Israeli viewing habits are changing, leaning more rightward, and Channel 14 is taking off as Israelis tire of left-wing propaganda in their news.
Both prime-time programs on Israel’s Channel 14, the nightly news, and a free-wheeling panel discussion titled “The Patriots,” on Sunday night reached new rating heights. The Patriots hit 158,000 viewers, a six-point share, and the news rose to a 4.4 share.
Of the four news channels, The Patriots surpassed Kan 11 which showed only a 4.6-point max share. The other two competitors, channels 12 and 13, did measurably better, although 13 has been on a downswing, having lost two of its highest rating-getters, right-wingers Ayala Hasson and Sharon Gal. Channel 13 reached only a 7.8-point share max, 207,000 viewers. Channel 12 maintained its lead with a 17.4-point max share, 459,000 viewers.
Channel 14’s data constitute a sharp increase since the rating committee added it to its list last November. It is still a long way from overcoming the big two channels, although it has probably passed the public-sponsored Channel 11 permanently.
Last October, the chairman of the Central Election Commission, Judge Yitzhak Amit, rejected the petition of interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which demanded that Channel 14 be declared an “election activist body” that encourages voting for the Likud. Yesh Atid was compelled to compensate Channel 14 and the Likud party for their legal expenses (NIS 20,000, or $5,500).
So much for the defenders of democracy and free speech.
Judge Amit noted that “the media have an important position when it comes to exercising freedom of political expression, especially during an election period. Freedom of political expression is an integral part of free and fair elections, and through it, voters can get an impression of the marketplace of ideas and make an informed decision when they come to cast their ballots.”
Lapid, now demoted to just Opposition Chairman, has been a driving force behind the meteoric rise of Channel 14. As the three traditional channels dropped any pretense of presenting a fair and balanced view, Israeli right-wing viewers started to reject them and sooner or later discovered “their” channel.
The Patriots, hosted by former Habayit HaYehudi MK Yinon Magal in front of a live audience, is a no-frills discussion panel featuring five or six panelists in addition to the host when most nights (Saturday to Wednesday) the panel includes a left-wing persona. Magal is a free spirit (he was forced to resign from the Knesset in 2015 after serving 8 months over accusations of aggressive sexual language in an exchange with a colleague), who comes across as Orthodox-lite, and leaves much of the heavy hitting to his guests. In many ways, Magal borrowed many of his shticks (checking Tweets; and a nightly segment dedicated to comparing Yair Lapid’s contradictory statements, which in Israel is a national sport) from Comedy Central’s Daily Show. The Patriots may follow the model of Fox News politically, but, thank God, it has a much better sense of humor.
If your Hebrew is good enough, I enclosed the full hour of The Patriots from Sunday night, when two brothers were murdered in Samaria. Watch how Magal navigates his presentation to acknowledge the tragedy while at the same time sticking with the show’s values. Judging by this sample, it’s clear why The Patriots is fast becoming the show to watch for so many right-wing Israelis.