the morning radio show "Seder Yom" on Israel Radio's Reshet Bet. Put succinctly, the media reports suggest that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's commissars at the Israel Broadcasting Authority are seeking to get her off the air and take control of public broadcasting. Freedom of expression is being openly trampled.

Neubach is knowledgeable, charismatic and articulate. And there's one more thing: She has her own personal agenda, which she projects in an able, persistent and determined way. True, she does give an opening to those who want to take issue with her, but as the supreme authority on the show, she has the last word.

Her superiors have committed an ethical mistake by giving her a platform all her own for years to advance a political agenda on state media. Their readiness (albeit very late ) to balance that exclusive platform with which she has shaped public opinion in accordance with her own views (some elements of which I agree with ) is justified.

It is justified from a professional standpoint and it is in the public interest. It is a substantial contribution to freedom of expression and proper ethical standards on the part of any media outlet, certainly a public broadcaster. It does not constitute harassment of Neubach.

Nonetheless, the route chosen to carry it out - requiring that guest co-hosts appear with her - is insulting and professionally misguided. The days of the weekly broadcast schedule can be split up, or specific segments can be divided up among radio show hosts with other views, each of whom can have their separate time slots. Anyone who would object to such diversity is in effect supporting the continued exclusion of views that are not accepted by the media establishment, and instead is maintaining the broadcast monopoly that is currently held by representatives of a minority of public opinion.

The practice of shutting out and excluding other views is a key reason why atrophy and corruption have taken hold of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, threatening its continued existence. A gust of fresh air that would bring with it new ideas is what public broadcasting needs most at this time, as do the rest of the media, which are also closed and inbred. You can leave it, but you can't get into that inner circle except via the ideological buddy system.

And now the news. First the headlines: For ages Reshet Bet's "Haboker Hazeh" morning news program has been presented by Aryeh Golan, who is also a talented broadcaster in the style of a newspaper columnist. His program is followed by "Seder Yom" starring Keren Neubach, followed by the program "Kakol Diburim."

When it comes to "Kakol Diburim," almost everyone who has hosted the program, from Shelly Yacimovich, now Labor Party leader, to Gabi Gazit, Razi Barkai and Dalia Yairi, has had a political agenda that has been clearly expressed on the air. (Yaron Dekel, who also hosted the program and now heads Army Radio, was somewhat successful in keeping his views to himself ).

The situation at Army Radio is actually worse than at Reshet Bet. Even though he is on the air on the "soldier's radio station," Micha Friedman on "Yoman Haboker" projects his own subversive views on a regular basis. Razi Barkai, who has run the program "Mah Bo'er" for years, forcefully charts its direction, clearly reflecting his personal and political slant. The same is true on Army Radio's "Osim Tzohorayim" with Yael Dan, whose agenda is similar to Neubach's.

So on the two flagship public radio stations, the views expressed are nearly identical. And that's without mentioning television and newspapers. Out of principle, Neubach should have initiated the idea of bringing some balance to the situation. Since she has been promoting her political agenda for years, she should have suggested such a step to her superiors rather than fighting them.

"It would be great to give a chance to qualified hosts with views contrary to mine," she should have said, "since Israel Radio's Reshet Bet, which is paying my salary from the public coffers, is not my private station and doesn't exist just to promote my views." That's the professional and personal standard required of a journalist with a real sense of social justice. That's the Keren Neubach we need.