MKs Looking for Way to Keep Channel 10 Afloat

A private member's bill by MKs Carmel Shama (Likud) and Nachman Shai (Kadima), proposes that the Channel 10 franchise be extended by two years, until 2012. According to the proposal, during the extension period the channel will complete the payment of past debts - in accordance with a repayment program to be decided by the council of the Second Authority for Television and Radio.

Shama and Shai want to pass the draft bill quickly, before the Second Authority advances the preparation of a new tender. Next week, the council is scheduled to meet and to make decisions on the matter.

The two MKs will ask for an exemption from a 45-day waiting period rule before a bill can be brought up for a preliminary vote, to hurry it along, hoping to submit it for a second and third reading within a few weeks.

The swift passage of the draft bill depends, among other things, on the support of the Finance Ministry, the Communications Ministry and the Justice Ministry.

According to Knesset estimates, the Communications Ministry is likely to support the bill since it will enable the continued existence of the channel. Shama told Haaretz that Channel 10 should be helped, and given a grace period until the transition to the franchise system and to enable them to find their place in the media market.

Shama added that the establishment of another television channel (Channel 10) was designed to open the market to competition and to promote important public interests.

"The channel did in fact fulfill all those objectives," he said. "It created genuine competition in the television advertising market and contributed to the entry of new advertisers and to a sharp decline in the prices of television advertising, from which the consumer benefits. It created another high-quality platform for news and current events programs, while increasing media pluralism; it also contributed to the development of various types of Israeli creativity, while spending hundreds of millions of shekels a year for original television productions."