A change proposed in the Broadcasting Authority Act by National Union Chairman MK Yaakov Katz (Ketzale) has been accepted, and the law will now read: “The composition of the Supervisory Council will reflect, as closely as possible, the entire range of prevailing public opinion.”
The Knesset Economic Committee held a heated discussion Monday over the composition of the incoming Broadcasting Authority Supervisory Council. MK Katz argued that the previous text, which stipulated that “the composition of the Council will reflect, if possible, the range of prevailing public views,” created a distortion, and therefore large communities felt alienated and segregated from public broadcasting.
Ketzale argued that the “if possible” clause was a slippery slope that had led to the current situation, where only two out of 31 members of the outgoing council wear a kippa.
Ketzale insisted on entering into the language of the act a correlation between the actual findings of the Central Bureau of Statistics regarding the different segments of the Israeli public and the makeup of the Council.
Representative of the Department of Justice attorney Dana Neufeld argued that it was unacceptable to allow strictly mathematical figures to determine the makeup of the Broadcasting Authority Supervisory Council.
MK Katz asked if she would still feel that way if the new Council were to be composed of 29 bearded Haredim and only two Secular members.
In the end, with assistance from Committee Chair MK Carmel Shama-Cohen, a “softer” version of Ketzale’s text was accepted, and the law now reads “as closely as possible,” instead of “if possible,” regarding the statistical correlation and the council’s membership.
Since the founding of the state, there have been complaints from segments of Israel’s public which felt that their opinions, traditions and culture were under-represented by the majority Ashkenazi elite that had the run of the state’s public media. In the years since that early period, bitterness and resentment have been growing, as the nation’s major media outlets are considered to be held “captive” by a relatively small cultural elite. While it may no longer be as readily identified ethnically, it has been seen by many to be forcing the views and cultural preferences of a very small minority, while blocking access to the public means of production and dissemination from many who hold competing views.
MK Katz himself was involved in the late 1980s and through the ’90s in running a pirate radio station called Arutz Sheva off the coast of Tel-Aviv, serving up alternative programming and giving the state’s official broadcasters a run for their money.
In February 1999, the Knesset passed a law legalizing the operation of Arutz Sheva and absolving it of earlier illegal broadcasting, but Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on an appeal that the law was null and void. In October 2003, ten employees of Arutz Sheva were convicted of operating an illegal radio station, and then station director Ya’akov Katz (Ketzaleh) was convicted on two counts of perjury.
Creating the means, today, of appointing a Broadcasting Authority Supervisory Council which would act to bring into the public broadcasting fold voices that so far have been barred from government-sponsored studios will surely bring closure to Katz’s own two and a half decades of struggle.