Ministers Vow: There Will Be Cheap TV

Communications Minister Moshe Kalon says he will force cable providers HOT and Yes to offer customers low-cost plans with a limited package of channels.

If Israel's two multichannel television providers, HOT and Yes, don't start offering customers low-cost plans with a limited package of channels, he'll make them do so via legislation, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon said yesterday. He has an ally in Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who withdrew that very proposal from the Economic Arrangements bill two weeks ago, but has said he will reinstate it shortly.

The Economic Arrangements bill - a hodgepodge of unrelated bits of legislation with some vague economic orientation - had included a section proposing that the companies be required to provide limited packages that would cost much less than current multichannel packages, which cost around NIS 200 a month.

However, the section was extracted from the bill before the cabinet voted on it two weeks ago along with the 2011-2012 state budget. The proposal had contained a sweetener for the companies, though: If the clause had gone through, the companies would be allowed to broadcast ads on their channels.

Steinitz said that several months ago, when discussing the issue, the Knesset Economics Committee adamantly refused to approve the narrow-package bill, so he withdrew it from the Economic Arrangements bill. But he says he now means to reinstate it shortly.

Meanwhile, in the last few days Kahlon has been holding meetings with Shaul Elovitch, who owns Yes, and with Herzl Ozer, CEO of HOT. Both said they would consider the point.

Knesset sources surmise that unless the companies reach an arrangement over low-cost packages, the bill will be put back on the table in October, when the Knesset begins its winter session.