God TV, a global evangelical network, was officially notified on Tuesday that its new channel in Israel was in jeopardy of being taken off the air because it had not been truthful about its agenda.
The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council, the regulatory body that operates under the auspices of the Israeli Communications Ministry, said that a final decision was pending a hearing with Hot, the Israeli cable television provider, which had received a license to broadcast the new Hebrew-language channel known as Shelanu (Hebrew for “ours”).
In a letter to Hot, the council's chairman, Asher Biton, said he was considering this unusual step because of the discrepancy between what was written in the license application submitted to the council and the actual content being broadcast.
God TV began broadcasting its new channel in Israel two weeks ago. In a video message announcing the launch, network CEO Ward Simpson said it aimed “to take the gospel of Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of the Jewish people.”
Shelanu is not the first Christian channel to be broadcast in Israel. It is, however, the first to broadcast in Hebrew and to openly flaunt its missionary activities.
“In the application, it was said that the channel is geared toward the Christian population, while in fact it appears that the channel seeks to address Jews and to persuade them that Jesus is the messiah and they can believe that and still remain Jews,” Biton wrote in the letter. “This is fundamentally different, and had such things been known in advance, our treatment of this application to approve broadcast of this channel would have been different.”
The cable council was, therefore, considering suspending the license “until further details are received,” Biton wrote.
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God TV used to broadcast on Hot in 2016 and 2017, but in the English language. Hot, of its own initiative, took down the channel. In March, Hot submitted an application for a new license to broadcast God TV’s new Hebrew-language channel. The application said that the broadcasts would be geared to a Christian audience, “and that there is no fundamental difference between the new channel called ‘Shelanu’ and the God TV channel that was broadcast in the past under the supervision of the council.”
Biton noted in his letter that he decided to launch an investigation into the matter after being alerted to Simpson’s video message, which revealed that the intent of the new channel was to proselytize to the Jewish population of Israel. The video message was taken down after the investigation was announced.
After reviewing the actual programs on the new channel, Biton said, the council concluded that they deviated in nature from the content that had been promised. “In the documents describing the nature of the channel, it was written that it was geared toward the Christian population, but a review of the programs shows something else,” he wrote.
In his letter, Biton noted that “as you know, in Israel, there are laws prohibiting proselytizing under certain circumstances as well as offending religious sensibilities.”
Under Israeli law, it is forbidden to proselytize to a person under 18 years of age without the consent of his or her parent. It is also forbidden to offer material benefits in the process of proselytizing. Evangelical organizations and institutions active in Israel are often quick to note that they have no intention of pursuing such activities.
God TV was launched in the United Kingdom 25 years ago. Much of its programming targets young audiences. It is a huge international Christian network that broadcasts in some 200 countries around the world, and signed a seven-year contract with Hot to host Shelanu. More than 700,000 Israeli households subscribe to Hot, which controls nearly 50 percent of the multichannel market in the country.
If it wished, Biton wrote, Hot was at liberty to submit a new application for the license that better represented the nature of the new channel.