Bill Bans Ads on TV

Commercial television may be advertisement-free as soon as 2012, under a new bill to reform television in Israel.

The bill calls for a licensing system in place of the current franchise system for commercial television. It would also potentially allow the HOT and Yes cable providers to air commercials if they offer a paired down, set-price package, and if they allow consumers to order individual stations, as opposed to only packages.

The bill is being promoted by Knesset Economics Committee head Ophir Akunis. It is expected to garner the support of Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz as well as a majority in the Knesset.

Despite the bill's high aspirations, consumers will probably be watching commercials for a few more years - until 2015 at the earliest, some say. The authorities may also reevaluate the situation in a year, at which point the market for commercials is expected to have grown from NIS 1 billion to NIS 1.5 billion, due to a decrease in advertising rates.

The reform also will include the Russian-language channel (Channel 9) in the basic package to be available without satellite or cable - a key issue for the Yisrael Beiteinu party. The education channel (Channel 23) will also wind up in the basic package.

The parties most likely to be injured by the move are HOT and Yes, which have voiced sharp opposition to making channels 9 and 23 free access.