On Sunday, during a debate on Channel 14th flagship show, “The Patriots” about the High Court of Justice’s decision to revoke the Teveria Law because it was enacted to fit a specific person, left-leaning attorney Ari Shamai, who served as Yigal Amir’s attorney after Amir assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, suggested that “if the High Court is against personal laws, it is time to release Yigal Amir, because personal laws were enacted against him as well.”
Everyone who watched the show, including the studio audience, had no doubt that Shamai was not advocating for releasing Yigal Amir, but criticizing the court for revoking a law based on the argument of personal legislation when personal legislation is a common practice in the Knesset. But it didn’t matter.
On Monday, Strauss Group Ltd., possibly the largest food manufacturer and distributor in Israel, announced it was suspending all its commercials on Channel 14. Another local conglomerate, Coca-Cola, has already announced it was boycotting the right-wing channel several months ago. Those two were joined by Delek Motors who sell shiny BMWs and Fords to rich Israelis.
זאת עופרה שטראוס
שהכריזה מלחמה על ערוץ 14: pic.twitter.com/1N95eVv0a2
— ינון מגל (@YinonMagal) July 31, 2023
Strauss owner billionaire Ofra Strauss
On Tuesday, Israeli right-wingers began a major pushback. There are recorded acts of nastiness, with supermarket customers piling Strauss products in carts only to abandon them in a corner of the store, claiming they can’t afford them.
הציבור זועם על שטראוס – לקוח צילם בעקבות החרמת ערוץ 14 pic.twitter.com/pGrg9L51Fv
— Boaz Golan בועז גולן (@BoazGolan) August 1, 2023
But the serious pushback targets one of Strauss’s most successful ventures: Tami 4, a water bar that serves up cold and hot filtered water and has an adjustment for use on Shabbat. In other words, the product, which is run as a subscription service, targets Shabbat-observant customers.
On Tuesday, the phone operators at Tami 4 received hundreds of cancellations of the service. It got so bad that the company furnished a page with talking points for its phone folks, to be used should a customer call to cancel the service over Strauss’s freezing its advertising on Channel 14. The answer to those pesky subscribers should be: Strauss’s decision to freeze its advertising on Channel 14 is not connected to a political motive but to unity and respectful dialogue… We will be happy to advertise on any channel provided that its messages are based on good values.”
THE LIES STRAUSS TELLS
In the letter that Strauss sent Channel 14, informing them about the boycott, the conglomerate accused the right-wing broadcaster of “widening the tear” in the nation, a trend that Strauss said, “reached its peak with the call to release the murderer of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which was applauded by the studio audience and was echoed the next day by a senior host at the channel.”
It was a huge, unfair lie. Channel 14 immediately sacked Shamai without a hearing, and issued a heartfelt apology. The host, Magal, did the same. But who needs facts when what you really want is an excuse to bury the only TV outlet in Israel that doesn’t participate in the movement to unseat Netanyahu?
In May, Channel 12 host Galit Gutman said on the air: “How much burden can be placed on a third of this country to keep all these Haredi people who suck our blood.” Yes, she did. And wasn’t punished, never mind sacked on the spot. She showed up the next day, offered a scant apology, and went on with the show. Needless to say, Strauss did not cut its advertising contract with Channel 12 over it.
And on 13, panelist Natan Zehavi had an anti-Haredi outburst where he said he was hoping that people who put on tefillin would hang themselves with them.
Perhaps the phone operators at Tami 4 should say something about the “good values” of Channel 12.
Also: the TV channel that suffered the most from Channel 14’s meteoric rise in the ratings this year is Channel 13. The channel lost some of its best rating winners to 11 and 14 over their right-wing views. Today, debate and news panels on 13 hardly ever bother to add a non-leftist to the mix. It’s a policy choice: Channel 13 is committed to the protest movement come hell or high water.
And Strauss is a minority holder of Channel 13 stock.
RISING IN THE RATINGS, SINKING ON THE AD FRONT
Over the past seven months, since the start of Yariv Levin’s judicial reform, Channel 14, especially its news show and Yinon Magal’s “The Patriots” has been outscoring Channel 13 in the ratings. These days, in the evenings, the top-rated channel is 12, followed by 14, and behind them 13, and the public Channel 11. The main reason 13 manages to keep up in the weekly averages is that 14 goes off the air on Shabbat. The owner, billionaire philanthropist Yitzchak Mirilashvili, is the co-founder of VK.com (Vkontakte.ru), Russia’s largest social network, which boasts 500 million active users. That’s a lot of rubles.
הכירו את יצחק מירלשוילי. הבעלים של ערוץ 14.
יהודי שערוץ הטלוויזיה היהודי הגדול בעולם תחת חסותו.
מירלשוילי עצמו מוכפש על ידי השמאל והערוץ שלו 14 מותקף על ידי השמאל והתקשורת ואף מוחרם על ידי חברות מסויימות שמתקשות לקבל אמת.
בואו בהמוניכם לחזק את יצחק מירלשוילי התותח!! pic.twitter.com/8TihWTRrmj
— שלמה פולק (@shlomopolak580) August 1, 2023
Mirilashvili, 39, sold his shares in the mobile and online gaming company Plarium in 2009 for $500 million. He is the sole shareholder and chairman of The Kuf Dalet Group, a holding company that manages his group’s investment portfolio and is headquartered in Herziliya. Kuf Dalet invests in real estate and infrastructure primarily within the United States, Israel, Russia, and Europe. In addition to Channel 14, Mirilashvili also has a controlling share in the right-wing news portal 0404, possibly the last news outlet in Israel that covers IDF activities using the term “our dear soldiers.”
Unfortunately, with the stunning rise of Channel 14 in the ratings (Magal calls it a “galactic explosion”), the better it does with the audience, the fewer ads it manages to attract. This is sheer politics. For pure fiduciary reasons, the buyers for various ad agencies should have moved a hefty part of their budgets from 13 to 14, to reflect the latter’s deeper audience reach. But they didn’t.
According to the media research firm Yifat, while its audience reach has increased tremendously, Channel 14’s ad revenue shrank from NIS 15.2 million in January-July 2022 to NIS 10.75 million in the same period in 2023, a loss of more than NIS 4.5 million, or 30%.
Meanwhile, Channel 13, with its sluggish performance in the ratings, has lost only 7% of its ad income.
Finally, Channel 14 is the only major TV outlet for some 2.5 million Israelis who voted for the right-wing coalition parties. It’s a huge consumer force that should take steps to punish its enemies. Below, please find the complete list of Strauss brands for your consideration: