The government will go easy on Channel 10, which owes the state some NIS 44 million, provided the television station ousts a reporter who broke a story about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's luxury flights and hotel stays that were funded by donors, says a high-ranking official at Channel 10 News.
According to the source, officials in the Prime Minister's Office and Likud party have told Channel 10 executives that the government will ease up on the television station, which is supposed to pay back its debt by the end of December, if it either fires leading political analyst Raviv Drucker or places him on unpaid leave.
The source said two officials at the television station had each received a message in the past few days indicating that if Drucker no longer works there or is put on leave, it would become much easier to find a solution for Channel 10's continued existence.
"They led us to understand that if we fire Raviv Drucker, the station will be saved," the source said.
Drucker's investigative report, which catalogued the Netanyahu family's trips abroad between Benjamin Netanyahu's two terms as prime minister, and alleged that there were dozens of instances that violated ethical guidelines, sparked a comptroller's report into Netanyahu's affairs.
Netanyahu has filed a libel suit against Drucker and Channel 10 that has yet to be adjudicated.
The Prime Minister's Office said after the report aired that it was "part of a trend of a multi-year pattern by Channel 10 writer Raviv Drucker to damage the reputation of the prime minister and his family."
The next few months are a critical period for Channel 10 because it is supposed to pay the state the NIS 44 million in back royalties and interest payments. The payment deadline of December 31, 2011, was set in 2009 as the latest date before the franchise agreement in place today will be replaced by a licensing agreement. The changeover has since been delayed until 2013.
The company must also pay tens of millions of shekels to relocate to the Jerusalem area by the end of the year, in accordance with the law.
Channel 10 CEO Yossi Warshavski asked the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee last month for extra time to pay the royalties, a proposal supported by the Second Television and Radio Authority, which supervises Channel 10.
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