October 11, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Media consumer, be aware

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:50 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Media consumer, be aware
Let’s play a quiz, shall we?
If we asked you which political leader, which party and which country are the ones involved after you finish reading the following description, what would you answer?

The leader had spoken at a party conference and launched a direct attack on the media, criticizing it as “a free press [that] has far too often [used that] freedom to spread lies and half-truths.” He then called on his party’s activists to use social media networks to challenge the mainstream press’ “propaganda of privilege.”

One of his chief allies then suggested to fellow party members not to pay attention to the media and another senior party official, who also spoke at the conference, opened his remarks with an attack on “our friends in the media.”

If you are thinking, perhaps, that this was US President Donald Trump and the Republican Party in America or even that it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud here in Israel, you would be incorrect.

What we described above, including the words in quotation marks, actually occurred at the British Labour Party conference in Liverpool on September 25. The speakers were party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his chief ally John McDonnell and last time we looked, the two are quite decidedly hard-left socialists.

In fact, we noted in a previous column (on August 30) that Corbyn, at a different forum, the Alternative MacTaggart Lecture on August 23 in Edinburgh, was already gearing up an attack on the media in different words. A month had passed, but there has been no real media counter to his harsh words. We suspect that had the speaker belonged to a right-of-center party the response would have been much more vocal and strident.

In this period of the #MeToo movement and the spectacle of the Kavanaugh appointment hearings, the charges are that it is not only individuals who may be guilty of misdemeanors or worse, but there is a problem with the collective consciousness. We are witnessing investigations stemming not only from personal testimony concerning alleged sexual misconduct, but also arising from concerns about the working environment at certain companies and institutions.

One can only wonder why this atmosphere has not yet affected the media. Sexual misconduct is serious business, but so is fake news, especially when it hurts individuals. Unethical media behavior destroys the very fabric of democracy without which also the #MeToo movement would be powerless. Media infractions are not only due to an individual lapse of judgment, but are also fostered at certain networks and newsrooms. There is an atmosphere at work.

As a new study by Robin Blom indicates, one way to improve the ability of a media consumer to deal with biased and partisan news is “enhanced media literacy.” Blom, who teaches at Indiana’s Ball State University, is particularly concerned how biased perceptions about the news media disrupt public discourse and political learning. This contrasts with how assumed trustworthy news sources create the “trust” they foist on to their consumers and how, additionally, that “trust” contributes constructively to the public knowledge.

If the media are acting, some or most of the time, unethically and in a biased fashion, they are violating not only the element of trust between them and the public but are taking advantage of the right to broadcast the state awards to them.

How would this enhanced media literacy work?

Here is an example. Gavri Banai, one of the legendary “HaGashash HaChiver” entertainment troupe, appeared on Kobi Meidan’s culture review television program, broadcast over the KAN network as well as on a program at Galei Tzahal, the IDF radio (and other media outlets.) One of his main messages was that he refuses to appear in places that are to the east of the Green Line as these are “occupied territories.” He even will not visit Jerusalem’s Old City.

The media consumer should wonder why an entertainer is being asked to express ideological or political beliefs. Banai sings and performs. He is not running for office, is not a political scientist or an historian and his knowledge about political issues should have no more weight than any other citizen.

It is a fact that in Israel’s media, cultural artists – performers, authors, painters and dancers – are at least as important as university professors. Here too, enhanced media literacy would imply questioning this very fact. When an entertainer passes away, our radio stations go into mourning. When a known rabbi, priest or imam leaves this world, this is not newsworthy in the same manner.

But let us even accept the fact that artistic opinion is important to many people, one should still question such an interview. The interviewers should have questioned him about his adobe. If the “occupation” is so important to him, why is he himself living in a former Arab village, conquered and occupied by Israel?

Ayn Hawd, just south of Haifa, was attacked on the evening of April 11, 1948 and during fighting on July 17-19, the IDF overcame resistance and most of the 700-900 villagers resettled in a Jenin refugee camp. It was renamed Ein Hod and Banai maintains a residence there. It would also have been relevant to ask him why is a post-1967 so-called “occupation” different from an “occupation” that occurred in 1948? But such questions are not asked.

The vast majority of artists are left or even far left of center. That is why their opinion is so important to our media. They are not questioned, but used to promote a viewpoint that strengthens the liberal elite entrenched within the media. This is a phenomenon of self-growth, of the construction of an echo chamber. It is no secret that right-wing artists in Israel such as Ephraim Kishon and Naomi Shemer received quite a different treatment by the very same media.

Anyone who listens to KAN radio cannot but notice that their “star” anchor is an unprofessional propagandist who usurps the public microphone to purvey his version of liberalism. Aryeh Golan’s opening comments after the 7 a.m. news are always slanted towards the extreme left-wing. The intelligent listener, of whom there are many, understands that this kind of anchor cannot deal with any issue impartially and therefore the content of his program is rather meager and is there simply to support his personal outlook.

The option is that the listener leaves off listening to KAN’s radio station and going to the competitors. And today, unlike 20 years ago, there are very many. They are the true “public broadcasting” network today, not KAN. This is but one example of what we citizens should be doing.

Those who control the themes the media pushes, the personalities who relate to them, the number of times the theme is repeated and so on are what a true media literate consumer need study and of which he or she needs be aware. The more we are cognizant of how the media tries to pull the wool over our eyes, and to manage the news rather than report and discuss it, the less successful they will be.



September 28, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: The positive side

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:06 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: The positive side

Nesrine Malik, a Sudanese-British columnist for The Guardian, was quite critical of the liberal media in her Sept. 13 column. Her points of contention were the supposedly hallowed principles and media values of wanting a “vibrant discussion, robust argument, not an echo chamber; ideas should be tested, a debate will expose bigotry and prejudice.” She was upset with the excessive attention the liberal media gave Steve Bannon, the short-lived aide of President Trump.

Her view was that the liberal media erred in inviting Bannon into their studios and onto their pages and airwaves. What concerns them is, “All that is relevant is that he is relevant, that he has become someone of consequence due to his brush with power and seems to be at the center of something.”

Indulging Bannon “is an egotistical misreading of freedom of speech. It is about boasting liberal commitment to the value, rather than engaging with the evils that hide behind it,” she wrote.

While we find it refreshing that someone to the Left of the political spectrum can criticize her own cabal, we find her attitude to be deeply questionable. Ms. Malik’s bottom line is that there are “ideas that need [not]… be ‘exposed.’ We just need to fight them.” Who makes that decision?

We in Israel are all too familiar with that overarching “we-in-the-media-know- what’s-best” approach. Israel’s media are as elitist as any other. It uses its power to set out what is and what is not acceptable behavior of interviewers. It alone knows what’s best for the citizenry, who should speak and for how long and with whom. It’s as if the Unetaneh Tokef prayer we recited over the High Holy Days had the line “Who shall be allowed to speak and who shall be silenced.”

For decades we have been clamoring that at least the public broadcasters should con- sult the public and provide information to the public about its various anchors and columnists, but to no avail. This is the point where liberalism sinks its head deep in the mud.

A biased media culture is not a myth nor a right-wing bogeyman. Anne Davies, a 20-year veteran of Australian media, has written of “a distinctive culture–tribal, aggressive and centered around powerful editors” that can and does exist in media corporations. In her September 20 Guardian column, she quotes Peter Fray, the former Sydney Morning Herald editor and former deputy editor at The Australian , who said he had “felt you were part of a particular tribe where the norms and values were set by the chief and their key lieutenants.”

She then quoted, anonymously, a former senior executive at that paper who said reporters and interviewers have at times, “a strange vision of what journalism is about,” and that is “pursuing editors’ own agendas.”

Israel’s media are still non-pluralistic and dominated by the progressive left-of-center views of its directors, editors and reporters. It continues to try to block attempts to assure its ethical professionalism and legal obligation through legislation. It does its best to subvert the regulations lawmakers put in place to assure a balanced, pluralistic and diverse representation of Israel’s society, its elected parliamentarians and the full panoply of the nation’s actions as well as its minorities.

These are harsh words, but backed by too many facts. Take for example the issue of BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Is it getting the fair coverage it deserves? On the face of it, the media highlight BDS successes. A handful of entertainers decide to boycott Israel and thus gain a headline or two. But is this really covering the issue from all angles? Do the failures of the BDS movement receive equal treatment?

This paper has been publishing over the course of the past few months dispatches by Benjamin Weinthal on the situation in Germany. This past week we read that PayPal has shut down the account of a German NGO International Alliance, which maintains links to Palestinian terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Has this been headlined on Israel’s state-run radio and TV? Could it be that the media elite just don’t pay attention to what The Jerusalem Post is publishing? Or does bad news sell more papers and attract more viewers? To us it seems that media-promoted claustrophobia stands behind the lack of success stories in the BDS struggle. The very idea that Israel is internationally successful frightens the progressives. It implies that the present Netanyahu government is not regressive.

Last Friday, Haaretz posted a short news item on its website by Yotam Berger that must have alarmed and dismayed opponents of a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. It was headlined “Settlers Establish West Bank Outpost in Response to Israeli-American’s Murder in Terror Attack.” Even worse, it noted that the “Civil Administration recognizes the establishment of the outpost and apparently there is no immediate intention of evacuating it.”

The paper did admit that the slain Ari Fuld z”l had resided in Efrat. What was missing was the fact, which may be verified on the web site of Peace Now, that the site, Givat Eitam, has been within the legally authorized zoning plan of Efrat since 2011. Was Haaretz stirring up international protests and pressure or was it innocently reporting? Were both the editor and reporter in cahoots in publishing the misleading item, or was at least one of them simply ignorant of the background of Givat Eitam, or both?

Another positive story Israel’s mainstream media missed was that of Rabbi Pesach Wolicki and Rabbi David Nekrutman of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) who are helping the Christian Arabs of Bethlehem. They’ve been engaged since 2016 in a “Blessing Bethlehem” campaign which they said helps “the persecuted Christians living in the city of Bethlehem and its surrounding areas.” Food and food vouchers are distributed to 120 Christian families in Bethlehem. Their work needs be accomplished discreetly to protect the recipients.

Bethlehem is a hotbed of anti-Israel media attacks based on the security wall and also Christian anti-Zionism conferences. Israel’s media have failed to highlight the simple fact that Arab Christians are an oppressed minority in Muslim-controlled areas of the region. Here is a case with all the positive elements needed for a “good story.” An oppressed minority, religious coercion, poverty and the “Good Samaritan.” Yet it gets quashed since it would put the PA in a bad light, thus undermining the hope for “peace” in the eyes of the progressives.

Other good stories exist, not only about economic successes but also about the moral high road that typifies the Jewish ethos. We should view these achievements with pride and our media should promote them.


September 16, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: New Year’s thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:45 pm by yisraelmedad

New Year’s thoughts
We have used this column time and again to commend journalists for their good work and defend them. There should be nothing special about this. This is normative practice.
This post-Rosh Hashanah column begins with some meanderings about teshuva – the process of considering the wrongs of the past and attempting to right them in the future.

At times, this column may have been too forceful, attacking people without giving them the right to defend themselves. Yet our criticism is meant to be constructive. Even the best of professionals profit when their activities are reviewed dispassionately.

It is no accident that journalism is not the preferred occupation of religious Jews. The Torah instructs us: “Don’t go about as a gossipmonger amidst your people” (Leviticus 19:16). On the other hand, modern society cannot sustain itself without news. The middle way is to strive to abide by the journalistic code of ethics. This we will try, to the best of our ability, to stay true to the lofty ideals of journalism.

We are grateful to The Jerusalem Post and the opinion page editors for their confidence and support of our column. We are also grateful to our readers and especially those who comment on our column on the website. Your critique is essential to us; please continue.

WORLDWIDE, THE media focused this past week on the anonymous New York Times op-ed in which a White House insider harshly criticized US President Donald Trump. We cannot judge what is true, who the writer is and so on. But this event had a very positive side to it. It brought to the fore the dilemma of citation of anonymous sources. Most professionals agree that the writer of the article should expose herself or himself and resign from the position they are holding in the White House. Anonymity on important issues in the public sphere is unacceptable.

Here in Israel, anonymity, too, is a problem. This past week, the Trump administration decided to stop all payments to UNRWA. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded the decision. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman kept mum. Both were doing the right thing from their point of view. But too many news outlets cited anonymous Israeli military sources claiming that the decision was dangerous and would lead to serious unrest within the refugee community. The defense sources may be correct, although similar dire predictions regarding the US Embassy move to Jerusalem were wrong, but hiding behind anonymous sources is unacceptable. Our media did not press the issue, as was done with the New York Times. Why?

On Sunday, September 2, Monica Lewinsky appeared at the Influencers Conference of Channel 2 in Jerusalem. After a short presentation, she sat down to talk with Yonit Levy, the main television news presenter of the network. Levy opened with the question whether Lewinsky still expected a personal apology from former president Bill Clinton. She responded by leaving the stage, having been asked, she claimed, a question that violated the “clear parameters about what we would be discussing and what we would not.

In fact, the exact question she [Yonit] asked first, she had put to me when we met the day prior. I said that was off limits.” Lewinsky indicated what she was asked was “with blatant disregard for our agreement, [and] it became clear to me I had been misled.”
Alon Shani, the company spokesman, thought differently. His response was that “the question asked was legitimate, worthy and respectful, and in no way deviated from Ms. Lewinsky’s request.”

Was Shani or Lewinsky lying? But in this sad story, one voice was missing – that of Levy. Lewinsky claimed that in her discussion with Levy she made it clear that such questions were off limits. If this was not so, why didn’t Levy accuse her of being untruthful? Why is she hiding behind a spokesman? Veteran journalist Ya’akov Ahimeir took to Twitter to defend Levy’s right to ask the question (perhaps before Lewinsky’s clarification), writing, “what did [Lewinsky] think? That she’d be asked about climate warming? America’s space program? The Palestinians? She’s surprised? Nu, really.”

Ya’akov, we beg to differ. If there was an agreement, it should be honored. The public has a right to know what really went on between Levy and Lewinsky. This is not a question of gossip. Levy is a central figure in the Israeli media, anchoring Israel’s most popular TV news show. She should be a model of ethics and fairness, and as she well knows, one should not sacrifice fundamental ethics for the sake of a story.

Can things be different? Yes. Let’s look at Facebook.

Its founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, assured all in March 2017 that “if you want to have a company that is committed to diversity, you need to be committed to all kinds of diversity, including ideological diversity.” However, in the same above-mentioned New York Times, the public learned that Zuckerberg’s assurance is questionable.

On August 28, the paper informed readers that a missive written by Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, and headed “We Have a Problem With Political Diversity,” was making the rounds inside the social network. Amerige claimed that at Facebook, “We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views…. We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack – often in mobs – anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.” One hundred fellow employees expressed their identification with that content. Amerige did not hide his identity. Was he dismissed from Facebook? We think not, and perhaps that is a compliment to the company.

WE HAVE used this column time and again to commend journalists for their good work and defend them. There should be nothing special about this. This is normative practice. For example, these past two weeks the media highlighted the conviction of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in Myanmar who reported on the Rohingya killings, in an attempt to defend them. Are we doing the same here in Israel?

Khaled Abu Toameh published in the Gatestone Institute bulletin that Arab journalists working in the Palestinian Authority assert that their media are not free. Quoting the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, he wrote that both the PA and Hamas “silence their critics and deter Palestinian journalists from criticizing their leaders.” The center conducted a survey that revealed the thinking of over 300 PA journalists: 76% believe that Palestinian media laws do not promote freedom of the press; 91% said that Palestinian journalists are subjected to violations related to their work; 90% said they practice self-censorship and 83% believe that the Palestinian media is not independent.

We call upon the Israeli media to do what is right for the sake of their fellow journalists, for the sake of their own standing – as they often inform us – as paragons of democracy and morality and for the sake of any future peace: expose the PA’s abuse of the freedom of speech and defend your fellow colleagues!

Israel’s media have become more pluralistic this past year, due to the legalization of private channels such as TV Channel 20 and I24. We would hope that this would also reflect upon media ethics and solidarity.

Shana Tova!


August 31, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Truth from Edinburgh

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:33 am by yisraelmedad

Truth from Edinburgh
If the public would vote every five years for the members of a broadcasting public council, then at least the council would have to pay attention to what the public wants.
It might appear to our readers ironic, and you’ll pardon the pun, to quote favorably words of Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour Party’s head and out-of-the-closet antisemite. Nevertheless, we call attention to his Alternative MacTaggart speech delivered at the Edinburgh television festival Thursday last week.

First, we approve of a basic media consumer principle he declared, one that we fixed when Israel’s Media Watch was founded in 1995, to wit, that “the public realm doesn’t have to sit back and watch.” Media consumers should be involved in all levels of response, from monitoring, to making complaints, to assuring that the media institutions – and especially those of the state-sponsored networks and outlets – bear responsibility for their product and to campaign against ethical and professional violations.

Second, Corbyn offered a remedy for media consumers who are assaulted by biased and even illegal media behavior. He suggested that those who pay the license fee, which is actually a radio tax, should have the right to elect representatives to the BBC’s governing board, potentially handing power to critics of its news output. In all humbleness, IMW proposed that basic idea more than 25 years ago here in Israel with the old IBA. The IBA may be gone, as is the Educational Television channel, but there still exist similar broadcast bodies, like Galatz, the Israel Army radio, as well as the KAN Israel Broadcasting Corporation, whose output is funded by the public, for the public and in the name of a public – but which refuses any public involvement, including that of the minister who is to supervise their operations.

Involvement, they assert, is interference. “Just give us the money and be off with you” seems to be the dominant attitude. The media personnel, directors, administrators, editors and reporters are the experts; they control who appears and for how long they talk, who balances them from an opposing viewpoint, if at all, and they demand the right of editorial discretion, including airing their personal opinions and observations.

As an example, we can point to how Channel 10 took advantage of the fact that the religious and traditional public do not watch television on Shabbat. The Tzav Echad organization complained last week about the channel’s coverage of a recent incident involving religious soldiers who had turned their backs to their female instructor when she exhibited a certain maneuver. The studio commentators chose to attack the fighters one by one and to prefer the instructor’s version. Presenters Ayala Hasson and Oded Ben Ami, who were supposed to maintain a neutral position, joined the unrestrained attack that disregarded all semblance of basic journalistic fairness and ethics values.

Unfortunately for the soldiers, (who it turns out were commanded by their officer to turn their backs) the instructor is the daughter of Ilan Shiloah, of McCann PR agency and a minority shareholder of Channel 10. Her mother is Shira Margalit, who was previously with Reshet and now with INTV – Innovation in Television. To top it all, she is the granddaughter of veteran journalist Dan Margalit and so the incident moved to center stage. Grandfather Margalit, so incensed that MK Betzalel Smoterich defended the soldiers, tweeted that the Jewish Home parliamentarian was a racist, fascist, a hater of the rule of law and a disgrace to humanistic Judaism.

For his part, Tzav Echad chairman Amichai Eliyahu demanded that the news companies be properly represented by the religious and traditional public and its positions, which remind us of Corbyn and IMW’s idea above. But no, the extreme to which our journalists go to was exemplified by left-wing Galatz radio presenter Yael Dan. In an interview in the left-wing Yediot Aharonot newspaper, she was quoted: “I envy right wingers, who are allowed to enter the various media outlets, supposedly under the guise of balance. They promote a very particular agenda. They do not come as journalists, therefore their weight is equal to 10 like myself and Razi [Barkai]. We are journalists and see ourselves first and foremost responsible for balance, objectivity and veritable conduct.”

Wow! Yael Dan is balanced and objective and we never knew.

Veteran journalist Ya’akov Ahimeir took her seriously and therefore took her to task. But to no avail. Her unrepentant retort was, “Comrades, calm down! I did not mean right-wing journalists, I was only implying certain people who were brought to balance with their political agenda and therefore their weight is heavier than any journalist who does not promote a political agenda.” Our interpretation: there are no right-wing journalists, only politicos.

In the Globes August 21 edition, Matti Golan demanded to know why a High Court petition has not yet been submitted to remove Geula Even, married to former Likud Minister Gideon Sa’ar, from her broadcasting job at Kan. The matter would be worthy for deliberation if only he had appealed in the past against many other media people who had returned to the jobs after serving politicians. The above-mentioned Oded Ben-Ami is a prime example, having worked for Ehud Barak.

Indeed, right wingers in the media are treated much more harshly than their left-wing colleagues, such as Dan and Barkai. Friday a week ago, Eyal Berkowitz used his program to lambast the Arab MKs. As reported in Yisrael Hayom, the tempest arose due to the fact that the Arab MK’s refused to come to Berkowitz’s joint program with Ofira Assayag. The latter asked Berkowitz what he thinks about this and he retorted, “Trojan horses… We don’t want you here in studio. If they come, I go. No chance that I will interview them. This is not racism, it’s just that they hate Israelis, they are terrorists who sit in our Knesset.”

Sharp words no doubt, but not sharper than prominent left wingers equating right wingers with Nazis or fascists and the like. But Keshet was quick to judgment and the program was canceled for the next Friday. The freedom of expression in Keshet’s view belongs only to those journalists like Dan and Barkai.

We add that anyone who has observed these Arab MKs in the plenum Knesset sessions or on the Temple Mount or in Naqba rallies or in their latest complaint against Israel lodged to the United Nations about the Nation-State law, would be nonplussed as to why one person’s freedom of expression is to be defended while another could lose his job.

We can only sadly sum up with the words of James Delingpole, who wrote on July 21 in The Spectator, “Gone are the days – if they ever existed – when political interviewers were dispassionate seekers-after-truth on a mission to get the best out of their subjects. Now, it’s mostly activism-driven, the aim being to advance your preferred narrative.” It seems that we sorely need to change the traditional power structure especially at the public funded media.

If the public would vote every five years for the members of a broadcasting public council, then at least the council would have to pay attention to what the public wants. That would be better than the present situation.


August 29, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Respect for the Law? Not Kan

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:15 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Respect for the Law? Not Kan
Under good management the IBC should have no difficulty in providing the necessary, not the irresponsible, budget needed for covering the Eurovision expense.
The fifth paragraph of the second chapter of the Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) law reads as follows: “The place of residence of the Board and Management of the IBC is in Jerusalem; the main part of its broadcasts will be from Jerusalem, not later than June 1, 2018.” It is today mid- August 2018, and Kan still operates from Modi’in. There isn’t even a target date for its return to Israel’s capital.

The Jerusalem paragraph was part of the give-and-take during the formulation of the law and was included due to the insistence of the Bayit Yehudi party’s members of Knesset in the committee that legislated the law. The heads of the IBC, chair Gil Omer and CEO Eldad Koblenz, are well aware of this but could not care less. It is much more convenient to get to Modi’in than to travel all the way to Jerusalem from the coast or what is referred to as “North Tel Aviv, Israel Media Land.” Convenience and personal gain are seemingly all that matters. The law? Not at the so-called Kan (“here” in Hebrew) public broadcaster.

Paragraph 2 of the 13th chapter of the law states that “the budget of the IBC will come from its income as stipulated in this law.” This was essential. For many years, the former Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), which preceded the Kan conglomerate, had to go to the Knesset finance committee every year to obtain approval for its budget. This meant that politicians could have some say on the operating plans and polices of the public broadcaster. According to our democracy gurus, such as the Israel Democracy Institute, it was wrong to have a mix between politics and media.

But theory, the law and practice are different things. Any psychologist knows that a criminal for one offense, say a thief, has the potential of committing other offenses. The same is true for white-collar violations. Koblenz and Omer seem to believe that Israeli law is at best a recommendation. So why respect it?

It was on July 5 that we warned in this column that one should expect that production of the Eurovision Song Contest in Israel next year would cost around NIS 150 million. We also noted the machinations of Messrs. Koblenz and Omer, whose hollow threats frightened the government into retracting the separation of the IBC into two entities, a news corporation and an entertainment company. This week their game continued. They publicly threatened the government that the Eurovision would not take place in Israel unless the government would take upon itself the expense. Immediately, this meant that the first installment of a guarantee for the sum of NIS 50m. to the European Broadcasting Union would be covered by the government. Omer’s letter noted that if the government would not cough up the funds by August 14, the game would be over and they would not produce the Eurovision. It most probably would not take place in Israel as a result. We are delighted to note that in this case, the government did not budge and the IBC had to secure a bank guarantee on its own.

Omer’s letter was not only misleading, it also exemplified a lack of respect for the law. Omer knows that the IBC’s budget cannot come from the state. It must be covered by its own income. Even if the government wanted to provide the IBC with an extra budget, this would need legislation and Knesset agreement, a process that cannot be implemented within a day, especially when the Knesset is on vacation.

But beyond these niceties, let us remember that at the time of the formation of the IBC, communications minister Gilad Erdan and finance minister Yair Lapid claimed that the new public broadcaster would be characterized by financial responsibility and prudence. The heads of the PBS were chosen based upon their supposed experience in managing large organizations to ensure careful fiscal management. Indeed, this was the main message of the new IBC. Erdan threw to the wind practically any other responsibility and it was only due to political pressure of other political parties such as Bayit Yehudi and others from within the Likud that the law was somewhat modified to pay lip service to the conglomerate’s responsibility as an Israeli and Jewish broadcaster.

Now we see that even this financial cornerstone is a very shaky one. Under good management the IBC should have no difficulty in providing the necessary, not the irresponsible, budget needed for covering the Eurovision expense. The mainstay of the IBC’s income is the car-radio tax, which is NIS 170 per car. The number of vehicles added to Israel’s road each year is more than 5%. Given that the number of vehicles in 2017 on Israel’s roads was over 3.3 million, this means that in 2018 the IBC’s budget will automatically increase by close to NIS 30m. Considering that the Eurovision will take place in 2019, this implies that the IBC will have an extra NIS 90m.
compared to today to cover the expense. In addition, its advertising income should increase due to the event. In other words, without exertion the IBC should be able to dedicate a budget of NIS 100m. to the event. Why then is the government needed? Why the noise and the pressure?

Yair Stern, a former director of the old IBA’s television unit, was responsible for the production of the Eurovision in Israel in 1999. His response to the present “crisis,” as he published this past Monday on Facebook, was “we also at the IBA produced a Eurovision. It cost at the time USD 7 million. We did not request an agora from the government. I brought half of the funding from Europe, the other from advertisement and government ministries such as the Tourism Ministry who had an interest in paying for ads. And yes, a bit from the IBA’s budget. No one was a cry-baby and we even overcame the threats of the religious in Jerusalem.”

Ya’akov Bardugo, a political commentator on Army Radio, has commented a few times in the past days that the IBC’s demands are irresponsible. But apart from him, Israel’s media have not called Omer and Koblenz out or challenged their maneuverings. No one has undertaken a public opinion poll on the question: Are you willing to pay NIS 20 per person in your family to assure that the Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Israel?

What Omer and Koblenz want is to add a tax of NIS 100 for the average family in Israel to cover their extravaganza.

We doubt that the majority of the public would want this and urge the politicians not to give in. It is high time that the IBC learns that the law must be respected even at Kan. 


August 1, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: Is our state democratic?

Posted in Media, Uncategorized at 11:13 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Is our state democratic?
The law does not prevent the election of a non-Jewish prime minister. So what is the whole brouhaha about?
These past week’s media attention was devoted to two issues, the Nation-State Law and the Surrogacy Law. They overshadowed almost anything else. In the news, they preceded the murder of Aviv Levi on the Gaza border on July 20 and Yotam Ovadia in the town of Adam on July 26. They took precedence over the ongoing war on the southern border. This legislation must be a real threat to the well-being of the State of Israel, otherwise it would not have been so central.

Before considering the media’s treatment of the issues, it is worthwhile to review the facts. The Nation-State law states three basic principles: 1) “The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established; 2) The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination; 3) The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

These three basic tenets were predicated on Israel’s proclamation of independence from 1948, which stated among others: “Accordingly, we, members of the People’s council, representatives of the Jewish community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement, are here assembled … by virtue of our natural and historic right…hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel, to be known the State of Israel.”

Is there any material difference between the law and the declaration? We do not find it. Did the media clarify that or muddle it? Both texts make it clear that the state is a Jewish State. No one’s citizen status has changed. All citizens, whether Jewish or not, have equal citizen rights, including the right to vote and be elected. The law does not prevent the election of a non-Jewish prime minister. So what is the whole brouhaha about?

One of the questions posed is if the law just restates the obvious from the declaration, why is it needed? This is an interesting question that could have been addressed equally to the two basic laws of 1992 that “declare basic human rights in Israel that are based on the recognition of the value of man, the sanctity of his life and the fact that he is free. Define human freedom as the right to leave and enter the country, privacy, intimacy and protection from unlawful searches of one’s person or property. This law includes instruction regarding its own permanence and protection from changes by means of emergency regulations.” 

These basic laws were also just a reaffirmation of the Declaration of Independence according to which the State of Israel “will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” 

Why then, was it necessary to legislate these laws? For a simple reason that the Declaration of Independence has no legal value. The Basic Laws enacted by the Knesset are an ongoing process of creating Israel’s constitution. Just as the 1992 legislation was needed to assure the humanistic principles underlying the Jewish State, so has the Nation-State law assured that Israel is a Jewish State. There is indeed only one part of the law in which Jews and non-Jews are unequal and that is the Law of Return. One may envisage in the future a Supreme Court which would invalidate the Law of Return since it violates the principle of equality. The present law prevents such a scenario, it defines the State to be Jewish and thus allows preference for Jews over non-Jews. 

However, the media discourse over the law is very different. Perhaps the best clue for what the brouhaha is about are the interviews on both Galatz and Reshet Bet with Assaf Heifetz, a former Chief of Police. Asked what is wrong with the legislation, he answered, the Druze population is obviously offended and if so, it must be a bad law and MK Benny Begin is against the law, so it must be a bad law. His answer was so silly that Ran Binyamini, the anchor on Reshet Bet, found it necessary to remind Heifetz why the law is bad – according to Binyamini it treats the Druze as second-rate citizens. Heifetz, of course, agreed with him. But in contrast to Binyamini, to be accurate, there are no second-class citizens in Israel. There are either citizens or non-citizens. Jews in the Diaspora who are not citizens of the State merit a special status through the Law of Return. Non-Jews who are not citizens, do not. 

Why indeed are the Druze so upset? Eyal Assad, head of the Druze members of the Bayit Yehudi party, explained on INN News on July 26, “The Nation-State law is a declarative law which defines the State of Israel as the State of the Jews and there is no Druze who has anything against that…. The anger is that the law equates the Druse and the Arabs. It left out the rights of the Druze.” In other words, the problem is not what is in the law but what it left out. Arabs are not drafted into the army, the Druze are. Such fundamental differences should not be glossed over. 

Atta Farhat, chairman of the Druze Zionist Council for Israel also supports the law. Yet who are the Druze representatives who are interviewed? People like Rafik Halabi, the former IBA editor, who did his best to oust Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1997 but failed. 

The same story concerns the Surrogacy Law. The noise was due to the fact that the law does not provide the rights of surrogacy to males who live together as a couple. This was deemed to be so blatant a violation of the rights of gay men that the National Broadcaster Kan permitted its employees to participate in the various demonstrations against the law. The media discourse was boring and very one-sided. The idea that allowing surrogacy to gay men may really harm women who would be paid to use their bodies hardly received any attention. Even today, gay men go to countries such as Thailand, pay money to poor women there who give birth and are then separated from their offspring for the rest of their life. One can only imagine the ensuing psychological damage. 

But no, such serious questions are not part of our media focus. It is much more interested in democracy. The Knesset legislation, it is claimed, and the media actively promotes this narrative, is, in both instances, a violation of democracy and so must be annulled, at all costs. 

If “democratic” implies that the Knesset is not sovereign to legislate but the media is, then perhaps we do not need such a “democratic” state?


July 18, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: A warning to media consumers

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:58 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: A warning to media consumers
The ultimate power of the media is editorial discretion. This is what gets stories published or broadcast as well as how they are served up to the media consumer.
The story of the mostly teen-age boys’ soccer team trapped with their coach in a cave in Thailand and their rescue was riveting. It had all the elements of drama, heroism, danger and the human spirit. And the media devoted hundreds of hours to reporting it. Even Israeli media sent special correspondents to the site. Experts on scuba diving, spelunking, stress psychology and medicine informed us of what could be.

During that same time, floods in Japan caused 200 deaths. There were terrorist attacks on security forces along the Tunisia-Algeria border where at least six people were murdered. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 10 people were burned to death in ethnic attacks. At least nine were killed in an Al-Shabaab car bomb attack in Somalia, and in Tultepec, Mexico, at least 24 people were killed in fireworks explosions. Editorial choices had to be made, obviously, as to what we media consumers received and what was relegated to secondary attention, if at all.
An academic study published last month by Lia-Paschalia Spyridou of Cyprus’s University of Technology in Journalism, defines the functions of professional journalism as “agenda setting, gatekeeping and framing.” The ultimate power of the media is editorial discretion. This is what gets stories published or broadcast as well as how they are served up to the media consumer.
Many news outlets seek to paint their product as possessing a reputation for “dispassionate, high-minded journalism.” For too many, however, that is a hollow aggrandizement. Editorial discretion became famous in the 1987 US Federal Communications Commission decision that suggested while it would no longer uphold the “fairness doctrine,” it would expect that news broadcasting provides for a reasonable discussion of views. Editorial discretion is the instrument whereby editors not only evaluate sources, balance claims and seek to produce accurate and verifiable information, but it permits the selection of the story according to the above-mentioned agenda setting, gatekeeping and framing privileges which an editor possesses.
SOMEONE WELL-POSITIONED within the media milieu has provided testimony that something can go very wrong with the end product. John Cleese, of Monty Python fame, appeared on July 8 at London’s Royal Geographic Society, and according to The Guardian’s Mark Lawson who was present, had this to say about journalism bias, “American and Australian journalists interviewed him because they loved his work; British interviewers arrived intent on negativity and personal intrusion.” In referring to Shane Allen, head of the BBC’s comedy output, he added, “His real title is ‘Head of Social Engineering.’” In the end, it really isn’t funny that our news, our political, social, economic and cultural commentary, as well as our military overview, and the types of panel discussions we are shown can be – and have been – so biased.
Returning to Spyridou’s study, she saw “evidence showing that journalism has entered a second, more vigorous developmental stage at which journalists are pushed to negotiate their gatekeeping power and take advantage of the sociotechnical capital available” via social media platforms.
That, we would suggest, means that the bon mot of several years ago that social media involvement would permit a more democratic, representative and supervised media where the media consumer could almost approach a level playing field with the journalists and editors has been disproved. What has happened is that media people have managed to exploit those same platforms to preserve, to a significant extent, their fiefdom. Spyridou herself is optimistic about the “possibilities and opportunities for civic empowerment within participatory journalism”.
Where, and with what, does that leave us here in Israel? IfNotNow has been in the news lately. Haaretz, of course, has lent sympathetic coverage, but it is very helpful if a reporter is basically a semi-member of the group. It would appear that part of the Times of Israel coverage is provided by Steven Davidson. On June 22, he covered the “engagement” of Birthright participants at JFK Airport in New York by members of IfNotNow. Other stories of his have focused on the theme of progressive Jewish millennials. He penned an “American Jew in Palestine” blog in 2014. After visiting Hebron, he wrote, “There was only one thought that reverberated in my mind: Lebensraum. This was how it would have looked like if the Nazis had succeeded, I thought… as a Jew, I began to cry.” It appeared in Duke University’s Towerview September 9, 2014 issue as well.
As a media consumer of Times of Israel, do we now cry?

LET’S TAKE the treatment of a story on an El Al flight out of New York that was delayed, supposedly by ultra-Orthodox men who refused to sit next to a female.

A Facebook post that went viral indicated that the June 21 flight was delayed by over an hour due to the intransigence of four haredi men. One Khen Rotem posted that El Al was “dealing with matters of practical theology and personal faith versus the rights of the individual and civil order.” The mainstream press duly reported this version, obviously without confirming the truth.
Another passenger, Katriel Shem-Tov, emailed Sivan Rahav-Meir, an Israeli journalist, claiming the incident lasted but five minutes. The Times of Israel blog where she published her story in English included El Al’s response, which was that “The details that were reported about the incident were not accurate, to put it mildly. In actual fact, the delay was totally unconnected to the incident… Taking care of the two passengers who refused to sit in their allocated places occurred after the plane had already left the gate and only took a few moments.”
Could it be that the mindset of the overwhelming secular media refused to consider the remote possibility that the haredim were not guilty of the long delay? Are their professional standards so low? On July 12, Turkey arrested Adnan Oktar and perhaps as many as 200 of his followers. While an exotic personality, he has many links to Israelis. He has been charged with spying for Israel among more than 20 additional crimes. Back on March 29, Assaf Ronel of Haaretzpublished a profile of the group which was headlined as if it was a throwback to the magazine HaOlam HaZeh: “Orgies, Blackmail and antisemitism: Inside the Islamic Cult Whose Leader Is Embraced by Israeli Figures.” Haaretz, which is not known for any conservative sexuality line, was obviously upset with Oktar.
There was an intriguing aspect to the story. At the bottom, we could read that Ronel was “a guest of the Turkish state English-language television channel TRT World.”
The state television of the Erdogan regime? Many consider that regime antisemitic. It has supported Hamas and promoted flotillas to break the Gaza “blockade.” It is trying to buy property in Jerusalem’s Old City and fomenting violence on the Temple Mount. Is Haaretz a mouthpiece for Erdogan’s Turkey? A last example is Haaretz’s July 6 political cartoon commenting on the Israel-Poland declaration. It posed the Polish president and Israel’s prime minister holding hands over the rail tracks leading to Birkenau-Auschwitz with the caption “The beginning of a wonderful relationship.”
The relationship between the media and its consumers is perhaps reaching the end of a “wonderful relationship.”

June 20, 2018


Posted in Uncategorized at 10:37 pm by yisraelmedad

Israel’s Media Watch, under the Freedom of Information Act, requested specific information from the PBC. We wanted to know the answers to our questions
Public funds, collected from taxes in one form or another, seem always to be treated in a cavalier fashion, almost contemptuously, and without regard to their real value by government officials or the government institutions that benefit from the collections in the public coffer.

There is a Jewish joke that highlights this unfortunate attitude in a particular fashion.

The shtetl’s “fallen woman” had passed away and donated her inheritance to the local synagogue to support the study of the Talmud. The gabbai arranged for a commemorative plaque and invited the congregants for a kiddush in her memory and to honor this considerable monetary windfall. The rabbi was aghast and, quoting the verse at Deuteronomy 23:18, that the earnings of a prostitute should not be brought into God’s House, attempted to halt the proceedings. The gabbai quickly whispered in his ear, “but, Rebbe, it’s really all our own money.”

The details of the finances of the Defense Ministry expenditures for Galei Tzahal radio are not public knowledge, especially the salaries paid to its civilian employees; that is, the media celebrities it hires. It’s as if “it’s all our own money,” not the public’s. There is no official accounting known to the public, detailing income from advertisements and certainly not the price per ad that the station gets for its air time.

The same holds true – even more so – for the Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBC). It took Israel’s Media Watch years to obtain even minimal transparency for the budget of the old Israel Broadcasting Authority. Israeli law, under the Freedom of Information Act, demands that public entities such as the PBC or Galei Tzahal provide the necessary information to anyone who asks for it.

Interestingly, during the seven and a half months of operation in 2017, the PBC’s income from ads stood at NIS 46m., which is less than NIS 75m. on an annual basis. In 2015, the reported income of the old IBA was more than NIS 110 million on an annual basis. What happened? Why the drop? Will the PBC explain the shortfall?

We know that the time allotted to ads on the PBC has, if anything, increased relative to the IBA, so the only possible explanation is that the price per ad has hit rock bottom. If true, this would imply that the PBC is taking unfair advantage of its public funding to undermine the commercial media stations. Of course, the other possibility is that the department in charge of ad revenues is a failure at its job and should be fired.

Israel’s Media Watch, under the Freedom of Information Act, requested specific information from the PBC. We wanted to know the answers to our questions. How much of the income comes from governmental sources? How much from private? What was the separate income of the different stations held by the PBC?

Why is this information important?

The PBC claims that media pluralism is essential for Israel’s democracy and has blamed the prime minister for undermining it. Well, to open a new radio station, one needs a business model. If the pricing of the PBC is kept secret, it becomes virtually impossible to do this. It is not surprising that we do not have national private radio stations. The PBC refuses to divulge the information, claiming that this is a trade secret. Trade secret? The PBC is not a business, it is a publicly funded corporation. By refusing to be open, the PBC is undermining anyone who would try to compete.

Yet this is the same station that claims that it is the bastion of Israel’s democratic values and their protector and any attempt to really oversee its activities – or worse, close it down – they describe as a fatal danger to our democracy. The truth is that this is all hypocrisy. The major interest of the PBC is to increase its funding so that its “stars” can take home fatter paychecks. Israel’s Media Watch does not accepting that answer and will in the near future take the PBC to court.

This rather minor issue pales when compared to the big news: the merging of TV Channel 10 and the Reshet TV station. Our memory is not short; it was only a short while ago that the Israeli government contemplated closing down TV Channel 10 due to its various delinquencies. At that time, the pronouncements made by officials were scary.

For example, as reported in Haaretz on August 29, 2012, President Reuven Rivlin, who then was only a member of Knesset, said, “The channel is an existing fact. Its closure will endanger the freedom of speech in Israel. The fate of the channel is not only an economic issue but concerns the conduct of the media market in a democracy. I had the privilege of initiating the channel as Minister of Communications and already then felt that the conditions of the concession were impossible. It is true that one has to keep commitments, but the damage to the foundations of democracy and the Israeli media market take precedence.”

The present merging of the two TV channels, which is nothing less than the actual closing down of TV Channel 10, received no such powerful words from President Rivlin. He did not exhort the owners to prevent this serious danger to Israel’s democracy. Why? Because it really is not serious. It is high time that one of these channels disappears, since both have little to offer which is not offered by the Keshet TV station.

But what about the employees? At the time, when the government wanted to close TV 10 down, their hue and cry reached a crescendo. The union shut down the station’s broadcasting for a few hours to express their disapproval with the government’s initiative. Matan Chodorov, head of TV 10’s employee union, was explicit: “The exceptional step of blackening the screen is a result of the ongoing disregard of Benjamin Netanyahu from the most serious crisis in the history of commercial TV in Israel. We hope that the appropriate way will be found to preserve the freedom of the press in Israel and bring Channel 10 to its safe haven.” No more, no less.

Democracy and all its hallowed principles would have been violated had the government closed the channel down. And today? The channel is disappearing for commercial reasons, not political ones, and what happened to the hue and cry? It disappeared. That which is permitted to the rich and financially powerful is not permitted to the people and their public representatives. This is our media and its players. The hype against the closure of TV Channel 10 at the time had nothing to do with democracy and values, it was just another attempt to bring the Netanyahu government to its knees.


June 11, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: There are tweets and there are twits

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:03 pm by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: There are tweets and there are twits
The public has a much more informed opinion as to the political and ideological identity of the media stars.
Being anonymous, the Benjamite who, according to I Samuel 4, ran from the Even HaEzer battlefield to Shiloh to inform Eli the High Priest at the Tabernacle of the results could have been even a war correspondent. As verse 17 has it, his task was to be a mevaser, one who brings the news. Verse 13 informs us that when he entered the town to report what had happened, “the whole town sent up a cry”. Could that mean people did not like the media, even then?

The bad news that Eli received a few moments later, causing his death, took hours to be relayed. Since then, we have had the Pony Express, telegraph, telephone… and now, via the Internet, news is conveyed within seconds.

Moreover, the purveying of news is no longer exclusively controlled by the media industry. If in the past, reporters complained that politicians were scheduling their appearances to force the networks to carry their words live at prime time, thereby talking over the heads of the press, we witness today a virtual sidelining of the press.

Wesley Yang, a New Yorker contributing editor, highlights in a piece in the Tablet on May 28 the example of Jordan Peterson, whom Yang informs us “does not rely on the gatekeepers of the progressive consensus for his livelihood; indeed he prospers precisely by flouting it.” Yang traces how a narrative is generated on social media, fed back into the mainstream press, which, in turn, is fed back into Twitter.

Along the way, those who disseminate the narrative can be rewarded as well as sanctioned by “mob-style attacks and ostracism.” What is also evident is “confirmation bias,” whereby our threshold to demand proof for claims is lowered and we tend to conform to what we are already primed by habit, familiarity, and the desire to believe.”

In other words, citizen A reads Haaretz, while citizen B reads Arutz 7. Each one becomes a resident of a separate foxhole, believing and disbelieving ‘facts’ she or he cannot independently confirm.

Yang calls the people who make up this new tweet-driven media phenomenon “digi-journalists and social-media mobs”. And we ask: are the tweeters twits or what?

Further, what is the role of professional, and paid, journalists in all this?

An academic article authored by Zhaoxi Liu of Trinity University in Texas and Dan Berkowitz of the University of Iowa appeared last month in the Journalism journal. They suggest that journalists have “contradicting views on whether or not to accept tweets [as] a legitimate journalism artifact, leading to the blurring” of boundaries of “the journalism craft and its core mission of informing the public.”

If they are uncertain, what of we the media consumers? Samantha Bee tweets, outrageous, apologizes and continues to appear on American television. Roseanne Barr does the same thing and is fired. Was there a “mob-style attack” on her?

Twitter, though, allows us, the media consumers also some room.

ON MAY 11, Haaretz published an item by Hilo Glazer asking coyly, “Did US Ambassador David Friedman indirectly support pro-Kahanist groups?” He named one such organization only, “Kommemiyut.” JTA picked it up incredibly fast, and Ron Kampeas’ report in the JTA went from there to the Times of Israel and further afield, spread by journalists via Twitter, from leftist colleague to leftist colleague.

The story was a case of misidentification that any involved political reporter could have, and should have, spotted. One of us (YM) began tweeting the problematic character of the “facts” and urged those with inside information to contact the journos involved. Eventually, the truth came out (there were two distinct groups with the same name, one Kahanist, one not). However, even with an addition of an “editor’s note,” the damage was done. An ignorant reporter with an anti-Friedman agenda, assisted by the same in a news agency, caused ripples that reached the top echelons of the State Department, Congress and the American Jewish establishment. By the way, a check this past Sunday shows the original article still at the Haaretz on-line website.

Before print and then going to Twitter, there was a failure all along the chain of distribution. The reporter, his editor, and the JTA failed. Twitter introduced not only speed but also extensive reach, crossing continents and languages (tweets carry their own translation capability).

Not only was there a lack of professional confirmation of the item, at play was also the frame of enforced “correct-think” that pervades the media as well as academia and the world of entertainment.
The media does play a magnifying role. It may take a tweet and turn it into “news.” This is the case with President Trump. His tweets are publicized and usually also mocked. The recent tweets from Roseanne Barr, Samantha Bee and Joy Reid in America fall into the same category. Somehow there are glaring exceptions. There are political leaders who tweet and yet their outrageous comments are ignored.

A.J. Caschetta highlighted one case in a Middle East Forum piece. The leader in questions is quite well known here in Israel. No, he is not Benjamin Netanyahu but another “belligerent world leader who uses social media to bully enemies and feed his narcissistic delusions of grandeur” – Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Caschetta convincingly illustrates that Khamenei “beats President Donald Trump any day.” In Iran, he has no rivals; most Iranians are barred from using Twitter’s social media platform.

Do journalists, news program hosts or even comedians pay attention to him? Of course not. It is not the intrinsic negative value of the tweeting politician but rather how the media decide to relate to him.  It is their biased outlook that leaves the public in the lurch.

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the Hay literary festival in Wales Sunday that with invasive modern media, the public gets sick of politicians more quickly and, with the 24-hour news format, long political leaderships which usually have contributed to stable governments have come to an end!

The Liu and Berkowitz study mentioned above found that while some journalists saw tweets as a means to an end – marketing their own stories and driving traffic to their newspaper’s website – others just tweeted for the sake of tweeting, turning their tweets into a journalistic product in their own right.

Twitter can also be a battlefield. After Haaretz’s Uri Blau published on May 25 a story on a “confidential dossier” on the American Muslim activist Linda Sarsour compiled by a “secretive Israeli firm” for an “Adelson-funded US group,” Middle East Forum pushed back via tweets that the material originated with the MEF going back a decade, all collected from open sources. Blau’s story was “sloppy and false reporting.”

One consequence of the tweets is that today the public has a much more informed opinion as to the political and ideological identity of the media stars. Another is they can engage the journalist in real time. This is a very positive result, because these tweeters, more often than not, turn themselves into twits and the public knows.


May 28, 2018

MEDIA COMMENT: The European bias

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:39 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: The European bias
The media consumer is left with yet another bias: morality and the question of who decides what is or is not moral.
In the mid-1980s, journalism studies academics began to push the idea that non-biased reporting is untenable and therefore, bias as a measuring tool of a media outlet’s output should be rejected. This was promoted by R. A. Hackett, a professor at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University School of Communication. Robert P. Vallone and coworkers of Stanford University’s School of Journalism, in a highly cited paper which studied media performance during the First Lebanon War, suggested another mechanism was at work, one of social perception, and their paradigm was termed the “hostile media phenomenon.”

The idea postulated was that in viewing the same media reports, opposing groups will register more negative references to their side than positive ones, and each would claim that the coverage would sway nonpartisans in a hostile direction. Within both partisan groups, furthermore, greater knowledge of the crisis was associated with stronger perceptions of media bias.

Their research did admit though that this is not the whole story. They recognized that journalists do indeed possess personal, cultural and political biases, which they insert into their reporting, interviewing and moderating of panels.

They did not acknowledge that such bias significantly skews the coverage, replacing the quest for truth with the quest for influence.

Barbie Zelizer, another well-known media academic who is professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, has now published What Journalism Could Be, a collection of her articles over the past two-anda- half decades. She expresses a wish in the volume that we get beyond “depressed lamentations” and instead focus on journalism’s relevance. For her, the essence of journalism is “creating an imagined engagement with events beyond the public’s reach,” adding (p.6) that “imaginative thinking consists of moral considerations.”

But, again, the media consumer is left with yet another bias: morality and the question of who decides what is or is not moral.

These obstacles were very much in view with regard to the central news issues of the past few weeks: the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Iran agreement, the media’s coverage of the dedication of the US embassy in Jerusalem location and the events at the Gaza border.

What Walter Williams, who taught at America’s first journalism school at the University of Missouri, called a “creed,” which he promoted in his 1911 book The Practice of Journalism, was the view that journalists should be “stoutly independent,” “self-controlled,” “patient” and “indignant of injustice.”

This, though, is not the case, especially in Europe. Much too often, to quote Roy Greenslade, professor of journalism at London’s City University, former Daily Mirror editor and contributor to The Guardian, one finds that “news and comment have been conflated in our mainstream media outlets… No one reading newspapers down the years can have been in any doubt how their political stance has influenced their content.”

The new norm of bias is “spin,” whereby “heavily angled stories and headlines are the norm.” No one in the media is embarrassed “about omission, about failing to inform readers about news that, for one reason or another, fails to fit the editorial agenda.”

Consider the US decision to reject the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, the “Iran agreement”). As we know well in Israel, most of the Middle East, especially those countries that are “moderate” in the eyes of the Western media, cheered President Trump’s action. However, this fact was somewhat hidden by the media, especially the mainstream European media.

On May 8, Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger, the Washington correspondent of the prestigious Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, known as FAZ, had this to say in his commentary on Trump’s decision, titled “Trump’s destructive act”: “That his decision for sanctions against Iran has fatal consequences seems not to disturb Trump. The main issue is that Obama’s legacy is wiped out. And what does the North Korean dictator learn from this?” In plain words, the Iran decision was a frivolous act by a frivolous president whose main goal in life is to annul the actions of his predecessor. Not a word about the interests of the people living in the region.

This was not a unique event. FAZ’s reporting and commentaries were one continuous expression of disgust with the American president. Two days later, Nora Mueller added her two bits, writing, “Donald Trump’s decision to annul the nuclear treaty with Iran is fatal. It increases the danger of instability and new military warfare and this at the doorstep of Europe.” In Spain the situation was no better. The leading El Pais newspaper seemingly parroted the FAZ. On May 10, Javier Solana, under the headline “Trump’s exit from Iran nuclear deal: an epic mistake,” continued with: “What the US president cares about the most is the fact that the deal was signed under Obama.”

The Swiss Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) was more of the same. The headline of Daniel Steinvorth’s commentary on May 10 was: “Trump abandons the Iranians,” but the content was the same: Trump is motivated by Obama. Not a word about the support for his decision coming from the Saudis or other Middle Eastern countries.

The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of Trump’s decision was similar: “Trump’s trashing of the Iran deal is really about one word: Obama.”

Is it then surprising that Europe as a whole is not backing Trump? The situation is so out of hand that one of us received a letter from a colleague in which he expressed sincere worry about the situation in the Middle East and the danger to Israel.

The relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem was not better received.

Jochen Stahnke of FAZ reported on May 12: “A delicate day in Jerusalem.” Historic? Joyous? Of course not. The subtitle was: “The opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem is first and foremost a symbolic act. But also symbols can catch fire.”

The Guardian’s May 14 headline for the article by Simon Tisdall on the event was much less guarded: “Death, division and denial as US embassy opens in Jerusalem.” The content was the old stuff: “The pompous grandiosity of this tacky ceremony conveyed the essence of Trump-ism: all sound and symbolic fury, lacking substance or sense.”

Space is lacking here to review the many other important European news outlets and their anti-Trump bias, which is quite similar to the knee-jerk anti-Netanyahu responses of Haaretz.

But the breadth of it all suggests that it is not Israel’s lack of public relations, or antisemitism, which lies at the heart of Europe’s journalism. It is rather a byproduct of an ingrained liberalism which cannot dissociate wishful thinking from fact.

The anti-American and anti-Israel bias that it has created is very real, and is something which we must face and counter. It may be fatal to us, again.


Next page