October 30, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The legacy of Communications Minister Erdan

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:25 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The legacy of Communications Minister Erdan

By YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 10/29/2014

Upon becoming minister, Erdan identified a number of actions which could affect large parts of the population.

Likud MK Gilad Erdan has served as communications minister for the past year and a half. His predecessor, former Likud MK Moshe Kahlon, had a huge impact on the Israeli public during his four-year tenure.

Kahlon’s insistence that cell phone usage was outrageously expensive and needed to be reduced, his forceful leadership and ability to withstand huge political and economical pressure made its mark: as we all know, our cell phone bills are no longer outrageous.

Erdan’s entry into the ministry presented him with a challenge and an opportunity.

The challenge was to fill the void left by Kahlon; it is not every day a minister can even consider a strategy which would reduce the taxpayers’ burden by billions of shekels.

The opportunity was that Kahlon had succeeded in greatly increasing the ministry’s influence on our daily lives.

As minister, Kahlon mostly addressed communications per se, and even with so restricted a focus had only partial success.

For example, we still pay very high phone rates when we go abroad. Erdan realized this and initiated a number of steps to reduce the burden. Simply by announcing this past August that his ministry would consider regulatory measures which would force the cell phone operators to significantly reduce the expense has created positive change. Led by Golan Telecom, with Cellcom following shortly thereafter, prices have already been significantly reduced. But the final impact of this on the average taxpayers’ monthly bill is rather limited.

What Kahlon did not do, however, was address the second aspect of his ministry’s responsibilities: regulating the media industry.

Upon becoming minister, Erdan identified a number of actions which could affect large parts of the population in this regard.

It is no secret that in Israel, media regulation does not work. The word “quality” is foreign to our commercial TV. The main competition between TV channels 10 and 2 involves reducing expenses while still keeping sufficient public attention to sell commercials.

The commercial TV news channels are characterized by sensationalism, superficial coverage and cultural and political bias.

Israel needs more media purveyors and a different regulatory structure.

A second issue is public broadcasting. Israel is wasting over a billion shekels a year on publicly funded media organizations, most of it going to the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

The IBA’s TV stagnated and quality local programming disappeared over the years.

Corruption was a way of life at the IBA and all previous attempts to change the situation failed. (We do note that Kahlon’s responsibilities did not include the IBA, but it was reinstated at the beginning of Erdan’s tenure.) The Educational TV network, operating within the Education Ministry and whose annual budget was around NIS 100 million, is not doing much better than the IBA.

To add to all this, one of the ridiculous aspects of Israel’s governmental system is that the law and the Justice Ministry prohibit the communications minister or his or her officials from “interfering” in the daily operations of the media purveyors, including the publicly funded ones. This is done in the name of separation between politics and the media, supposedly safeguarding the media from political pressure and intervention. This makes it very difficult for any minister to create real change.

The minister’s power is limited to appointing members of the regulatory boards and even here, the minister is subject to the strict and politically motivated veto of the Justice Ministry, who can with impunity nullify any of the minister’s appointments. Thus, although the media industry needed deep change, it was not at all clear whether any communications minister could actually create it.

Erdan did not approach these issues as a babe in the woods. He had intimate knowledge of the operational structure of the IBA, having served on its board from 1998-2000.

He was also chair of the Knesset Economics Committee from 2006-2009 and became intimate with all aspects of media regulation in Israel. Among other tasks, he took an important part in the legislative process which led to the 2012 version of the public broadcasting law.

It is thus not surprising that Erdan’s most important impact is the closing down of the old IBA and creation of the Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBC). Realizing that revamping the publicly funded media was impossible by conventional means, Erdan decided that the only possible route to create change was to use his influence as a minister via the legislative process. The bottom line is that the new law has adopted our policy, suggested a dozen years ago in these pages. The unfair TV tax has been abolished and replaced by the car tax, which is paid for by all, with the rich (who own more cars) paying more than the poor who have one or none.

Erdan’s legislation abolished educational TV, unifying it within the PBC. The new law obliges the PBC to outsource almost all of its TV programming, barring the news. It reduces the manpower of the PBC by over half. The expected annual budget of the PBC will be 30 percent to 40% percent less than what is it today. Erdan has just finished the process of appointing a new council for the Second TV and Radio Authority (SATR). He wisely removed the previous chairman, Dr.

Ilan Avisar, the head of the TV programming committee, Yaakov Shacham, and the head of the radio committee, Yossi Elituv. All three failed miserably, as outlined elsewhere in our columns. Unprecedentedly, two thirds of the new council are women.

At the same time, Erdan continued the process initiated by his predecessor Kahlon of unifying the SATR with the Satellite and Cable TV regulatory board. The purpose is to streamline the regulatory body and bring it up to date with the enormous technological developments of recent years, which no longer really differentiate between one broadcasting method and the other. However, this legislative process, which one would think is much easier to implement than the dismantling of the IBA, has not yet been finished.

In fact, Erdan is leaving the Communications Ministry too early. Although he did abolish the TV tax, it is not at all clear that the net result is a savings for the taxpayer.

The immense financial cost of firing 1,000 employees is not clear at all. The taxpayer will bear the burden and one can assume that the Histadrut will make sure the bill is hefty. Will the new PBC really be better, or just more of the same? Erdan’s law assures that the new PBC will be dominated by Israel’s media elites; not a good prescription for real change.

Nothing is forcing Erdan to leave the ministry.

As a public servant, motivated by a desire to improve the life of Israel’s citizens, he should have remained in office to assure that the very positive vehicles of change that he initiated would come to full fruition. Is his departure a sign that he really knows that he would not have been able to succeed?

^

October 23, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Creeping anti-Zionism in Israel’s media

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:23 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Creeping anti-Zionism in Israel’s media:

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 10/22/2014

the anti-Zionist vogue has spilled over into the media. The influence is pervasive

Creeping anti-Zionism in Israel’s media An anti-Zionist malaise has always existed, especially among Jewish society elites. Lord Edwin Montague, British secretary of state for India, attempted to sabotage the Balfour Declaration, telling prime minister Lloyd George, “All my life I have been trying to get out of the ghetto.

You want to force me back there.” Judah L. Magnes, Hebrew University president, sought to restrict Jewish immigration in the 1930s.

On the eve of statehood on May 4, 1948, he suggested to US secretary of state George Marshall and then to president Harry Truman that contributions from Americans to Israel be “cut off” and that America “impose… financial sanctions.”

In recent years, a variety of groups have been monitoring the anti-Zionism embedded in Israeli academic circles. The bad joke is that whereas scholars in the fields of a wide range of scientific spheres of study gather together out of a sincere love of their chosen subject, Israel-related conferences are packed with those who very much are hostile to Israel and Zionism.

The Im Tirzu NGO, for example, produced a study of the bibliography suggested by lecturers for their university courses on themes of Israel history and Zionism. The mandatory reading was found to be biased, one-sided and politically motivated in favor of what we could term “Palestinianism.” The significant presence of academics on media talk shows and discussion panels has to varying degrees naturally led the anti-Zionist vogue to spill over into the media. The influence is pervasive and it is not surprising that too many in our media then provide platforms for its dissemination.

This past Saturday evening, Rina Matzliach, political correspondent of Channel Two television, interviewed Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman. Her next-to-last question touched upon the “Milky Affair,” the Facebook initiative of an Israeli who emigrated to Berlin (after trying out Paris) and claimed that his main motivation for doing so was the lower price of the chocolate-flavored pudding in Germany.

She opened her question by stating that “the young Israelis do not find their place in Israel any more.” She could have said “some Israeli youth” or “what appears to be a growing number,” or, even better, “the media is painting the picture that large numbers of young Israelis are leaving.” But she didn’t. She preferred the negative construct, as if Israeli youth were moving overseas en masse.

If she had bothered to read Haaretz, she would have seen in its economic section, The Marker, the headline of Lior Dattel’s October 14 story. It read: “Israeli emigration slowing down, despite fears of ‘Berlin aliya.’” Dattel informed us that “despite the ‘Milky scare,’ only a few thousand Israelis live in Berlin.”

Had she read the first paragraph of the article, she would have learned that “despite concerns over a wave of emigration from Israel…

figures show that the rate of emigration has slowed dramatically, and that in 2012 the rate was the lowest since the state was established.

Emigration is also low in comparison to member countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.”

But that would have interfered with the drama she sought to inject into her interview, if not the overtly anti-Israel message she was projecting. Matzliach was not seeking information but using her prime-time slot to present an untruth.

Dattel’s story in Haaretz, however, was itself an exception. Other stories in Haaretz attempted to inflate the emigration story. Typical headlines were: “Israel’s leaders are to blame for the emigration to Berlin” (October 10, 2014); “Poll: One-third of Israelis think about leaving” (September 7, 2014); “The right has turned Israel into a hopeless place,” (October 13, 2014).

Sever Plutzker, a senior journalist writing in Yediot Aharonot, was more professional. He looked up the facts. Unemployment is twice as high in Berlin as in Israel, and life expectancy in Israel is 82.3 vs. 80 years in Berlin. While a typical food purchase in Tel Aviv cost $480 vs.

$390 in Berlin, a typical clothing purchase was $580 in Tel Aviv vs. $710 in Berlin. In other words, much ado about nothing. Some things are better in Berlin, others in Israel. But Mazliach and her cohorts had no use for the facts; they were promoting an agenda.

Haaretz’s main agenda, as we have documented in our columns, is the dismantling of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, supporting the agenda of the Palestinian Authority and bringing down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Its headlines are repeated over the radio and senior TV and radio staff all too often select their stories and their interviewees mostly from its pages.

Haaretz’s bias was starkly displayed this week in its English-language edition. As blogger Elder of Ziyon pointed out, when describing Jewish attempts to enter the Temple Mount, three Arab news websites, Al Arabiya, Al Bawaba and Ma’an, used quotes around the word “attacks” or used the less inflammatory term “provocations” in their headlines for the Jewish actions. But Haaretz had one up on them; it not only used the term “attack” but also added the accusation that the only Jews who ascend to the Temple Mount are “settlers.” Haaretz refers to the Temple Mount as “al-Aksa.”

Al Jazeera’s October 17 headline was simply: “Rift over access to al-Aksa ignites clashes”; Haaretz was more anti-Israel than some typically anti-Israel Arab media.

Haaretz was not always so. A former editor, Hanoch Marmari, while clearly left wing, always knew where to draw the line between valid criticism and anti-Zionism. Marmari is today the editor of the Israel Democracy Institute’s The Seventh Eye online journal.

In an article which appeared on October 12 he opened by asking whether some editorial decisions were not a result of “self-decapitation.”

He continued by insisting that today’s Haaretz is infected by a “virus” which “creates provocations” and has developed into a “pandemic” condition resulting from a “poisonous mushroom” in the paper.

He saved his most cutting criticism, however, for a demand by reporter Chaim Levinson to basically dumb down the Hebrew language.

At Israel’s Media Watch we have compiled a list of foreign words in use over our electronic broadcasting networks. The words used have equivalent Hebrew language terms, but the foreign terminology is preferred. Some typical examples are: “vacuum,” “militant,” “comeback” and “spin,” “attractive,” “element,” “picnic” and “popular.” This preference for the English language is a stab in the back of the revival of the Hebrew language, one of the central successes of the Zionist movement.

As Ben-Dror Yemini wrote last September 22 in his Ynet column on whether Israel’s democracy is in danger, in essence the real danger to the country’s democratic fabric is “Leftists obsessed with telling the world that Israel is becoming more racist and more fascist, and to hell with the facts.” And that is the essence of Israel’s media anti-Zionism.

^

October 13, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Horton does not hear a who

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 8:11 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Horton does not hear a who

by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 10/12/2014

Emails openly available in Google groups show that two of the authors, Manducca and Ang, have sympathies with the views of David Duke, a white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.

Presumably most of us enjoyed reading to our children Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who. Horton the elephant has big ears and so picks up even the faintest sounds. He hears something from a small speck of dust almost flying into a pool, saves it and protects it from the other animals who threaten to boil it. Deciding that voices must be raised in unison, Horton finally succeeds despite various obstacles and the planet of Whoville is saved.

Seuss understood human behavior. The world too often does not respect the different, the strange. Worse, they try to eliminate it. It takes the effort of all involved to prevent disaster. In his book, it was the voice of one lad that made all the difference. Seuss was an optimist, believing that the world really does listen, and is willing to admit error.

What does all this have to do with an op-ed on the media? Usually, we write about the Israeli media, but in the spirit of Succot, considered to be the universal festival, we dedicate this article to an international story, one which has everything to do with media ethics in which Israel is but a minor player.

The faithful readers of this paper would be by now familiar with a real-life Horton, Professor Richard Charles Horton, the editor of the high-profile scientific journal, The Lancet, considered to be one of the world’s leading medical journals. The Lancet does not shy away from political issues. It has been at the center of many a controversy, not least the question of the exorbitant subscription prices that Elsevier, the Dutch-based company that publishes it, demands.

Much has been written in this newspaper as in most other Israeli media outlets, about the July 28 letter to the editor published in The Lancet under the title “An open letter for the people of Gaza.” As reported in The Jerusalem Post and as researched by NGO Monitor, the central authors of the letter, Paola Manduca, Iain Chalmers, Derek Summerfied, Mads Gilbert and Swee Ang, are not sweet innocents whose only purpose in life is to save lives. But this is not the issue to which we wish to relate.

We don’t intend here to claim that the war in Gaza was or was not humane or justified. Rather, in the context of the concept of “media,” The Lancet, also belongs to this field. Just as the media is guided (or rather should be guided) by an ethics code, so too should a scientific journal that permits itself to become a platform for political issues. Without truth in publishing, science as we know it today could not be maintained.

One of the most powerful tools that editors of scientific journals have at their disposal is the retraction of a paper. The pressure on scientists to have their research appear in prestigious publications cannot be overstated. Their professional life often depends on it. “Publish or perish” is a truthful description of scientific life. Once in a while, articles are retracted. Sometimes due to honest error, but all too often, it is due to the falsification of facts, such as laboratory results. Reprisal is harsh for when the article is retracted and the institution involved usually opens a commission of inquiry. Frequently a consequence is that the guilty author’s professional life is terminated. Such a process, tragically, has even ended with suicide.

Elsevier’s code of ethics is clearly stated: “Public trust in the peer review process and the credibility of published articles depend in part on how well conflict of interest is handled during writing, peer review, and editorial decision making. Conflict of interest exists when an author (or the author’s institution), reviewer, or editor has financial or personal relationships that inappropriately influence his or her actions [such relationships are also known as dual commitments, competing interests, or competing loyalties]. These relationships vary… The potential for conflict of interest can exist whether or not an individual believes that the relationship affects his or her scientific judgment. Financial relationships… are the most easily identifiable conflicts of interest and the most likely to undermine the credibility of the journal, the authors, and of science itself. However, conflicts can occur for other reasons, such as personal relationships, academic competition, and intellectual passion.”

The authors of the Gaza letter, as demanded from all people who submit letters to The Lancet, had stated that “We declare no competing interests.” This was far from the truth, and Professor Horton must have known this. In an appendix to their letter, the authors delineated their “past experience,” which clearly pointed out that they were in a state of “personal relationships that inappropriately influence his or her actions.” As mentioned in the NGO Monitor report, the peoplesvoice.org website reported that on February 2, 2009 that The Lancet’s Global Health Network published an article of Dr. Swee Ang and Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta entitled “The Wounds of Gaza.” The Network, in its introduction to the article noted that “Two surgeons from the UK… managed to get into Gaza during the Israeli invasion. Here they… conclude that the people of Gaza are extremely vulnerable and defenseless in the event of another attack.“ On March 2, 2009, the journal removed the article stating, “We have taken down the blog post ‘The Wounds of Gaza’ because of factual inaccuracies.”

A cache of emails openly available in Google groups show that two of the authors, Manducca and Ang, have sympathies with the views of David Duke, a white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. Wasn’t this sufficient for turning on all the red lights at The Lancet? In fact, it went even further and on August 28 published a sequel by the same authors, “Israel–Gaza conflict – Authors’ reply” in which they stated, “We declared no conflicts since none of us has any relevant financial interests.”

Professor Horton and Elsevier have ample reason for retracting both July 28 and August 28 letters. By refraining from doing so, they are violating one of the most important standards of conduct of the scientific community and their own ethics publishing code. Many in the community have raised their voices. Horton, who was invited to Israel by Rambam Hospital made some sounds of regret, but as we have all been taught by Maimonides, regret is not sufficient, it needs action. As of the writing of this letter, neither Horton nor Elsevier retracted the letters.

One of us is the chairman of the Chemical Physics Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science and for fifteen years a member of the advisory editorial board of an Elsevier publication, Chemical Physics. He resigned from the board, stating that “I find it my duty to do the little I can, to try and make sure that such a breach of public trust, which harms our scientific community, does not go unanswered.”

Our real life Professor Horton, did not hear the “who.” Dr. Seuss would be disappointed.

^

October 2, 2014

Media comment: The media year that was

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:22 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The media year that was

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 10/01/2014

Media ethics is an ongoing struggle, and not only in Israel.

Another Hebrew calendar year has come to a close and we are in the period of taking account, both of the successes and failures of Israel’s media as well as our own activities. Almost 20 years have passed since we founded Israel’s Media Watch (IMW). Our goals were to monitor the Israeli media, judge its performance according to the media’s own codes of ethics and the laws of the country, and seek to prevent media bias which undermines Israel’s democratic fiber.

Media ethics is an ongoing struggle, and not only in Israel. A month ago, the American-based Society of Professional Journalists approved a new code of ethics at its Nashville convention. Citing the idea that “a just society and good government require an informed public,” the code seeks to ensure that reported information “is accurate, fair and thorough.”

At that same convention, the Radio and Television Digital News Association proposed a new code of ethics whose core is the proposition that “journalism verifies, provides relevant context, tells the rest of the story and acknowledges the absence of important additional information.”

One issue dealt with by these overseas bodies is one with which we are quite familiar here in Israel. Due to the pressure of deadlines and sharp competition, corners are cut, complex concerns are oversimplified and editors are too busy with “trending,” “going viral” or “exploding on social media.” The end product is less reliable and informative.

Given this reality, abroad as well as in Israel, what was the past year like? While the Americans worry about ethics, here at the Israel Broadcasting Authority, which is now under receivership, there is no longer a binding code of ethics.

The old authority tried to install a new code, one which we thought was counterproductive as it undermined journalistic responsibility. Contradictory resolutions were passed by the IBA boards with the result being that the IBA’s complaints commissioner can validate almost any ethical infraction of the IBA’s “stars”.

One would hope that the new leadership would quickly step in and install a binding code of ethics.

Just last week, Israel’s High Court of Justice handed down its decision on the drawn-out “Captain R” affair.

The captain’s name was besmirched by Channel 2’s Uvda program produced by Dr. Ilana Dayan. The court, by majority vote, decided to uphold a previous ruling that Dayan is not liable for libel and therefore the fine of NIS 300,000 set by the district court was annulled.

Dayan, whose program wrongly portrayed the officer as the cold-blooded killer of a young girl, announced that the court “anchored the basic principles of freedom of expression in its decision.”

Truthfully though, the court’s decision was a mixed bag. First of all, the TV station was still fined NIS 100,000 for its unfair promos against Captain R. Secondly, the court did not uphold the previous decision that “momentary truth” is a valid defense against libel cases. Thirdly, Dayan paid a heavy personal price for her tactics. Anyone who has had a court case knows that they involve sleepless nights and worries about the future. Moreover, the court did not order Captain R to pay court expenses to Dayan. In other words, although the court exonerated her of libel and reduced the NIS 300,000 fine, Dayan was indeed punished.

One can assume that in the future she will be much more careful. The media industry paid careful attention to the court’s lengthy judgment and knows that libel is still a violation which may lead to harsh sentences.

Will this judgment improve our media? Hopefully, yes.

We noted in this column several times our serious misgivings with respect to the future of the newly created state-sponsored Public Broadcasting Corporation.

Will it continue to limit the plurality of opinion? Will the narrow-minded focus of its predecessor, the IBA, continue to be the ethos of the new PBC? If so, it would be undermining its important goal of facilitating a genuine dialogue between Israel’s citizens and its political, economic and cultural institutions. Or will the new year bring with it a breath of fresh air? Not only the new PBC, but also the other outlets and networks, radio as well as television, continue to be poorly regulated. The ombudsmen are either lacking in personal courage, or prefer their friends in the media or their positions and financial compensation over the need to call out violations of media laws and professional codes of ethics with appropriate actions against the offenders.

We perceive, and our columns have brought to light multiple examples, month after month and year after year, on a variety of issues, the existence of a media-political complex which allows left-wing views to dominate our airwaves, with near impunity. Panels lack balance. Expert columnists have a one-way view. Concerns of certain groups whether political, religious or ethnic, are ignored. Israel’s media image, despite the country’sdemographic changes over the decades, is still secular, left-wing liberal and Western-oriented.

One bright aspect is that when IMW set out on its mission two decades ago, we were alone in the field.

An effort a decade earlier under the slogan “The People Versus A Hostile Media” was short-lived. Today, there are several left-leaning groups combating media bias, such as The Seventh Eye journal and Tel Aviv University’s Chaim Herzog Institute for Media Politics & Society. Even the far Left has established its own media review organization: Keshev. Columnists specializing in media criticism such as Kalman Liebskind, Erel Segal, Emily Amrusi, Dr. Dror Eydar and Ben-Dror Yemini enjoy a broad readership.

The Internet has sprouted valuable media review organizations in Israel, such as Presspectiva and the Velvet Underground blog of Dvorit Shargal. In academia, scholars have also begun to pick up on media review.

Some of these contributions were recognized by the prestigious Abramowitz Israeli Media Criticism Prize.

Nevertheless, the inertia, the historic process of “a friend bringing a friend” by which the media replicates itself, the power of government budgets and commercial financial interests all manage to defend what should be indefensible. Media infractions receive protection from politicians, from judges, from fellow media personnel and, to our chagrin, a public that is too often apathetic to actually mobilize.

Channel 10 literally rode roughshod over and simply steamrolled the members of Knesset when it wanted to continue to broadcast despite all its failings and unethical performance. The army’s Galei Tzahal radio station is still working in financial secrecy. News anchors continue to get away with making remarks that color the facts in accordance with their viewpoints.

As we go into the year 5775, Israel does not yet have a “robust media” or a truly free press. Israeli media may be more appropriately described as the tool of the country’s elite. Our hopes for the coming year are increased pluralism, for example implementation of Communications Minister Gilad Erdan’s program to turn Channel 2’s Reshet and Keshet companies into two independent channels, close down Channel 10 permanently and open the field to anyone who wants and knows how to broadcast.

^

September 21, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The ‘new’ Public Broadcasting Authority?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:06 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The ‘new’ Public Broadcasting Authority?

by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 09/17/2014

Are we getting a new broadcasting authority or is it only an exterior change of clothes?

We have been critical of some of the aspects involved in the creation of the new Public Broadcasting Authority which is to replace the old Israel Broadcasting Authority. Nevertheless, we also are hoping that the new entity will improve, be more open to the public and its needs, fair-minded, balanced and pluralistic. Are these expectations too far-reaching? Thus far, there has not been much change in the programming. Keren Neubach, with her personal social agenda, is still there from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Kol Israel’s Reshet Bet. The size of the defense budget is one of her favorite subjects. She leaves no doubt as to her opinion that too much money flows into defense, at the expense of social services and needs. But a week ago Sunday, she went overboard.

The Iron Dome missile defense system irrefutably saved many lives during the past few years and especially during Operation Protective Edge. The system is the baby of a special unit, the Defense Directorate for Research and Development, known in Hebrew as MAFAT. It operates under the aegis of the Defense Ministry and the IDF. Its job is to prepare the IDF for future challenges. Developing the Iron Dome was no small feat and the cost ran into the billions of shekels. As anyone who has ever dealt with development of new equipment knows, the risks are great and the guarantee of success nonexistent.

In fact, at the start among a few alternatives two major strategies were considered.

One was the missile strategy that was adopted, and the other was a laser defense strategy, which was being developed in the US. One of the central figures that tried to persuade MAFAT that the laser system was the better option was Col. (res.) Yossi Langozky.

He was not successful, but the story does not end there.

Langozky, an engineer, claims that for years he has warned that the Gaza tunnels are a strategic threat, but no one listened to him, including the people in MAFAT. Relating to the defense budget, Neubach “interviewed” a fortnight ago General (res.) Maharan Prosenfer. As usual, she did most of the talking while the general mostly listened. This is how it went: Neubach: “I have to read to you in this context of research and development a citation from Yossi Langozky in an interview with Giddi Weitz of Haaretz. …In MAFAT he [Langozky] says, they work like Histadrut clerks. They come to work at 8:15 a.m., pick up two phones to the bank, have a meeting, at 10:30 coffee break, they work another hour or so, noon break, another three hours of work and at four or five they go home. This is the way to solve operational challenges? Is he correct? Is Langozky’s description accurate?” Prosenfer: “Look, I don’t know the officers and civilians who work in MAFAT, but… they don’t call the bank, I am not aware of those who contact the bank.”

Neubach: “So I will tell you about someone I know who has an 18-year-old daughter who serves in a software unit, an excellent computer student. She sat next to the officers every day, wrote the software while they checked on what was happening, what’s new with their stocks, then went out for a walk, arrived at 10 a.m., left at 4 p.m. – officers that you and I pay the salaries of, including their lucrative pensions.”

Neubach here did not limit herself to citing Langozky but added a fairly fanciful tale about, for all intents and purposes, an unhappy girl doing a job she did not like, and used it to defame the IDF, and in an anonymous fashion at that. The implications of her statement were clear: the IDF is wasting our money and we should not increase its funding.

Neubach was unprofessional. As an informed journalist, she should have known that Langozky had axes to grind with respect to MAFAT. Neubach knew beforehand that she was going to accuse MAFAT on the show, so why didn’t she do the professional thing and have a MAFAT representative, or someone familiar with all sides of the story on the show, so that the public would have a chance to hear something besides what Neubach wanted them to hear? At Israel’s Media Watch, we heard, listened – and acted.

On September 8, a letter was sent to Yona Wiesenthal, the present acting head of the broadcasting authority. We are still waiting for an answer. Is this the new authority or the old one? Communications Minister Gilad Erdan is rightly proud of having abolished the TV tax, saving Israel’s citizens hundreds of millions of shekels per year. But are we getting better radio? The previous chair of the IBA, Dr. Amir Gilat, ordered that Israel radio would limit itself to at most nine minutes of advertising per hour. We checked this and found that nowadays, the norm is 10 to 12 minutes. Here, too, we wrote a letter to Wiesenthal. This was passed on to the IBA’s complaints commissioner David Markowitz who justified the complaint and noted that for the past year he has been raising this issue, to no avail. Is this then the new authority or the old one?

The Gatekeepers is a one-sided, biased “documentary” produced by extreme leftist Dror Moreh. It was severely criticized when first shown in cinemas abroad. Last year, the IBA found it necessary to broadcast his series and the outcry was vociferous. As a result, the IBA had each program followed with a short discussion enabling the viewers to obtain some balance and perspective.

Now, the IBA is again airing the series, but without any discussion. We complained to Wiesenthal who again passed our letter on to Markowitz. This time, Markowitz did not justify us, claiming it is standard practice to rerun a series paid for by the IBA. He also claimed that the series was valuable and precisely the kind of production that the IBA should support. No, he did not point out that the IBA would be running a similar series with a different viewpoint in the near future, because such a thing does not exist, so is this the new or the old broadcasting authority? On Monday, Haaretz and other left-wing news purveyors were happy to inform us that finally the IBA’s satirical program The Jews are Coming would be aired on Channel 1 TV after Succot.

This is the program whose promo was a song by characters portraying Yigal Amir, Yona Avrushmi and Baruch Goldstein: “I always remain myself – a right-wing murderer.”

The former director of the IBA, Yonni Ben-Menachem, decided that it would not be aired. Now we will be getting this type of drivel for 11 weeks in a row. Balance? The Authority claims that yes, it would be followed by a satirical program produced by Latma.

Our sources tell us that this is only spin as a contract has not been signed with Latma. So, are we getting a new broadcasting authority or is it only an exterior change of clothes? Time will tell. We hope for the best but expect very little.

^

September 11, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Is media regulation necessary?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:16 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Is media regulation necessary?

by YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 09/10/2014

If regulation were to be reduced and quality stations were to appear, the public just might prefer quality over the garbage purveyed today, and then the websites, too, would no longer be a problem.

In many aspects Israel is an over-regulated country.

This is especially so when it comes to our electronic media. Due among other factors to the over-regulation, we have only three major TV channels. The law which created the Second Authority for TV and Radio (SATR) over 20 years ago and was later amended to allow also Channel 10 to broadcast made high demands of the concessionaires.

They were obligated to fund a news channel which operated independently of them. They had to pay large sums of money to the state for the concession. A sizable portion of their programming had to be locally-produced content. Of course, Channels 2 and 10 overcame the draconian content demands with relatively inexpensive reality junk shows. They also claimed that by transporting Israeli crews to Europe they were fulfilling the condition.

By any measure, our commercial TV stations cannot be regarded as high quality. It is fair to say that the legislation which was aimed at creating quality TV failed. There is almost no historical drama and certainly no national- value humor or satire programming. Only left-wingers can be funny. Even the news channels are nothing much to be proud of.

All this leads inexorably to the conclusion that regulation does not work. It would be better to have a free market, let anyone participate and let the best purveyor of culture, entertainment and news win. But is it so simple? There is no regulation of the Internet. Although channels 2 and 10 are highly regulated, their websites – Channel 2’s Mako and Channel 10’s Nana10 websites – are not.

The SATR law was formulated before websites became popular and so these remain unregulated. Any attempt at complaining about their content or unfair practices which reaches the complaints commissioner gets the true answer: “I have no power over this, the law’s jurisdiction does not include the websites.”

The Internet, as we all know, is highly competitive.

At least as far as channels 2 and 10 are concerned, the competition has led to anything but quality. Near-pornography and too much naked flesh is much more apt description of the results. That which is not allowed on the airwaves is the bread and butter of the Internet.

Consider some very typical examples: A short clip on Mako on September 7 showed a young man emptying a Jack Daniels whiskey bottle in less than 15 seconds. The headline was “the media and the experts decry the clip” – but why then did Mako show it at all? If one clicked on the information box appearing on the video screen, one was forwarded to another clip entitled “she undresses in the supermarket.”

Last week, it would seem that new lows were reached.

As reported on the Walla website, a condom manufacturing company opened a campaign by asking “Israelis” what their sexual preferences were. The “winners” were then photographed with a “beauty queen” realizing their desires. Mako described the campaign and publicized the pictures.

The item came to the attention of Tal Schneider and Vered Cohen-Barzilai, founders of the women journalists’ cell, which was actively engaged in assuring women’s rights in the media. Among other things, they demand an end to sexual harassment of women working in the media, and were the first to publicize that journalist Immanuel Rosen was suspected of harassment (the case against Rosen was closed by the attorney general due to lack of evidence).

Cohen-Barzilai is a social activist, feminist and pundit, and Schneider is a leading independent political blogger.

Both women can be identified as belonging to Israel’s political Left.

Schneider and Barzilai started a campaign against the item on Mako, accusing Avi Nir, the CEO of Keshet, and Drorit Vertheim, a representative of the owners of the network, of collusion with pornographers and the objectification of women. One may guess that what drove the item on Mako was money. After all, it was an advertisement for the condom company, which must have paid quite a fortune for the publicity. It took a day for Nir and cohorts to bow to the pressure and remove the item from Mako’s website.

There is a huge difference between websites such as Mako and Nana10 and the pornography industry. The latter are readily closed to viewers and parents can filter them out easily. But Mako and Nana10 are considered to be legitimate and open to the public. Youngsters as well as older people who enter the website for whatever reason are quickly exposed to, at the very least, soft pornographic content, alcohol and not a small measure of reporting on violent events.

Should we care? Isn’t it a free country? A commission charged with the task of defining anew the regulation of commercial media was appointed this year by Communications Minister Gilad Erdan. It is headed by Professor Amit Schechter of Ben-Gurion University. In an interim report, the commission recently recommended reducing the level of regulation of the TV industry. We at Israel’s Media Watch appeared before the commission and supported deregulation, but were we right to do so? A 2011 frequently-quoted research paper on the psychological effects of television programs asserts that many teenagers who have broken the law view TV programs that contain inappropriate content more often than their peers. The study defined inappropriate content as violent, self-abusive and erotic scenes. These depictions have negative psychological effects on teenagers and affect self-image, behavior, personality and social views. Choosing inappropriate figures as role models or imitating the behavior they display distorts youngsters.

Teenagers lose their grasp on reality, leading to negative emotions and actions.

Other studies, conducted as early as 1973, used measured skin conductance and blood volume pulse to establish that youth exposed to such programming undergo a process of desensitization which can, at times, lead to them themselves engaging in the acts they have watched. There is a proven danger on the TV screen.

To be fair, studies have found differences between television, video game and movie violence exposure based on the active nature of playing with intense engagement.

As for other improper content themes, such as sex, drug use and abuse of food, for example, the message is still a negative influence.

On the one hand, the natural inclination is to reduce the big brother effect and reduce regulation. On the other hand, if the websites of the TV stations indicate anything, it is that without regulation, the situation will become even worse than it is today.

There is, though, a third possibility. The Israeli public, because of over-regulation, is limited in its choice of TV stations and has no other recourse but these two websites.

If regulation were to be reduced and quality stations were to appear, the public just might prefer quality over the garbage purveyed today, and then the websites, too, would no longer be a problem.

^

September 4, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The public complaints report

Posted in Media tagged , , at 11:02 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The public complaints report

by YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK \ 03/09/2014 22:51 submit to reddit

Regev writes that the complaints raised such questions as whether reality shows should be limited, or does freedom of speech and expression protect them

David Regev, the Second Authority for TV and Radio (SATR ) public complaints commissioner, finally provided the public with his annual report for 2013. His Introduction is a wonderful example of what the duties and responsibilities are of a public complaints commissioner.

Under the headline, “What bothered the public,” Regev notes that the public was very concerned about various aspects of reality shows. They were unhappy with the coarse language, verbal and physical violence as well as racist slurs. Regev writes that the complaints raised such questions as whether reality shows should be limited, or does freedom of speech and expression protect them, and whether regulators are at all involved in these shows. He reports that the SATR decided to carefully review the reality shows, issued fines for extreme violations and demanded more openness with regard to the choice of the participants and their auditions.

A second topic in Regev’s report is the ongoing saga of marketing content within programs, in violation of the limitations placed on advertisement time. Regev claims that he believes this issue should be resolved by legislation. Commercial content would have to be designated as such letting the consumer know that the material is an advertisement, and the minutes used would be part of the advertising content allowed the concessionaire.

Regev is proud of the fact that “again this year the complaints commission continued a series of professional initiatives and increased in 2013 its cooperation with social organizations and consumers making the commission more accessible to the public at large.”

Regev, though, has quite a bit which he could improve. For example, in his whole long report, not one name of a media personality found to have violated media ethics is mentioned. A politician is named, but no journalists. Why? Do they have immunity? Regev habitually defends one of the most egregious violations of the ethics code, namely the mixing of news with views. A case we have mentioned in this column many times is Yonit Levi, the star anchor of the Channel 2 TV evening news program.

Levi makes a habit of mixing her views in with the items she reports on.

January 2013 was election time in Israel.

Levi does not like the extreme right wing in Israel. On January 15, 2013, she describes the “Strength for Israel” party, headed by former MKs Professor Arye Eldad and Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, as “the most extreme party in Israel.” The factuality of this assertion may be questioned, but it isn’t the facts that are the main issue here. Rather, the real problem was Regev’s answer to the complaint submitted by Avi Komash.

Regev replied that, “As for the question of giving her personal views, according to the definition of her job Yonit Levi is not a narrator and presenter of the news, but a journalist. Her journalistic work, under the auspices of the freedom of speech and creativity, grant Yonit Levi as well as other journalists the right to express their opinions, as in this case.”

Levi aired one item detailing the harsh situation a 92-year-old person found himself in when he refused to move out of his own home and accept alternate housing from a certain company. She included the company’s response – but ended the report with her personal judgment against the company. One of us (YM) noted this to Regev, but the latter’s answer was the same: this is part of her profession. Regev apparently does not understand that Levi is paid to be a journalist, not a judge.

He will go to great lengths to defend his fellow journalists. Levi is not small fry. She is, arguably, a model for other Israeli journalists.

Regev should have used his position to clarify that news and views should not be mixed and that by doing so Levi is not only giving her profession a bad name, she is working against the interests of her own job, which is to present reliable news to the public. Biased news is no news at all.

Another one of Regev’s bad habits is his tendency to defend SATR . During April 2013, a large supermarket chain ran an advertisement with the slogan, “To Be an Israeli.” The Keshet TV concessionaire simultaneously ran a series of reports in the program People under the headline – you guessed it, “To Be an Israeli.” In one of the People segments a store manager was asked to talk about what being an Israeli meant to her. In the background was a supermarket, with the logo plainly visible. It took Regev four months to answer the very reasoned complaint of Nili Ben-Gigi, the former executive director of IMW. The eventual answer? Defense of the concessionaire and full denial that there was any commercial content purposely included in the People segment.

Regev is proud of his increasing outreach to NGOs. This is rather interesting; he is so proud that he does not mention even once in his report the hard work of Israel’s Media Watch in pointing out the violations of the concessionaires and the Channel 2 news company when it comes to covert advertisement.

The SATR, on the other hand, did pick this up. On October 27, 2013, SATR ’s director general wrote that this practice is unacceptable as it is against the law, which clearly states that the concessionaire is not permitted to use the airwaves to further his own goals. Regev, who was repeatedly asked to intervene, did not.

Regev also did not mention his ongoing attempt to put us down by preventing the public from placing its complaints through our website. In 2012, IMW received 242 complaints regarding the SATR from the public. Regev answered 159 of them. In 2013, only 151 complaints were submitted and Regev answered only 50. Regev repeatedly stated that he will respond only to complainants and is not willing to accept anything sent to him by a third party. This practice breaks an explicit promise given by his predecessor in the Knesset, but Regev does not care and he has the backing of SATR’s legal adviser.

Is Regev really open to the public as he claims? Complaints sent through IMW get publicized, along with the names of the people involved as well as the sometimes ludicrous answers of Regev and his associates.

Instead of realizing that publicity and openness is at the heart of his job, Regev seems to be fearful of valid and embarrassing complaints directed at his journalist friends. His colleagues, the complaints commissioners of the IBA and the army radio station differ with him, and are open.

Perhaps Regev can be made really accountable to the public?

^

August 28, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: Accountability? Not in Israel

Posted in Media at 9:18 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: Accountability? Not in Israel

by YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK, 27/08/2014

Personal foibles, ideological, economic policies are regularly attacked, yet our media is mostly derelict when it comes to holding politicians accountable.

Almost three decades ago, one of us (YM) was involved in initiating legislation that would make the publication of a party’s platform a mandatory part of the election process for representation in the Knesset. The justification for such a law has now been echoed in a July 22 Vancouver Sun op-ed (“Can we hold politicians accountable?”) by Brian Fixter.

Fixter, a professor of law at Douglas College in British Columbia, was asked in his contract law class: “Can we ever successfully sue a politician for a broken promise?” and realized that the electorate really has not “enough measures in place to hold politicians accountable for election promises.”

Fixter opined that the promises of politicians should be considered contractual.

Unilaterally changing the terms should be considered a breach of contract with commensurate results.

In England some two years ago, the TheyMadeaPromise.com website was launched, designed to document and monitor promises made by elected officials worldwide.

The mission of the website is “to make politics and politicians more accountable.”

Election promise details are checked for accuracy against publicly available data and then published. Upon the deadline by which the promise was to have been kept, readers will be invited to vote on whether the promise has been kept, broken, or whether a compromise has been reached (due to objective circumstances and obstacles) and then it is “flagged” accordingly.

If a particularly important promise is broken, they will either launch a petition or assure that the data receives the attention it should in an upcoming election campaign.

Here in Israel, we know that our media can be ferocious in its criticism of government.

Personal foibles as well as ideological and economic policies are regularly attacked, held up to ridicule or worse. Yet our media is mostly derelict when it comes to holding politicians accountable for their election promises.

Prime minister Yitzhak Rabin promised in his 1992 election campaign that, “Whoever even contemplates withdrawal from the Golan Heights would be abandoning Israel’s security.” A couple of years later, he promised the Clinton administration that he would be willing to withdraw completely from the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace agreement.

The opposition at that time, led by present Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, repeatedly reminded Rabin that he had promised the opposite – but the media did not do so. The attitude was, as was later also repeated by prime minister Ariel Sharon, that “what you see from there you don’t see from here [the prime minister’s seat].” The media swallowed this poor excuse and did not consider that part of its duty was, and is, to serve the public, the media consumers, by constantly questioning all elected officials, from the government as well as the opposition, when they backtrack on commitments they make.

One of course should be careful in making sweeping generalizations; there are a few journalists who have actually done the job of looking up past statements and comparing them with actions. One of them is Channel 2 news reporter and commentator Amit Segal. On July 17 he summarized the Likud’s promises.

Ehud Olmert was prime minister during Operation Cast Lead six years ago. At that time, Netanyahu, during a visit to the communities neighboring the Gaza Strip, proclaimed: “What should be done? In the long run there is no alternative but to eradicate the Hamas rule.” This is quite different from Netanyahu’s approach with Operation Protective Edge, which was at the outset that “quiet will be answered with quiet.”

During the 2009 election campaign, candidate Netanyahu claimed that if in power he would bring about the collapse of Hamas rule. (A video of these election campaign statements may be found on the Globes website.) Today, the most that Netanyahu will state is that following a cease-fire Israel will demand that Hamas disarm.

Segal also calls Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to task. He, too, used strong words during the 2009 campaign: “When we will govern we will discuss annihilating terror and overthrowing Hamas. If you sum up the Cast Lead operation you may say that the soldiers won and the politicians lost.”

Former president Shimon Peres also does not win too many points. A week before the withdrawal from the Gaza strip, Netanyahu warned that the disengagement could lead to having rockets hit Ashkelon. Peres’ public response was: “Stop the warmongering, stop talking nonsense.”

The call for journalists to straighten out the record is not limited to right-of-center politicians. Take Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, presently heading the Hatnua party, for example.

As noted in the ALMonitor website, in the spring of 2011, when the first attempt was made for a joint Hamas-PLO government in Gaza, it was Livni who headed the opposition.

Netanyahu was prime minister. Livni attacked Netanyahu for not “making progress” in the peace process.

“To get support in the world is not only to go from country to country and tell them off that they are hypocrites and that we suffer from terror. The question is how does one create the hope that Israel is a real partner for a negotiating process which will end the conflict in the Middle East.”

As a member of the government and the cabinet, however, Livni meekly voted for the decision to impose sanctions on the Abbas regime in response to its decision to from a joint government with Hamas.

As stated a long time ago by our sages, exceptions reflect the rule, which in this case is that the media does not demand accountability from our politicians. Prime Minister Netanyahu has appeared (finally) at a few press conferences and allowed some questioning. Not one of our reporters dared challenge him, or Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, by reminding them of their previous statements. Ya’alon repeatedly stated that Hamas was defeated, when in fact it continues to shoot rockets at Israel, kill and maim Israelis and force thousands of residents to flee from their homes.

The IBA’s Carmela Menashe faithfully parrots all the info she is supplied by the defense minister and his aides. Menashe, a recipient of too many prizes for her “journalistic excellence,” is not capable of presenting her audience with an objective check of the reliability of the statements coming out of the ministry.

Representatives of the government are interviewed on radio and TV. The normal procedure in Israel is to ask their opinion, impolitely argue with them, even shut them up when needed – but hardly ever to confront them with their previous positions and demand an explanation for their broken promises.

Why? There are two options. The first is that looking up past remarks and making sure the citations are correct requires effort, and who wants to do homework? The second has to do with the media themselves. Whoever demands accountability from others should be accountable themselves, and as documented repeatedly in this column our media does not want to be accountable to anyone.

^

August 21, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The Public Broadcasting Corporation

Posted in Media tagged , at 10:07 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The Public Broadcasting Corporation

By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK, 20/08/2014

Here in Israel, the IBA will stop existing in April, 2015, it will be replaced by a new entity, the Public Broadcasting Corporation.

A public broadcasting corporation came under attack at the end of June. A minister termed its coverage on an economic issue “relentless[ly] negative,” accused the network of being a “bigger opponent” to the government than the opposition and claimed that the news it was broadcasting “appears to consistently rely on a narrow band of commentators who are overwhelmingly negative.”

No, not the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), but rather England’s BBC.

The criticism was from Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith.

In attempting to fend off a funding reform regarding license fees in the UK, the BBC director general Lord Hall has said, “What you get back from that [fee] is a broadcasting ecology that is the envy of the world.”

Here in Israel, the IBA will stop existing on April Fool’s Day, 2015. It will be replaced by a new entity, the Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBC).

Communication Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) steamrolled the new legislation through the Knesset. The law with its 146 paragraphs was voted on in the midst of Operation Protective Edge. It passed by a large margin, supported both by the coalition and many members of the opposition.

The law stipulates an interim period during which the IBA will continue its operations under the direction of a receiver, Professor David Hahn from the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University. Hahn is the administrator-general and official receiver of the State of Israel. His academic expertise is in bankruptcy law.

His first step, on August 11, was to fire both the present chair of the IBA, Dr. Amir Gilat, and the director-general, Yoni Ben-Menachem, in one fell swoop. To assure that he would be able to oversee all the legal aspects of the receivership, he is employing the legal office of Yigal Arnon, one of the leading firms in Israel, employing over 100 lawyers. Their fees are not cheap (close to NIS 600 per hour including VAT). In this context, it is of interest to note that after finishing his law degree, Professor Hahn was a law clerk in… the Arnon firm.

Hahn’s job is big and expensive, not even counting legal fees. The PBC legislation stipulates that any lack of funds will be covered by the Finance Ministry. In other words, although beginning in 2016 we all will no longer have to pay the TV tax, the missing funds will still come from our tax money. The notion that the TV tax was abolished sells well, but in reality, there is good reason to believe that the cost to the taxpayer during the coming two years will be much higher.

The need to close down the IBA was urgent. During the past two years it had reached new depths of dysfunctional bureaucratic behavior. The public feud between IBA chair Gilat and director-general Ben-Menachem completely paralyzed the IBA. Instead of using their mandate to thoroughly reform the IBA, to stop its one-sided post-Zionist broadcasting, to introduce pluralism and to streamline its operations, the two battled each other to keep their turf. The end was well deserved as both lost their positions.

But the true loser is the public. The new PBC has some good points to it. The line of responsibility is clarified as now the PBC’s board appoints the director-general. The legal adviser can serve for only one term of seven years. The educational television station will terminate its independent operations and will be absorbed within the PBC. The PBC’s income will be from two main sources, namely the car tax and the other from advertisements. We take credit for this for already on April 13, 2003, we advocated in this paper that the TV tax be abolished and replaced by the car radio fee. For the past 10 years, we at Israel’s Media Watch have repeatedly pushed for this legislation, in meetings with ministers, MKs, high-level public servants, and in numerous articles in the papers, on radio and TV interviews, in position papers, Knesset debates and any other possible avenue. It is gratifying to see that our point of view has been accepted.

Indeed, the final form of the PBC legislation reflects many additional suggestions we made. The Landes commission which formulated the original version of the law did not consider it necessary to include in it any reference to the Jewish and Zionist character of the State of Israel as did the original Broadcasting Law. Our efforts led to deep changes of paragraph seven of the law, which delineates the PBC’s goals. These now stipulate that “the content of the PBC will reflect the fact that the State of Israel is a Jewish and Democratic state, its values and the Jewish Heritage.” It also stipulates that the PBC will foster and promote the Hebrew language.

Yet there is so much missing. For example, in contrast to the IBA, the PBC must no longer foster contact with the Jewish Diaspora. Its governing body is composed mainly of bureaucrats and there is no real representation of the public. There is very little in the way of foresight in the legislation.

Anyone familiar with the development of modern technology realizes that it will take no more than five years before the PBC and the army radio station lose their monopoly on national broadcasting.

Today, most consumers listen to FM radio. However, the cellular phone already provides almost limitless access to the Internet. This means that within a short time, we all, even in our cars, will no longer need the expensive analog FM broadcasts but instead get everything through the Internet. This implies, in turn, that not only virtually anyone will be able to broadcast, it will all be in the same location on our receivers. There will be no need to switch from one wavelength to the other. In such a market the PBC will have to compete, and it won’t be easy.

The PBC legislation does not provide any answer, although we raised this issue during the Knesset deliberations.

Perhaps though, the most damning and worrisome aspect of the PBC is its very name: “Israel” has disappeared from it. We no longer have an Israel Broadcasting Authority, but a Public Broadcasting Corporation. The Knesset committee, with Minister Erdan’s support, voted against inclusion of the word Israel in the new entity’s name. This more than anything else symbolizes the new spirit.

In essence, Israel’s public has lost its public broadcast corporation, which has in turn lost its Israeli identity. The new PBC does not bring with it an inspiring message. At this point, chances are that it will not contribute positively to Israel’s cultural and national environment. Israel’s public broadcasting has lost its Zionist soul.

^

August 15, 2014

MEDIA COMMENT: The vacuum of critique

Posted in Media tagged , , , at 1:17 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The vacuum of critique

by YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK, 14/08/2014

In 2005, Israel’s media was largely exuberant about the upcoming unilateral retreat, for Sharon was implementing one of its dreams: the end of part of the “occupation”

Nine years ago Israel “disengaged” from the Gaza Strip. Most of Israel was mesmerized and many applauded the act. The pundits who appeared in the media repeatedly explained that leaving Gaza would lead to significant gains for Israel on the international front as well as on the security front, and their words seemed to influence public opinion.

Amnon Abramovitch, the irresponsible commentator and evangelist of Channel 2 news, coined the term “etrog” in reference to prime minister Ariel Sharon. In using it, he sought to instruct his fellow media personalities to safeguard Sharon from criticism, so that he could carry out the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Israel’s media was largely exuberant about the upcoming unilateral retreat, for Sharon was implementing one of its dreams: the end of part of the “occupation” and an end to responsibility for over a million residents in that stretch of territory.

Today, we all know that the withdrawal was disastrous. Sharon, who promised then-chairman of the Knesset Foreign and Defense Committee that he would not leave the Philadelphi corridor separating Rafah from Egypt for a period of nine months after the act, was too weak to even keep this promise. He could not withstand the pressure of president George Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. Shortly afterwards Hamas came to power in Gaza, and the rest is history.

Is this important? Are there lessons to be learned from this sad chapter in Israel’s history? Is there a thread leading from the withdrawal to our present precarious and dangerous situation? Listening to and observing the Israeli media today, one might even conclude that there never was a disengagement. The same “experts” whose predictions were so wrong nine years ago continue to try and brainwash us today. The media largely does not ask the tough questions. Dov Weissglass, arguably the brain behind Sharon’s actions as his bureau chief, and the one who disparagingly referred to the Kassam rockets fired at us as “flying objects” does not, even today, admit any error. Worse, he has the audacity to continue and try to tell us what we should be doing.

Weissglass, in an article in Yediot Aharonot on July 29, called for the resumption of talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, this being his way to improve the situation in Gaza. As rightly noted by General (res.) Ya’akov Amidror in an article in Israel Hayom this Sunday, Weissglass did not even have the decency to admit his mistakes in the past. The word “humility” is not part of Weissglass’ vocabulary.

But the real question is not about Weissglass.

Rare is the politician who will admit errors. No, the real question is where is Yediot Aharonot? Sure, freedom of speech allows Weissglass to pontificate, but would Yediot give space in its business pages to an executive who drove his company into bankruptcy? Would it consider it wise to allow such a person to provide the public with his sagacious advice? And it isn’t only Yediot. Weissglass also appeared on Channel 10’s London and Kirschenbaum show on July 22 in a debate on whether the disengagement was responsible for Operation Protective Edge, where he followed the same script.

There were some serious journalists that were responsible enough to relate to this sad chapter of our history in the context of the current operation in Gaza. Shai Levy, on Channel 2’s Mako website, recounted the history of Gaza during the past 10 years, noting clearly how the withdrawal led directly to the confrontations with the Gaza terrorists. Ran Baratz, on the Mida website, recalled another icon of our media, Haaretz’s Nechemia Strassler, who ridiculed Binyamin Netanyahu for his resignation from Sharon’s government prior to the withdrawal.

So wrote Strassler at the time: “On the very day [of his resignation] he provided the public with horror scenarios: ‘An Islamic terror base is being formed in Gaza; Hamas is growing strong.’ He [Netanyahu] became even more extreme: ‘rockets will be launched toward Israel from terror bases which we are allowing the Islamists to establish.’ Tomorrow there’ll be an apocalypse.”

Strassler, we should add, continues to be allowed to publish his worthless tripe in Haaretz. He is often invited by the Internet media to comment, and yet no one dares ask him why anyone should take his opinions seriously.

On August 5, Shlomo Angel rightly noted in an article in Ynet that, “The wind supporting the disengagement has turned into a deadly hurricane whose climax is the present Operation Protective Edge. So, why has this discussion been muted?” Back in May 2, 2004, Shaul Mofaz, then defense minister, asked by Yediot Aharonot about disengagement, replied, “I am convinced, as opposed to all those who see black, that in reality, there will be less terror from Gaza. The Gaza Strip will not be Lebanon.”

Yet Mofaz is still taken seriously by the media.

One of the few reporters who did make it their business to report on the connection of the withdrawal to the present is Amit Segal from Channel 2 news. He provided in-depth coverage during Operation Pillar of Defense two years ago, and repeated it during the present war. On August 3, he riddled with holes the “quiet for quiet” platitudes of our politicians, showing based on history that each period of “quiet” was preceded and followed by massive military aggression against Israel.

He also had a clip on Channel 2 reviewing the various promises of politicians of a brighter future, pronouncement which today sound ludicrous.

His father, Hagai Segal, the present editor of the Makor Rishon newspaper, used his weekly column to raise the disengagement issue. Both he and General Amidror showed that the claim that the withdrawal actually reduced the number of Israel casualties belongs at best to Israeli mythology.

These voices, however, were the exception.

When Amos Oz or A.B. Yehoshua write an op-ed article in Haaretz, it is considered to be so important that the various anchors, such as Arieh Golan of Kol Israel, Ilana Dayan of Channel 2 and Razi Barkai of Galei Zahal take pains to read the articles on their programs, interview people and discuss them. When Gideon Levy articulates his irrational world view, the media has a ball. He is invited to explain his views in greater detail, others to refute, and Levy and Haaretz have once again set the media’s agenda.

Yet articles written by noted and respected journalists attempting to raise the very serious issue of the present war in the context of the withdrawal from Gaza are largely ignored. If the events prior to prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination are to be recalled annually to give that tragic event context, surely in discussions of the current reality in the Gaza Strip the disengagement should be recalled, too.

After so many military operations, including Summer Rains (2006), Hot Winter (2008), Cast Lead (2008-2009) and Pillar of Defense (2012) the media should devote more attention and airtime to reviewing the trustworthiness of its celebrities.

The related question of whether the public can trust the media is a central element in current events. In fact, it’s big part of the story.

^

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