January 18, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Suggestive Journalism

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:33 pm by yisraelmedad

Suggestive Journalism
Journalism can be simply a business, egging on its subjects so that it can make money, or fame, out of the resulting developments.
At last week’s Golden Globes Awards ceremony, Oprah Winfrey noted a phrase heard repeatedly this past year: “We know the press is under siege these days.” Of course, that should work both ways; politicians in multiple countries also feel besieged.

The real difference between the two groups is that the media a priori assume that it is only the siege they feel threatened by which is the evil one.

They claim that it’s the job of the press to be the “watchdog of the people,” so any criticism against them is illegitimate. The latent suggestion is that morality and ethics are possessed solely by journalists, editors and owners of newspapers, radio stations and broadcast studios. In contrast, the politician is considered guilty until the press declares otherwise.

Usually, the adjective “suggestive” implies more often than not something sexual and/ or indecent. We, however, wish to apply the term to a category of unethical journalism.

Suggestopedia is a holistic model of learning and teaching developed in 1978 by Bulgarian psychiatrist and educator Dr. Georgi Lozanov. He intended it in the sense that positive suggestion would make the learner more receptive and, in turn, stimulate learning.

A relaxed but focused state is the best learning environment. To create this relaxed state in the student and to promote positive suggestion, suggestopedia makes use of music, a comfortable and relaxing environment, almost a memorization séance.

In the media, music is replaced by noise.

Media noise is created in many different ways.

A prime example is the leaked-for-money audio tapes of the probably inebriated “me Rambo” ramblings of Yair Netanyahu, son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He offered to fix up his friend with his then-girlfriend to pay off his debts, threatened to murder the bodyguard and bragged that his dad had just arranged for his friend’s dad a $20 billion oil-field deal.

We need go no further than to Janet Aviad’s letter to the editor published Wednesday a week ago in Haaretz. Dr. Aviad, a founding member of Peace Now, who cannot be suspected of being a Netanyahu supporter, was appalled by the airing of the tape and the subsequent newspaper tom-tomming of its contents. This was “unfit to print,” she wrote, adding, “shame on the media… you are losing your credibility.”

Why was it that the media avoided the real news item in this affair? The media, which poses as in principle anti-government, or at least extremely suspicious of it, claims that it is the institution that is able to stand up to power and speak the truth, or report it. Any truly professional and ethical editor would have been interested more in the following questions: did a Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) agent record Yair? And if so, did he do it legally? Does the Shin Bet have other tapes? And more importantly, if yes, where are they and are they to be used as a future “deep government” blackmailing sting? This is the true story, not the silly ramblings of a drunken young man.

US President Donald Trump’s announcement that UNRWA, which funds Gaza’s “refugees”, might not be receiving American donations as it did previously made some news here. But where have the mainstream media been for the past decade and more? The careful research of especially David Bedein regarding educational materials from schoolbooks as well as video clips of UNRWA “teachers” who are poisoning the minds of Gazan children have not merited media coverage commensurate with its news value.

To be sure, pictures of Hamas-run summer camps which engage in military-style training of future terrorists have received broad exposure. The link, however, between UNRWA and the Gaza reality has remained at best in the background. The only exceptions came when UNRWA installations were damaged by Israel counter-terrorism strikes and even then, the issue of cessation of funding was not mentioned. This was but another example of the media suppressing an important issue.

On December 28, the media informed us that 63 teenagers, on the eve of their induction into the IDF, signed a letter in which they asserted that “the military carries out a racist government policy that violates basic human rights…We therefore have decided not to participate in the occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.”

Many similar letters have been published over the years, starting with the 1970 “Shministim” (high school seniors) letter expressing the same ideological position.

This recent letter merited coverage in all the media. A letter signed by 1,500 youths and addressed to Prime Minister Netanyahu asking that he not permit the planned destruction of houses in the community of Netiv Ha’avot was also sent this past week. Did it garner publicity? Not really, and certainly not in any proportion to the left-wing letter.

In late November, reservist comrades of a soldier who lives in Netiv Ha’avot and whose carpentry was then to be destroyed signed a letter of support. That, to be fair, did make it into some news sites.

But the media’s selectivity in creating the agenda in these cases basically suggested to the media consumer that the opposition to “occupation” is more prevalent and important than support for Jews residing in Judea and Samaria. This is but another example of unethical, suggestive journalism.

George Monbiot, in his Guardian column of January 10, writes “that a healthy media organization, like a healthy university, should admit a diversity of opinion… should also seek opposing views and publish them too, however uncomfortable this might be…newspapers that claim to be so incensed about no-platforming are not above seeking to deny people a platform.”

This viewpoint is not prevalent within the Israeli media.

In an article we referred to at the time, titled “The unbearable smugness of the press” and published on November 10, 2016, on the CBS News site, Will Rahn, politics editor for CBS News Digital, lashed out at the media behavior we observe in Israel: “There’s a place for opinionated journalism; in fact, it’s vital. But our casual, profession-wide smugness and protestations of superiority are making us unable to do it well.”

We opened with Oprah Winfrey and we’ll conclude with her.

Last Wednesday, Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde, an associate professor at the University of Georgia, published his thoughts on Winfrey’s media-driven candidacy for office in the Guardian. He noted how it had “become the dominant narrative in the media, which function as the megaphone of the most radical politicians, while ignoring the fewer and fewer remaining moderates.”

He pointed a finger at journalists who “want loud and outspoken politicians of ‘opposite camps’ [and at] the same time, they will decry this [polarization], dismiss politicians, and fan the interest in political outsiders who can ‘save’ the system.”

That, too, is suggestive journalism at work.

And it resonates with the biblical story in 2 Samuel 2:14, when Avner says to Yoav, “Let the young men arise and compete before us.”

Journalism can also be simply a business, egging on its subjects so that it can make money, or fame, out of the resulting developments. It should not try to claim the moral high ground.



January 4, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Still impotent

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:03 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Still impotent
Our sages always admonished us: “Wise people, be careful with your words.” But there is some distance between expressing yourself strongly and being suspended.
It is a government’s duty to rule for the benefit of its citizens. Elected officials should be making the important decisions that affect our everyday life.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in Israel. Our government in certain areas is impotent, or at least seems to be. Consider the saga of TV Channel 20, which we have commented on more than once in this column.

The channel received a license to broadcast only via cable and satellite TV. This means that the channel is subject to the whims of the regulator, the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Commission (CSBC). The original license limited its broadcasts to Jewish programming. To survive, the channel knew that it must provide a broader spectrum of programs. Subsequently, in 2014 it received in principle the right to broadcast news, but in limited form. This was re-certified in 2016, but not implemented formally by the regulator.

In fact, Dr. Yifat Ben-Chai Segev, the CSBC’s chairperson, seems to be having the time of her life bullying the channel and forcing it into a Kafkaesque existence. At least this seems to be the conclusion of a recent Ma’ariv article by Kalman Liebskind, who also has a job at Channel 20. He described how Segev uses almost every opportunity to fine the channel. For example, it was fined for broadcasting too many news programs. It was fined for not giving the Reform movement sufficient attention. It was fined for violating the ethics code in a satirical program.

And the list goes on.

We all know that there is nothing original here.

Such violations were and are bread and butter for channels 2, 10 and 11. Satire in Israel is a holy cow – all the ombudsmen always defend it, claiming that even the sharpest satire is sacred – hallowed by the principle of freedom of speech. Only when the satire comes from the Right does it become unethical and do the fines fly.

Given the unflinching, firm character of the regulator toward the channel, it is facing closure. It cannot make ends meet by broadcasting religious rituals from Reform temples or by allowing the head of the Conservative movement in Israel to make speeches to fill the quota of programs demanded of it as per CSBC requirements. To survive, it must broadcast content which interests viewers. This includes news programs, satire, sports, general culture and much more. But the regulator nixes it all.

Ergo, closure.

Left-wing journalist Uzi Benziman wrote a scathing piece against the channel on the 7th Eye Internet media review site. He compared it to the settlement movement. The latter, he asserted, used any means to further its goals. It would receive a permit for an archaeological dig and lo and behold! The dig turns into a new town. Similarly, according to his perverted thinking Channel 20 took a license for Jewish broadcasting but never really considered for a minute that this was its goal. It used the license to create facts on the ground, Benziman wrote, and become a right-wing broadcaster which would compete with channels 2, 10 and 11.

Benziman suffers from amnesia, it seems. It was TV Channel 10 that committed itself to financial terms which it never intended to fulfil. The channel owed the government a billion shekels. But everyone (except for us), including Benziman, defended that channel and declared that the government must prevent its closure.

There is only a small difference between channels 10 and 20. The former is left-oriented while the latter is right-wing. Right-wing media organs seemingly do not have a right to exist, they should be closed, as in the case of the Arutz 7 radio station.

Left-wing organs, on the other hand, are the essence of democracy and must be supported even when they blatantly violate their legal obligations.

There is a fine thread connecting the crisis at Channel 20 and the recent Irit Linor soap opera.

President Reuven Rivlin was in the eye of a storm over what was apparently his call to the public to protest publicly against the corruption which supposedly typifies the present government. In truth, as also testified to by Makor Rishon correspondent Orly Goldklang this past Friday, his statement was misinterpreted and taken out of context. Given the public protest, Rivlin reiterated that he was not calling upon the public to demonstrate against a specific agenda.

But Linor, who works for the army radio station Galatz, and also Channel 20, reacted to the story Wednesday a week ago by castigating Rivlin. She said on air: “I will tell you what is intolerable, Mr. President. You are not a political player and when you were in politics you were a failure. The best you could do is become a minor minister. As a president and a symbol of Israel you call upon the citizens to go to the streets? For what? You are an insolent piece of work. Who are you? There are elections. Ruby Rivlin did not succeed to see the successful side of elections since he is such a failure. You should be ashamed.”

The reaction was swift. Shimon Alkabetz, the new officer in charge of the army radio station, suspended her for a week without even giving her a chance to apologize or explain. There was a public outcry.

Even the left-wing Citizens Rights Movement called upon Alkabetz to rethink the suspension, to no avail.

For sure, Linor’s words were sharp. Our sages always admonished us: “Wise people, be careful with your words.” But there is some distance between expressing yourself strongly and being suspended.

Linor, the recipient of the Israeli Media Criticism Prize in 2002, admitted that she should not have used such strong words, but so what? She attacked Rivlin from the Right, and the Right, as we know, does not have freedom of expression. After all, when it attempts to exercise that right it is invariably portrayed as obstructing the liberal left-wing democracy which is, the media tells us, so essential for this country.

Is this the first time a high official in Israel was publicly and fiercely criticized? Of course not. The prime minister is daily ostracized. On January 12, 2016, for example, TV Channel 2 “celeb” Amnon Abramovitch equated Netanyahu to North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un. Relating to primaries within the Likud which had only one candidate for prime minister, he noted: “You know this does not exist in any country, except maybe North Korea. This is Kim Jong Bibi, very strange.”

Did any official even dare say a word to Abramovitch? Of course not, for he belongs to the “enlightened” camp, along with Yair “mezuzah kissers” Garboz and others.

The conclusion? Democracy is but a one-way liberal street. Israel’s conservative camp remains unable to counter the unelected demagogues of the Left. If it could, Channel 20 would be the most popular TV channel in Israel and Abramovitch and his followers would be has-beens.


December 23, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Trump, Jerusalem and ‘hidden news’

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:02 pm by yisraelmedad

Trump, Jerusalem and ‘hidden news’
European responses to Trump’s Jerusalem announcement have not been taken in kind.
US President Donald Trump’s policy announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was and is a milestone in the history of Jerusalem. With two weeks’ hindsight it is evident that the city has not only been recognized as a capital but that its deep link to the Jewish people has also been acknowledged. The US veto in the United Nations this week was not only a resounding reconfirmation of the policy, but evidence of the strong antipathy toward not only Israel but also the United States at the UN. As US United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley reiterated, no other country would tolerate a dictate concerning where it puts its embassies.

That the Arab nations, including Egypt, would try to roll back the American position is a given. Islam cannot accept that Jerusalem is ruled by infidels. But what about Europe? Why are countries like France, Germany and Great Britain going so far as to demand and vote for retraction? The easy answer is that the “old” Europe is rearing its head, but that is too easy.

Most of us know and are friends with many Europeans who we know are not antisemites, yet they too believe that the US has gone too far by creating unilateral facts rather than allowing the two sides to negotiate a result.

The irrational European opinion that the only solution to the Middle East problem is the so-called two-state solution underlies Europe’s actions.

Not only the leaders of those countries, but also the citizens of those countries believe that the Palestinian people have a right to exist as an independent nation. The ongoing Israeli occupation is in their eyes immoral and this includes the city of Jerusalem, where Israel has unilaterally created facts on the ground.

There are many good, rational and convincing answers to this ill-informed and unrealistic attitude, but they do not come to the forefront. A major player in this struggle is the media, which in Europe sides clearly with the Palestinian Authority. This attitude became apparent during the past two weeks.

For example, the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) outdid itself in bashing Trump and Israel. The following is a partial list of headlines: On December 7, Jochen Stahnke’s article was titled “The Right of the Mighty” and the subtitle was “Two states for two people? With his decision … Trump has only strengthened the radicals.”

On the same day an op-ed article by Atef Abu Saif was titled “We no longer believe in peace.” On December 8 Frauke Steffens writes “The Dealmaker does not have the political concept” and she continues, “Trump’s decision endangers America’s role in the region.”

We could find not one article on the website that provided a balancing opinion.

The Swiss Neue Zueriche Zeitung on December 15 had an article by Martin Zahringer with the lead: “The West Jordanland is a powder keg and the one-sided recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel is a political fuse. This conclusion must be reached also by a political layperson when reading 26 reports, essays and travel descriptions under the title ‘Olives and Ashes’ from authors from all over the world.”

It goes without saying that the rest of the article is written in this spirit with no attempt at all to be fair handed and consider that to any dispute there are two sides.

An editorial in Austria’s Die Presse was titled “Days of Folly.” It opened with: “The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a statement of fact. But it also ignores a people’s right of self-determination and creates a completely unnecessary provocation.”

This style of unbalanced writing is not limited to the major newspapers. Smaller, more regional ones do the same.

Elisabeth Hausen’s review of the media in the PRO Christian Media Magazine on December 7 concluded that “German-language media against Trump’s Jerusalem decision.”

The situation in Britain is not much different.

The Guardian’s December 7 headline was “Defiant Donald Trump confirms US will recognize Jerusalem.” Why defiant? Who is he defying? The Guardian? But at least the Guardian did publish some defense of the decision on December 8, with an article headlined “Differing views on Jerusalem as a capital.”

It read in part, “Palestinian claims to Jerusalem as their capital have no basis in fact or history, says Joshua Rowe. Trump and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu know the west’s response is all wind and fury, says Christopher Sterling. It’s hard to argue with Israel’s assertion that Trump is simply acknowledging the reality, says Leon Rosselson.”

But note that the Guardian took it for granted that the reader would understand that these responses differ from the mainstream.

The Telegraph was not better. Its headline on December 9 was “Trump’s decision on Jerusalem shatters the Palestinian old guard.”

On December 7 it was “Saudi Arabia blasts Donald Trump’s shift on Jerusalem.”

If one reads though the Israeli newspapers or listens to the Israeli media, one would not know about this at all. Our media does not make it a habit to round up international response to happenings in the Middle East.

Is it because this does not interest the average Israeli? We doubt it. Most Israelis are aware that the State of Israel is not accepted worldwide, but do not know or understand the extent. Not for lack of interest but lack of knowledge of languages and lack of time to browse through the various media outlets.

But more damning, if more Israelis were aware of the specifics, they would do something about it. We have Zionist journalists and they would respond with their op-ed articles which would reach the international papers and provide some balance. The foreign media in Israel is sensitive to professional criticism, but instead of providing the balance, at best, outlets such as Haaretz simply pour oil into the fire. Zvi Hauser, former Israeli government secretary, tweeted on December 7: “nine measures of character went into print last night in Haaretz. Not one spoke positively about Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

It is not only the media which is responsible for the disaster. As we wrote many times in this column, our Foreign Ministry is incompetent. It sends out ambassadors to countries even though they do not speak the local language. How can they defend Israel? They are too often not even aware as to what is written against us. But our media is also to blame.

We have many programs which purport to expose shortcomings of government. Nary a one of them has taken the Foreign Ministry to task. When deputy minister Tzipi Hotovely made a remark about American Jews, it was plastered all over. The meetings of Supreme Court justices with reporters filled our headlines this week, but no one asks how many reporters were wined and dined by Israel’s representatives in Europe.

To our mind the damage done to Israel by the inaction and incompetence of the Foreign Ministry is a strategic threat to Israel’s future. But our media is complacent and ignores this threat. All of us pay the price, even the president of the United States.


December 7, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: The Israeli media is unpopular because it is biased

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:33 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The Israeli media is unpopular because it is biased
The media in Israel is not very popular.
It has been suggested that the instinct to share information is matched by the instinct to prevent it from spreading. We would add that there is another instinct, which is to spin the information, shape it, frame it and present it in a way that benefits someone or something in that information chain. In a word, bias.

And an additional corollary is that the more the bias stems from the ideological and political sphere, knowingly and even sub-consciously, the more cunning, guileful, artful and devious that bias will be.

For example, an early tweet from Times of Israel journalist Dov Lieber on the incident last Thursday when Jewish children hiking were stoned, beaten and had possessions stolen near the Arab village of Kutzra near Shiloh, read, “48-year-old palestinian [SIC] shot dead by an Israeli… army said the Palestinians were throwing rocks at ‘hikers,’ and one responded with gunfire.” He was queried about the quotation marks and replied, “At the time it wasn’t clear who was there. Army said hikers. Simple.”

But is it? 

Of all the words he chose to bracket in scare quotes, why hikers? He could have selected others, such as shot, or throwing rocks, responded or even dead. Why the use of what’s known as scare quotes?

Scare, or sneer, quotes have become increasingly employed by journalists and bloggers, as Megan Garber wrote a year ago in The Atlantic, “to make clear that [the word bracketed] is not just a term of discussion, but a term of contention… indications of words that are doubted… They signal irony, and uncertainty. They suggest words that don’t quite mean what they claim to.”

If media people insist on inserting themselves into the news, or their own views and values, eliminating objectivity, it may come about that someday, journalists will find their own names bracketed in scare quotes.

An extreme form of bias is to pressure a friendly legislator to attempt to ban a rival publication.

As reported on November 27, MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) was asked whether he was wrong to have attempted to pass the anti-Israel Hayom bill several years ago. His reply was that “today I know that I was wrong in how I led this effort… but the decisions were made on the move; in retrospect, it was wrong to engage this matter through legislation.”

Was the shutting down of Arutz 7 over a decade ago also the result of some MKs being “on the move”?

SATIRE IS a form of media comment which openly permits those participating to drop any sense of neutrality. Is this ethical? Not if the program is presented by a public broadcaster, without balance. If satire is one-sided, bias dominates.

The Kan network airs the Ad Kan! (No Farther) political satire program whose host, Michael Hanegbi, is afforded a special introductory slot to let the world share his wisdom, in addition to being able to shape and limit the other six panelists, who appear to be fairly representative voices.

Early last week, one of Hanegbi’s monologues touched on the very annoying Peleg group demonstrations. Representing a fraction of the general haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community, and forcefully reprimanded by leading rabbis, the group has been campaigning against any cooperation with the IDF, even to obtain draft deferments. But this allowed a swipe at all haredim. Here is how his remarks went: • On one thing we can all agree on: the haredim are kakot (turds).

• The haredim really aren’t kakot, they are simply different and took themselves out of democratic society and formed for themselves a society that contributes just to and for itself.

• Okay, they’re a bit crappy, but that’s okay.

Hanegbi zeroed in on a small group and then, pardon the pun, smeared all of the haredim.

Another spin tool is to redo history, the “old news” that few can recall.

We do not have the space to review in depth all the Haaretz coverage of this year’s centenary of the Balfour Declaration, but some of it exuded utter contempt for Zionism. One op-ed bemoaned “the racism of the British government 100 years ago, which disturbingly, continues to reverberate in the conflict to this day” and claimed that “the Cabinet had no intention of giving Judea to the Jews.”

Other articles this year were entitled “The Curse of the Balfour Declaration,” “Balfour Declaration Wasn’t About Israel,” “Balfour Declaration’s Legacy Is Toxic for Both Israelis and Palestinians,” “Balfour’s Original Sin” and “Britain Facilitated Palestine’s Ethnic Cleansing. Today, Britain’s Celebrating It.”

One, “Britain’s Broken Promises to the Palestinians From Balfour Onwards,” uncritically quotes a Gazan Arab saying: “The Jewish people took their rights after Hitler committed massacres against them.”

Returning to the stoning of the children hikers, a fierce Twitter battle erupted between Channel 2’s Amit Segal, son of Makor Rishon editor Haggai Segal who grew up in the Ofra community in the disputed territory of Binyamin, and Haaretz’s owner and publisher, Amos Schocken.

Angered at the way the English-language Haaretz headline reporting that incident was worded – “Palestinian Shot and Killed by Jewish Settler in the West Bank” – Segal tweeted: “journalistic garbage can.”

Schocken responded: “Liar and propagandist disguised as a journalist.”

Schocken explained there was a bug in the application (?) which translates the Hebrew to English, but Segal showed that the Hebrew version was identical and said, “perhaps the problem is not technical but psychological?” Schocken is active on Twitter. On Nov. 23 this year, he promoted an opinion column by Lior Birger, who is studying for her PhD in social work in the field of immigration and refugees. She asserted that in deporting illegal infiltrators to third-party countries, Israel is placing their lives at risk. She wrote that the “increased removal” policy adopted by the government is “another step in the abusive jailing and deportation of asylum seekers in Israel. For many of those deported it is a death sentence.”

Schocken added his own interpretation: “The murderers in suits: Eli Yishai, Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan, Aryeh Deri, Miri Regev, Ayelet Shaked, Benjamin Netanyahu.” Sa’ar, incidentally, is not a member of the government.

Besides his inciting words, given the rather outspoken nature of the publisher/owner of the newspaper, as documented in previous columns of ours, can there really be freedom of thought in Haaretz’s newsroom? Can a reporter truly feel free to follow up a story or, once entering the building at 9 Schocken Street in south Tel Aviv, must he assume the mindset of the editorial line?

The media in Israel is not very popular. It is regularly characterized as conceited, self-aggrandizing, shallow and not responsive to the public. It is also too often irresponsible.

The biases of our media are a root cause underlying its unpopularity.


November 22, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT:Ethics at Kan?

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:04 pm by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT:Ethics at Kan?
Why does a broadcaster need a code of ethics at all?
The legislation which created the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, which insists on calling itself Kan (which means “here” in English) authorized its board to create a new code of ethics for the public broadcaster. And indeed, quietly, without any public discourse, this is what the IBC did.

But, one might ask, why does a broadcaster need a code of ethics at all? The same question was hurled at Israel’s Council for Higher Education, of which one of us (EP) is a member. The claim in that case was that a code of ethics should not be imposed by the regulator as it encroaches upon the academic freedom of the colleges and universities.

But more seriously, the argument also noted that any university has a disciplinary code.

If it is violated, the university can punish the offender. If a law is violated, such as by sexual harassment, the police would become involved and they would take the necessary steps.

Likewise for the public broadcaster, if an employee does not carry out their job correctly, discipline may result. Although too many of the Kan employees are not considered to be government officials, an arrangement that releases them from the governmental disciplinary code, they still have to abide by the norms of the broadcaster, which are defined by law. Why then do they need a code of ethics? Consider the words uttered just last week in London by The Guardian’s editor Katharine Viner. In a speech on November 16 before staff, members and supporters, she declared, “journalists must work to earn the trust of those they aim to serve. And we must make ourselves more representative of the societies we aim to represent. Members of the media are increasingly drawn from the same, privileged sector of society. This problem has actually worsened in recent decades.”

All too often, however, such words are simply trotted out as a palliative, to calm media consumers who witness constant media bias and are upset at the product they are being served up. The media most rarely apologizes for its infractions and even more rarely punishes miscreants in any way. Perhaps then a code of ethics is useful if it can be enforced and thus increase public trust? Here in Israel, Kan recently ratified its new Code of Professional Ethics, something which in reality is a code of non-ethics.

Unfortunately, over the years the journalists’ code of ethics in Israel has become a joke. No one abides by it, no one takes it seriously and no one is ever punished for violating it.

This is the argument voiced by Dr. Tehilla Shwartz-Altshuler, director of the media reform program at the Israel Institute for Democracy, who was tasked to head the commission responsible for creating the new code of ethics.

Accordingly, as she explained last Friday in an article in Makor Rishon, the new code does not impose objectivity on Kan employees.

Rather, the “new objectivity” is “transparency.”

So any journalist at Kan can use her microphone or his camera to not only express their personal opinion but to try and convince the public they are right. As long as it is transparent that the opinion is a personal one, this would not only be allowed but encouraged.

Did Altshuler, who represents the “Democracy Institute,” ever consider that the journalist is usurping the public domain, or in more stark terms, stealing the public microphone, and being paid out of public funds to do so? Why should the journalists be allowed to use the resources of a public organization to spread their own opinions? In its forward, the new code states that one of the code’s fundamental demands is to prevent conflict of interest or the receipt of personal benefits. Didn’t the “wise people” see how ludicrous it is to allow the expression of private opinion and at the same time demand no conflict of interest? Arieh Golan, the veteran usurper of the public airways, is an excellent example. Consistently, he opens his news program with his personal opinion.

He then interviews someone on the same issue. Can that interview be fair? Altshuler is aware that public trust in the media in Israel is very low. She herself acknowledges it has dropped from 50% 10 years ago to 25% today. She also notes that one of the reasons for the increased public mistrust has to do with an increase in media review (something for which Israel’s Media Watch and the writers of this column take credit for). However, she did not even consider asking media review organizations to participate in formulation of the new code of ethics. Rather, she claims that “deep transparency” will do the job.

So, if a journalist does express a private opinion, it should be made clear it is private.

Kan’s code of ethics is the antithesis of transparency. Why didn’t they present their new code of ethics to the public for public discussion before ratifying it? What happened to transparency? This new code destroys any possibility of ensuring any media fairness.

The authors of this article were involved in making sure that people such as Gabi Gazit and Nathan Zehavi (both accused lately of sexual harassment) would not work for the public broadcaster. This was possible as long as it was clear that they had violated the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s code of ethics. Additionally, an IMW petition to the High Court was instrumental in removing Amnon Abramovitch from the IBA. With the new code of ethics this would no longer be possible.

The new code is based on false premises.

The public mistrust of the media is not due to increased public criticism, but due to the fact that that criticism is both justified and ignored by the media. Retractions at the public broadcaster are very rare. Impartiality and pluralism do not exist. As we have stressed in this column too often, information coming from the Right is ignored and questions are invariably posed from a post-Zionist point of view. The code does not even demand that journalists speak correct Hebrew, and too many don’t.

Why were the deliberations over the code secret? Why was the Kohelet organization excluded? Are only those with a left-liberal agendas permitted to engage in discussions of ethics? Why weren’t the general public and media NGOs invited to submit position papers? Transparency? Decency? Public trust? No, Dr. Altshuler. As long as people like you are not even aware of the true problems and do not try to cope with them, the public broadcaster will not garner public trust. The purpose of any code of ethics for journalists is to serve and protect the public, not journalists. There is no reason why an organization such as Kan should receive from the state coffers a sum which is even greater than that given to the Israel Science Foundation, which contributes much more to Israeli society.

We do not need a new ethics code. The previous one was quite adequate.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara should intervene, and closing down Kan should also be on the agenda.



November 8, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Words and Weapons

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:40 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Words and Weapons
The tunnel in question was not built to provide Shabbat flowers to the Israelis living on the Gaza border.
In a recent article published in the academic journal Current Sociology, “Words don’t come easy,” Christopher Kyriakides, professor of Sociology at York University, Canada, deals with Al Jazeera’s 2015 decision to substitute “refugee” for “economic migrant” in its coverage of “the Mediterranean Migration Crisis.”

In academese, he writes that what happened was a “distancing of ‘migrant’ from ‘refugee’ in news content.” In other words, a media outlet intervened in a political, economic and diplomatic issue to contest a negative media representation. The broadcaster decided to override the language being used and substituted its own language, justifying the act as giving “a voice” to the people involved.

Kyriakides notes other media terms which have been the subject of academic critique, such as “the Arab” and “the Muslim” in the post-2001 era and, in general, media depictions of migrants, refugees and ethnic minority citizens. A “broadcaster’s self-professed ‘deorientalizing’ decision to ‘give voice’ by ‘challenging racism,’” he wrote, “is discursively delimited by the dominant European migration policy narrative.”

The decision to alter the semantics was deliberate. Al Jazeera’s English director of news, Salah Negm, decided not to “use the word ‘migrant’ any longer in this context. We will instead, where appropriate, say ‘refugee.’” As Barry Malone, online editor with Al Jazeera English explained, “at this network, we try hard through our journalism to be the voice of those people in our world who, for whatever reason, find themselves without one.”

Altering language to change a reality is standard practice. A newly formed and EU-funded organization, RespectWords, seeks to prevent Islamophobia in the media. In semi-Orwellian terms, its report, “Respect Words: Ethical Journalism Against Hate Speech,” suggests how to “rethink.”

It fears a “context-dehumanization” and seeks “the construction of new imagery.”

For example, in dealing with violence committed by some recent arrivals, the causes of it, the report suggests, include “colonialism, racism, [and] general social inequality” and there is “no structural connection between migration and terrorism.”

This paradigm is familiar and touches on a problem we have dealt with previously.

We would suggest that a parallel effort to RespectWords should be undertaken to review our situation here in Israel.

Consider, for example, the international terminology concerning the Western Wall. It is a section of the retaining wall to Herod’s enlargement of the Temple Mount.

For centuries it has been used by Jews from all over the world, for prayers, rejoicing, mourning and socializing. In Hebrew it is called “Hakotel Hama’aravi,” the Western Wall. It was also known as “Kotel Hadmaot,” the Wall of Tears, but Jews never called it “The Wailing Wall.” The poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg once wrote in a poem that “the Wall roars.”

Consider then The New York Times. A search this week of its website for “Western Wall Jerusalem” gives 1,781 hits. For “Wailing Wall Jerusalem” one finds only 716. In The Wall Street Journal the search gives 11 for “Western Wall Jerusalem” and none for “Wailing Wall Jerusalem.”

Is it just a coincidence that in Germany and Switzerland the ratio changes dramatically? At the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung one finds 434 entries for “Klagemauer Jerusalem” (“klagemauer” is the German version of “wailing”) but only 36 for “Westliche Mauer Jerusalem.” Similarly, for the Swiss Neue Zuericher Zeitung, one finds respectively 81 and two entries. German speakers seemingly prefer to relate to our holy place of worship as a complaints department.

When one of us raised this issue with a German-speaking journalist, we were told that it is senseless to use “Westliche Mauer” since the editors will change it to “Klagemauer.”

Returning to Israel, a new complaint about “cruel employment practices” has been leveled against the prime minister’s wife Sarah Netanyahu. Yediot Aharonot, no friend of the Netanyahus, decided to highlight the issue by describing the former employee as a “shifcha,” literally, a slave girl.

This appears to us to be low-level pandering, a nasty form of yellow journalism, especially as the woman’s request was to be reinstated. Did not the paper’s editor consider it curious that a “slave” would wish to return to her master? Shouldn’t he have avoided the term, or was he giving a voice to “those people in our world who, for whatever reason, find themselves without one”? Who is a traitor? In the aftermath of the November 1995 assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, it became politically incorrect to use the term “traitor” when discussing politicians.

But on October 27, Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer published a piece titled, “How Netanyahu Has Betrayed the Jews,” asserting that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had recently “betrayed” Austria’s and Hungary’s Jews since he did not display solidarity with their concerns regarding local antisemitism. That paper’s Chemi Shalev also unashamedly used the term when in January 2016 he accused American Jews of “abandoning… betraying Israel itself” in not protesting what he claimed was a loss of democracy here.

One way to delegitimize your political foes is by the use of damning language.

Consider coalition head MK David Bitan.

It is no secret that he is a staunch supporter of the prime minister. Although we might personally not support his tactics, there is nothing even morally wrong in supporting the head of your political party. But for some the goal in life is to remove Netanyahu from office. Chemi Shalev’s op-ed on October 30 described MK Bitan as Netanyahu’s “hired gun.”

On October 29, on TV Channel 10, the PR man representing the new plaintiff against Sara Netanyahu, Arik Rosenthal, referred to Netanyahu’s attorneys as “hired guns.”

The purpose is obvious: Netanyahu and family are implicitly described as mobsters, who use hired guns to carry out the necessary political assassinations. Repeated frequently, the negative image sticks, and who knows, might even lead to dethroning the “Papa.”

Or take how headlines are composed.

On the day following Israel’s October 30 bombing of a Gaza tunnel, Haaretz published two stories. One, an analysis, was headlined “Israel’s Strike on Gaza Attack Tunnel Could Break Fragile Palestinian Status Quo.” The other was headlined, “Israel Destroys a Gaza Tunnel, Killing Militants.”

Of course we all know that the true headline should have been: “Israel Destroys Gaza Tunnel, Saving Israeli Lives.”

The tunnel in question was not built to provide Shabbat flowers to the Israelis living on the Gaza border. But when the aim of a newspaper is to delegitimize the State of Israel, anything goes.

Moreover, if Haaretz runs such a headline, how can we complain about the Guardian’s headline, “Israel destroys tunnel from Gaza, killing seven Palestinians”? Or Al Jazeera’s “Seven Palestinians killed as Israel strikes Gaza tunnel”? The year 1984 is long gone, but Orwell’s lesson, that the “aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought,” is still relevant.


October 10, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Media self-hosannas

Posted in Media, Uncategorized at 2:10 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Media self-hosannas
The media, now under a sustained attack, by US President Donald Trump and other politicians seeking salvation from entrenched media bias, seems to be resorting to self-hosannas.
A central feature of the Succot holiday is the celebration of Hoshana Rabba, this year falling on Wednesday. Multiple prayers are recited while circling the platform where the Torah is read and most of these use the Hebrew word, hoshana (please save).

In the Christian tradition, the term was altered to be a shout of praise or adoration. In the books of the Gospels, it was expressed in recognition of the perceived messiahship of Jesus upon his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The media, now under a sustained attack, by US President Donald Trump and other politicians seeking salvation from entrenched media bias, seems to be resorting to self-hosannas. They repeat claims that they are the guardians of democracy, that they are fair and ethical and that any errors of theirs are unintentional. If the media is criticized, their response can be quite vicious.

For example, Lisa Ling, formerly of ABC and now CNN, admitted in a recent interview with Salon.com that “When a free press is being criticized from the highest levels and characterized as being fake and being muzzled, it screams fascism. That’s not to say that bona fide news sources might not make mistakes here and there, but… we’re reliant on our legitimate news sources to do what they can to tell the truth and report the facts.”

Of course, there may be a question over just what is a “legitimate” news source, just as some may doubt if all editorial procedures were followed, foremost, fact-checking and cross-referencing sources. In essence, that is just the point.

If mainstream media, the so-called ‘defenders of democracy,’ are seen to make too many errors, to constantly repeat the same errors and the same types of errors, to consistently show bias detrimental to, more often than not, one side of the political spectrum, shouldn’t that be considered to be fascism of a different order? The press has always prided itself on bringing down governments over the decades in many countries around the world. Why then, when it is attacked, does it need to play the victim? Is it so powerless?

The BBC’s former political editor Nick Robinson, currently The Today program presenter, has noted, “Alternative news sites are waging a ‘guerrilla war’ against the BBC in an attempt to promote their own editorial agenda.” These sites are both on the Left as well as on the Right and, to Robinson, their criticism of BBC journalists and others “was so persistent that it was negatively affecting public perceptions of mainstream media.”

While this may be the case, another angle is that, quite simply, mainstream media does not, and should not, hold a monopoly over the news.

Mainstream media needs to be diverse and pluralistic. It would seem to be quite logical that if the public feels that not to be the case, other media outlets will benefit.

Robinson, however, adds a sinister aspect to the problem, writing that the critics “need to convince people not to believe ‘the news’” and this is “part of a guerrilla war being fought on social media day after day and hour after hour.”

Probably the most outstanding incident highlighting this trend of criticism involved his successor as BBC political editor, Laura Kuenssberg.

She needed to be accompanied by a security guard at a Labour party conference after receiving threats. Moreover, a petition that accused her of being biased against the Labour Party was launched but later withdrawn as it turned into a “focal point for sexist and hateful abuse” against her.

Robinson also asserted that trust in the UK media was declining.

He blamed this on the “increased polarization of our society and the increased use – particularly by the most committed and most partisan – of social media and alternatives to what they call the MSM, the mainstream media.”

ROBINSON ALSO urges the broadcaster to promote and celebrate its impartiality, potentially by publishing the BBC’s so-called “producers’ guidelines” that outlines how its news coverage should be impartial, and by revealing discussions and decisions at editorial meetings.

His message was a bit undercut, to use British understatement, when it was revealed that the chief executive of Impress, the sole government- approved press watchdog, concluded in an internal report that he had brought the organization into disrepute. He had, it emerged, shared messages on Twitter that were critical of two newspapers, including posts comparing one’s editorial position with fascism, and content promoting a campaign to stop companies advertising in them.

Impress was designed to protect British journalism, while dealing “with the challenges of the digital age.” It promised to provide the public “with the reassurance that they can rely on the news sources that inform them, entertain them and represent their interests.”

Here in Israel, the media consuming public is woefully unsupported by regulators (as described for example in our Sept. 14 column “Keep Channel 20 on”). While adopting an overly strict approach toward that channel’s airing news rather than only cultural content, the same regulator acted quite differently when it came to television broadcasting on Yom Kippur.

As this paper’s Amy Spiro reported on September 27, the law, as per a Communications Ministry regulation, is that TV and radio broadcasts cannot be aired during Yom Kippur. However, Dr. Yifat Ben-Chai Segev, chairperson of the Cable and Satellite Commission, in a Haaretz newspaper interview, indicated that if the HOT or Yes cable networks were to request open VOD access on Yom Kippur, she would immediately convene the council to discuss the issue.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) felt that he must intervene.

In a statement three days before the fast was to be begin, Kara, a Druse we point out, declared, “Yom Kippur for us in the Communications Ministry is the holiest of holies, and – just like the country has been doing for 70 years – we will continue this year to keep the status quo.” He even spoke with Segev and relayed that “to my delight the council received my position and will act accordingly.”

It is true that today journalists are under intense pressures, foremost from their fellow guild members. The pummeling that self-declared right-winger Shimon Riklin of Channel 20 receives is enormous. The past experiences of a religious soldier serving in the Galatz radio studios were nigh horrendous. But there is pressure from within the political establishment as well.

In a YouTube clip, British Labour MP Dennis Skinner is seen berating – the clip calls it “schooling” – a journalist, browbeating the young man actually. We hear “why don’t you understand that you are part of society… It’s time that you understood that you’re not somebody outside the perimeter. You’re involved… But somehow, you people connected to the television [and] media, you think you’re above it all. You’re not! You’re more and more like Trump. You’re vain! Conceited!”

Indeed, too many journalists are vain and conceited. Yet even they do need at times to be protected from the wrath of politicians just as much as they need to accept criticism at face value rather than been indignant and self-aggrandizing.

When that day comes, we too will say Hosanna.


September 28, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Some suggestions for media penitence

Posted in Media, Uncategorized tagged at 7:43 am by yisraelmedad

Some suggestions for media penitence

As Maimonides has taught us, the first phase of repentance is the realization that an error was made. Admitting error is acceptable in some media organs.


We in Israel, and in the Jewish world, are in the midst of that 10-day period known as the Days of Penitence that opened with Rosh Hashana (and was preceded by the recitation of the Selichot prayers) and will be sealed with the fast of Yom Kippur. There is no better time for all of us, including our media, to consider the past year and take upon ourselves to try and improve during the new one.

As Maimonides has taught us, the first phase of repentance is the realization that an error was made. Admitting error is acceptable in some media organs. Without any relation to Yom Kippur, in England this past week the BBC publicly reprimanded Adam Rutherford, the presenter of Radio 4’s Inside Science broadcast. He had used his Twitter account to call on his followers to write to their local MPs about the reappointment of Graham Stringer, a climate change skeptic, to a parliamentary committee.

The BBC’s editorial standards team stated that this “potentially compromised the BBC’s impartiality.”

Rutherford was informed that he was committed, as an employee, to certain responsibilities as to how to use social media. In his name, the corporation informed the public that Rutherford now regretted the tweets and “accepts that he needs to consider carefully how his other published views might impact on his BBC work, and if necessary take advice from his editor at the BBC.”

It is easy to go through our articles of the past year, which pointed out all too often media excesses, error or bias. But we are not naïve – in most issues our media will not really agree with or accept the accusations against it. So we will consider in this article some issues we believe all of us could agree on.

Consider something as simple as terminology.

Early on in his position as adviser to prime minister Menachem Begin, the late Shmuel Katz, sent a request to the Israel Broadcasting Authority regarding terminology. He asked them to assure that their news reports, except when quoting external sources, referred to “Judea and Samaria” rather than the “territories” (shtachim) or “West Bank.”

Judea and Samaria are the heart of the historic Land of Israel mentioned in the Bible. They were referred to as such even in the description of the United Nations’ 1947 Partition Plan boundaries.

The term “Judea and Samaria” appears on medieval European maps. Calling them “territories” is equivalent to negating a person’s name and referring to her or him as “it.” It is like referring to the Temple Mount as “Haram al-Sharif” or replacing Jerusalem with “al-Quds.”

The sources of erroneous terminology are many. Some have to do with ignorance. Unfortunately, too many Israelis have not been exposed in schools to our heritage and the biblical history of this land. They simply do not know better.

After all, the whole world relates to Judea and Samaria as “territories” or “occupied territories.”

Why should our young up-and-coming Israeli journalists, well versed in Western ways, even realize the error? For others, terminology is but another way to express ideology. Some journalists will not use the words “Judea and Samaria,” as part of an attempt to alter history.

Shmuel Katz’s request was not honored. In this context it is a pleasure to note that The Jerusalem Post has lately officially changed its style and the names Judea and Samaria appear frequently.

We would respectfully suggest that our media remain true to history and refer to Judea and Samaria in their historical context.

Wrong or misleading terminology is not limited to designation of land. Another, related term is “mekomi’im,” or locals. Somehow, Jews living in these localities, many of them for decades, are never considered “locals.” The term is reserved solely for Arabs.

A foreigner coming to Israel will quickly understand that Israel’s people are strangely distributed.

There are simply no leftists here. “Peace activists” abound but extreme leftists do not exist. Extremists here come only from the Right.

As Wendy Lu suggested in the Columbia Journalism Review September 5 issue, media people should get “rid of words that assume a negative relationship. Use neutral language.” The Reuters journalism handbook also requires that “our language should be neutral.” In the spirit of Yom Kippur, we suggest that the media discontinue using the term “extremist,” period. Name-calling does not contribute to positive dialogue. Identify an individual’s ideological position, if relevant, but nothing additional. Extremity is in the eyes of the beholder, it is not objective. There are no well-established criteria for when one is or is not an “extremist.”

A central source of mutual disrespect in journalism nowadays is social media. Once upon a time, there were bars where journalists gathered and talked to each other. Discussions were probably often heated, but did not become part of the public discourse. Nowadays, discussions take place via Twitter. There, the language, nature and nonsensicality of the discourse of journalists among themselves is astounding. In the spirit of Yom Kippur, we will not name names, but suggest that journalists use a modicum of self-restraint before lashing out on social media.

In Canada, CBC News recently had occasion to deal with the issue of journalists lashing out on Twitter. In March this year, Jennifer McGuire, head of CBC News, said that defining “the line between analysis and opinion, and who gets to express those views” was – as she put it – a “challenge.”

Confronting demands for impartiality on the issues of the day, the CBC code denies its journalists the right to “express their own personal opinion because it affects the perception of impartiality and could affect an open and honest exploration of an issue.”

However, McGuire then wriggled right out of this constraint by viewing “an observation based on the facts of the issue… as analysis, [which] isn’t the same as a view that comes out of left field without supporting arguments, or in other words, opinion.”

In October 2014, then New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet observed that “[o]ne of the biggest criticisms aimed at my generation of editors is that we created a priesthood, that we decided who was a journalist and who was not….

As I observe the criticism nowadays, you will forgive me for noting that it sounds like a new priesthood is being created, with new rules for entry.”

In Israel, the “priesthood” is called “the branja,” the elitist guild. Too often in our history, especially during the Second Temple period, our priests took to infighting instead of positive causes. We call upon our modern-day “priests”: use your position responsibly. Use terminology carefully. Our sages admonished us: “silence is a signature of wise people.” Please use your social media sparingly and in good taste. Perhaps these little things will help all of us have more trust in the media.


September 13, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Keep Channel 20 on

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:35 pm by yisraelmedad

Keep Channel 20 on
When Channel 20 started operations in 2014, it recognized that Israel’s three mainstream news channels are dominated by the liberal post-Zionist agenda.
Many of our readers may not ever have watched TV Channel 20. It broadcasts only on cable and satellite TV, although selected programs are uploaded to the channel’s Facebook page and appear on the Arutz 7 website. The broadcasting law prevents it from broadcasting on the DTT system, which is the technical platform that enables TV channels 2, 10 and 11 to be viewed freely by all. Channel 20 is one of the “dedicated channels.”

As such, its task is to provide “Jewish heritage content.”

There are four operative dedicated cable TV channels, the other three being a music channel and two “foreign” language networks, which broadcast in Russian and in Arabic respectively. These four channels are supposed to make ends meet by selling ads, but this is a tough market and they are not profitable.

Clearly, to survive, each of them must do the utmost to increase viewership.

Channel 20 started operations in 2014. It recognized that Israel’s three mainstream news channels are dominated by the liberal post-Zionist agenda. It made economic sense to provide viewers with very different content and so, from day one, it decided to broaden the scope of its mandate and provide news programs whose ethos is based on Jewish heritage, that is, Zionism and a healthy respect for Judaism. In its original contract, it was stipulated that it would be able to do so, contingent upon the necessary regulatory changes being made.

These changes were enacted in 2016 and allowed the channel, in principle, to dedicate 25% of its airtime to news-related content. The decision was made by the regulator, the Cable and Satellite TV Authority (CSTVA), chaired by Dr. Yifat Ben-Chai Segev. The news programs were to have started this fall, but the channel was impatient and initiated them immediately.

The channel thus turned into a thorn in the side of the same powerful organizations that have a penchant for reminding us that a staple of democracy is freedom of the press.

It is very difficult to forget that TV Channel 10 was for many years a serial violator of the contracts it signed with the regulator, as well as of the regulations governing TV broadcasting. The Netanyahu government, instead of closing it down, heeded the calls for more channels rather than less.

When necessary it even changed the law to allow the channel to broadcast. It is this same channel, in the spirit of the “Cossack thief,” which submitted a brief to the Supreme Court demanding that the permit allowing Channel 20 to broadcast news be withdrawn.

Its claim is based on the fact that the RGE company, which is the majority owner of Channel 10, signed a contract which assured that there would not be an additional news channel. By changing the regulations, so the claim goes, the CSTVA damaged Channel 10 unfairly and caused the state to violate its commitments to the channel.

Channel 10 is not the only one attempting to close down Channel 20. The Reform and Conservative movements did the same. They claim that the channel has discriminated against them and does not allow their representatives or content to be a part of its broadcasts.

On March 1, 2017, a meeting took place between the two religious streams and the CSTVA with the result that the Authority warned Channel 20 that it would monitor their program for the coming month to determine whether the claims of the Reform and Conservative movements are justified. The Authority then determined that indeed Channel 20 was behaving in a discriminatory fashion and in August decided to fine the channel NIS 100,000.

This was not the first fine that month. The CSTVA gave notice on July 16 that it would also fine the channel for an interview it conducted with the prime minister.

The claim here was that the channel did not yet have the full permit to broadcast news. We should add to this that the mainstream channels 2, 10 and 11 were eating themselves with envy as a result of this scoop of Channel 20. They have for years requested similar interviews from the prime minister but were refused.

Netanyahu felt more comfortable in the studio of Channel 20 – which is not obsessed with bringing down his government.

There is another important chapter to this saga.

TV Channel 2 lost its franchise to carry the Knesset channel broadcasts, which was transferred to Channel 20 after a proper tender process supervised by a public committee. Channel 2 is not used to losing and it was furious. It promptly submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court demanding that the decision be annulled. The court, in its infinite wisdom and defense of pluralism, handed down a decision freezing the franchise given to Channel 20 and to this very day, Channel 2 continues its domination of the Knesset channel.

All of this came to a head this past week. In response to the brief submitted by Channel 10’s majority stakeholder RGE, the court demanded that the CSTVA respond by September 1. We do not know what the CSTVA response was. However, we do know that it decided that unless the Knesset legislates that Channel 20 is allowed to broadcast news, it would collect the four million shekels that the channel deposited as guarantee fees. It also warned that if the channel continues broadcasting news its license would be revoked.

This last threat and decision raised a cry. Again, the left wing in Israel, the staunch defender of democracy, was seemingly succeeding in closing down a media station.

This is not new. In 1999 the Knesset passed a law granting Arutz 7 a license to broadcast. MK Eitan Cabel and others promptly petitioned the Supreme Court which, in March 2002, decreed that freedom of speech notwithstanding, Arutz 7 must be closed down. In the aftermath, in 2003, the Jerusalem Magistrates Court convicted 10 Arutz 7 directors and staff members for broadcasting without a license and sentenced them to fines and community service.

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara was on the defensive last week. In an interview on the Galei Yisrael radio station with anchors Erez Tadmor and Michael Dvorin, Kara stated unequivocally: “I am here in the Communications Ministry to safeguard the freedom of expression and will not allow the closure of [Channel] 20.”

The trouble is that words are just that: words. They must be followed with actions and in this case, new legislation. As this took place when Channel 10 should have been closed down, it can be readily be done. The public wants it, petitions have already been signed by thousands. Israel’s Media Watch posted a short satirical clip, comparing the closure of Channel 20 to Turkey and other “democratic” nations who use various methods to shut down unwanted media channels.

Will the Netanyahu government really defend freedom of speech? Will it open up the media market as Netanyahu has promised so many times, or are we bystanders to the usual performance – words, words and more words? 


August 30, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: It can be better

Posted in Media, Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 10:28 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: It can be better
If the result is that Netanyahu will then actually reconsider and keep his electoral promises, then we will know that the media has changed.
At the Edinburgh International Television festival on August 23, Jon Snow, England’s Channel 4 News presenter, delivered the 2017 James Mac-Taggart memorial lecture. Snow had recently been in a bit of trouble. He was caught shouting a profanity against the Tories this past June at another festival in Glastonbury, an act that compromised his professional ethical duty to maintain a semblance of objectivity.

Snow was rather forthright, saying in Edinburgh that media people have been taught these last two years that “we all know nothing.” The digital media has not “connected us any more effectively with those “left behind – the disadvantaged, the excluded.”

He explained, “The mostly London-based media pundits, pollsters and so-called experts, have got it wrong – the Brexit referendum… [US President Donald] Trump… [the UK] general election.” His conclusion was astonishing: “We in the media are comfortable with the elite, with little awareness, contact, or connection with those not of the elite.”

He illustrated the ignorance by noting that when he Googled “Grenfell Tower” – the British apartment tower that burned in June, killing close to 100 people – a blog post was found from eight months prior to the disaster, not penned by any journalist, that highlighted the dangers of the building.

“The echelons from which our media are drawn do not, for the most part, fully reflect the population among whom we live and to whom we seek to transmit information and ideas,” he declared.

Anyone who has been following our columns regularly knows that our criticism of Israel’s own media elite, the branja, pinpoints those very themes with one major addition of our own: the decidedly Left-leaning political bias and liberal cultural partisanship.

Another insight was provided by Conrad Black, writing in The National Review in mid-August, after viewing Copy, Jacob Bernstein’s documentary life of his mother, Nora Ephron. He came away with “a much clearer picture… of the force, attractiveness and danger of that talented cultural, media and entertainment world of which she was such a prominent figure.” It gave him “a clear view of their collective self-absorption… [They] believe[d] that their media and entertainment world is, in effect, the real world, a world of great power and influence and virtue – and much the most interesting world of any.”

That, too, resonates with Israel’s own branja. We maintain that they display, as Black said about North America’s media elite, “the vulgarity, vacuity, and reckless contempt for the public and for any notion of duty to reflect society with balance and integrity…” They demonstrate they can be “a group of anti-theistic, ultra-materialistic, narcissistic poseurs, hedonists of self-celebration.”

The question is: Is there an alternative?

In an August 20 BuzzFeed report called “The Rise of Israel’s Right-Wing Media,” Miriam Berger writes Channel 20’s TV program “The Patriots.” She sees it as “trying to model itself after Fox News.” In her perception, “more often than not, they argue over whether Israel’s politics are right-leaning enough.”

She is perceptive enough to know that “for years, Israel’s Hebrew-speaking media was dominated by a relatively centrist, liberal press,” but “now overtly rightwing media figures…are increasingly normal. They proudly air their politics – and broadcast a more religious nationalist and populist agenda for Israel.” Disparagingly, she adds that this is part of a “similar progression” to “the rise of so-called alt-right media” in US politics.

YET, ISRAELIS are also quick to point out that actually we here have been a harbinger for the US – and the anti-liberal, “strongman” wave that turbulently swept through much of the Middle East and Europe. Back in 2015, most of Israel’s feisty media predicted that Netanyahu would lose the general elections. He won and hasn’t stopped gleefully reminding journalists since. This coincided with a majority of Israelis feeling that the media was untrustworthy, with a leftist bias. Together with technological advances, it also led to a growth in more overtly partisan media outlets.

Unfortunately, instead of being a professional neutral observer, Berger writes that Israel’s “media is changing… reflecting tensions at the heart of the country’s politics and society” as if the assertion that for decades the media was slanted to the Left was the preferred situation. She quotes Oren Persico of The Seventh Eye that “the media is just another front for this confrontation between the old secular elites who are Center-Left and the new elites of religious Right.”

Persico disputes the claim that Israel’s media has a left-wing bias, making it clear to all that he is not exactly an objective observer of Israel’s media. Berger then quotes Erel Segal of Channel 20: “Nobody believes in objectivity anymore.” The bottom line of Berger is that Israel does have an alternative today.

We feel that the competition between the various news outlets need not be politicized and rooted in ideological outlooks. True, too often, we have seen the same type of journalist move from Galei Tzahal to Channel One and then on to Channels Two and Ten as well as into the print media. More often than not, they simply replicate the type of questions they will be asking (heavily anti-Netanyahu rather than anti-government) and the topics they’ll be covering (usually the “occupation”) over the reality that is the real news.

They will continue to oppress various minorities that will rarely be provided with platforms or afforded a sense of normalcy – such as women, immigrants, especially from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, Arabs and haredim. But they will staunchly defend the illegal immigrants living in southern Tel Aviv at the expense of the Israelis living there legally. After all, the illegals are mostly black and political correctness says that black is always right.

Too much attention is paid to fashion and food – all too expensive. The media will be sympathetic to the invalids who have been violating the law, obstructing traffic and getting away with it, all in an attempt to take more money out of the taxpayers. They will never seriously question the invalid’s morals and outright violations of the law as they did to the Gush Katif demonstrators who tried to do just the same – obstruct the traffic.

At this point, Channel 20 is the beginning of an alternative, but it is far from being sufficient. The blogs, tweets and various websites providing alternative news and opinion are part of the solution, but also not sufficient. We will know that Israel’s media had changed on the day that the prime minister is pressed with questions about his lack of faithfulness to his voters.

If the result is that Netanyahu will then actually reconsider and keep his electoral promises, then we will know that the media has changed.

Is this possible? Yes, but only if the public is sufficiently vociferous in its demand for such a change.


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