Telad Opposes Kid-glove Treatment for Ch. 10

Former Channel 2 franchisee Telad filed an urgent petition to the High Court of Justice Sunday opposing a proposed arrangement for the indebted Channel 10, a few hours after the Knesset's Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a private member's bill detailing the deal.

Telad, which became a production company after losing a tender for Channel 2, wants the Supreme Court to order the Second Authority for Television and Radio to publish a tender for Channel 10 immediately.

Doing so would replace Channel 10's current shareholders, who have refused to cover the full debt the channel has accumulated.

Telad is also demanding that the Second Authority refund the NIS 4 million it was charged when Channel 2 did not pay its share of franchise fees, as well as a NIS 1.4 million bank guarantee.

In its petition, Telad names as plaintiffs the Second Authority and the public council it heads; Channel 10; the Knesset economics and education committees, which deliberated its fate; and the finance and communication ministers.

Over the past year, Telad sent letters to the authority several times, hoping to resolve this issue.

The petition has three main sections. The first one explains Telad's demand for a public tender, and describes the Channel 10 affair as a trick to launder the channel's violations.

The second part of the petition is about the higher franchise fees Telad paid to make up for Channel 10's shortfall. Telad claims the whole arrangement the authority is promoting for Channel 10, which includes forgiving or rescheduling its franchisee debts, delays refunds owed to Telad.

"Telad will argue that it should not finance others' debts," states the petition. "Telad was not the guarantor vis-a-vis the authority."

The third part of the petition addresses Telad's guarantee regarding its obligation to invest in Israeli filmmaking. One of the unresolved issues between the authority and Channel 10 concerns the channel's required investment in Israeli films. Telad says that unlike the kid-glove treatment it claims Channel 10 is getting, Telad was ordered to provide a NIS 1.4 million guarantee, which it paid as part of its obligations to invest in Israeli filmmaking back when it was a Channel 2 franchisee.

Telrad's petition also includes the company's plans to file a civil suit against the authority for financial damage.

A Second Authority source said it had not yet received the petition. No comment was available from Channel 10.

The ministerial committee's decision at its Sunday meeting was not unanimous. The representatives of the Yisrael Beiteinu faction, Sofa Landver and Yitzhak Aharonovitch, opposed the bill, as expected. They were joined by the committee chairman, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, Yossi Peled (Likud) and Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi).

The bill will be presented to the Knesset for a preliminary reading at the same time as a government-sponsored bill designed to pave the way to extend Channel 10's franchise. That bill is being spearheaded by Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz. No decision has been made on whether to combine the two bills.