Communications Minister Gilad Erdan said Monday that Israel’s public broadcasting system is “sick” and that he holds out the option to shut it down and start all over again if a committee for reforming it does not get on with the job.
The committee has until the end of the year to come up with concrete suggestions that will bring what Erdan said is a needed “dramatic change,” but he cautioned that the reforms that have been suggested so far do not fill the bill.
Erdan, a veteran Likud Knesset Member and a strong nationalist, is the second Communicators Minister in a row to carry out reforms that literally are revolutionary.
His predecessor Moshe Kahlon announced from the outset of his term in the previous government that he saw no reason for mobile phone companies to take huge profits of billions of dollars and dish out exorbitant dividends to shareholders at the expense of customers who were subject to closed competition that was controlled by only three companies.
He slashed cell phone prices by up to 90 percent and opened up competition, and the Israel consumer now enjoys some of the lowest rates in the world.
Erdan is taking on what is formally known as the Israel Broadcasting Authority, whose flagship Channel One television and “Kol Yisrael (Voice of Israel)” radio station for years were the first and last word for Israelis.
Under the Peres-Rabin administrations more than 20 years ago, the IBA was entrenched with a “clubhouse” atmosphere that still does not allow for balanced broadcasts.
“The Authority shall ensure that the broadcasts give suitable expression to various and opinions and transmit reliable information,” is the official mandate.
In practice, the “Voice of Israel” is the voice of the center-left, which was openly biased in favor of Labor governments, openly antagonistic to the Likud and especially Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah, slanted reporting to favor a pullout in 2000 of the IDF from the security zone in Lebanon, campaigned repeatedly for freeing Arab terrorists at any price, campaigned for the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif, and promotes pluralistic agendas at the expense of Orthodox Judaism.
Like every other society or company that promotes an agenda that does not reflect its customers, the IBA ends up hurting itself.
“Public broadcasting is sick and needs a dramatic change,” Erdan said Monday. I am not appointed to head the IBA but am appointed to carry out the law of the IBA, and therefore I examined if it is fulfilling its legal mandate.
“My conclusion as clear that its objectives are not being achieved, and the IBA has lost relevancy and influence.”
As far back as 2002, Ombudsman Amos Goren noted that the IBA suffers from “suffocating hegemony” and that its broadcasters recruit their own friends with the same views.
He underscored its leftist agenda by the use of the term “West Bank” when referring to Judea and Samaria, a change that has been made. He also said that the Voice of Israel used the term “extreme rightwing” but never “extreme leftwing.”
The Voice of Israel’s legal analyst Moshe Negbi consistently takes a solidly left wing and anti-nationalist view. Rightwing analysts are rarely heard except as an officious and ostensible “balance” to other views, but interviewers usually use silk gloves when questioning left-center politicians and are highly argumentative when interviewing nationalists.
Before and during the last election, it promoted Labor Knesset Member (Fuad) Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, interviewing him ad nauseum.
The IBA’s latest anti-nationalist episode was gagging the Latma satirical program that exposes leftist agenda in the media.
The directors of Israel Media Watch, Yisrael Medad and Eli Pollak, wrote in a column in the Jerusalem Post two weeks ago, “Latma’s flagship television-on-Internet program is the antithesis of Channel 2’s flagship satire program Eretz Nehederet, which is openly and unabashedly post-Zionist.”
However, IBA Chairman Dr. Amir Gilat, rejected airing the program without another satirical show that would represent the leftwing. After a pilot program was produced, “the IBA decided that actually, it had no intention of airing Latma’s show,” Medad and Pollak wrote.
They added, “Latma received a laconic, one-sentence letter informing them the IBA had decided not to air their show.