March 15, 2017
|The news item reads: “The Israel Broadcasting Authority’s television and radio stations launched a strike Monday against a government bill that would dismantle the entity and lay off 2,000 workers.” The date of that story is June 2, 2014.
This week’s up-to-date story is that employees of Channel 1 began a partial strike on Sunday to protest the impending closure of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA). The impending closure is the result of the passage in the early morning hours of January 3 by the Knesset of an amendment to delay the opening of the new Israeli Broadcasting Corporation (IBC, branded as KAN) and its transmissions to the end of April 2017.
And the news this past Sunday evening was that, in a manner familiar from previous years, the television broadcast was interrupted with a message appearing on the screen informing the viewers that “the IBA will be closed by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. A thousand families will be added to the cycle of unemployment – today it is us. Tomorrow it will be you.”
On Monday evening, the studio was invaded during a live broadcast, halting Michal Rabinowitz’s presentation, by four employees who harangued viewers, criticizing politicians and a law firm working with the Authority. Who permitted them to act in such an outrageous fashion? To take advantage of their professional ability to be involved in producing television programs as well as being paid from the public purse? Imagine a disappointed politician who is never invited to appear on screen acting similarly.
Reforming, restricting, altering and redesigning public broadcasters is not an unknown phenomenon. We noted last year that the BBC was called out as having a culture that is considered “bureaucratic, arrogant and introspective” and that a parliamentary committee had called for the abolition of its governing body, the BBC Trust, as it had “lost confidence and credibility.”
Here in Israel, the dispute between the IBA and government is more than three decades old.
Public broadcasting was one of the central items on the agenda of Israel’s Media Watch from its beginning in 1995.
There was a need for a deep restructuring of the IBA due to its manifest failings.
These included financial irresponsibility, over-employment, extreme featherbedding, outlandish pay scales, byzantine internal politics, employee rivalry and confrontations, multiplicity of workers’ committees and a failing executive administration.
Refusal to use modern equipment that would save time and person-hours despite already being purchased (it was gathering dust in storerooms) was one of the more striking aspects of the structural disarray.
Not least on the list was the practice of IBA employees using their power to support the personal viewpoints and political ideologies of the Authority’s directors and editors.
The bias, which emerged too many times, from studies conducted by IMW and corroborated by others, slowly but surely led to the IBA’s downfall. The public no longer supported a publicly financed body which usurped the funding for its own purposes instead of the public good. It did not understand why it should be forced to pay a TV tax which served no real public need and which was the same for the poor and the rich.
Media bias is not some imaginary wand that politicians wave about and which the media claims is, in a sense, “fake news.”
In mid-February, CBS Face the Nation host John Dickerson, about as much of a media insider as it is possible to be, told a radio interviewer that the media, not President Donald Trump, is responsible for the public’s negative reactions to it. He claimed that “the press did all that good work ruining its reputation on its own and we can have a long conversation about what created that.”
There is no question in our minds that the same comment may be applied to the IBA. Its actions and inactions, committed by senior as well as lower-level staff, are the source of the situation which ultimately led to the formation of the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) mandated to replace it. We stress this point, since too often the media claims that the downfall of the IBA was the result of political intervention.
This is not so. Its downfall came from within, from the arrogance of its personnel, from its lack of compliance with ethics and legal obligations and the fact that, if anything, the politicians did not have the courage to call a spade a spade.
In fact, the same holds true for the new IBC. The legislation passed by former communications minister Gilad Erdan handed the control of the IBC, on a silver platter, to the old elites, again ignoring public needs.
If the IBC is allowed to continue without fundamental change, we predict that it too, will not last long. The public outcry will eventually lead to the closure of public broadcasting in Israel.
Last week a new governmental proposal was leaked to the public. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemingly caved in to the pressure of Finance Minister Kahlon and accepted the fact that the old IBA would be closed down and the new IBC would start broadcasting on May 1. However, some significant provisos came with this decision, notably the formation of a centralized Israeli Communications Commission to oversee the media industry, private as well as public. Its members, all of them, would be appointed by the government.
This was criticized almost unanimously by the Israeli media as heralding a new era in which the freedom of the press would be severely curtailed. It should be contrasted with the IBC legislation which usurped the power of appointment of the IBC board from the politicians and gave it to an elitist five-member commission headed by a retired judge.
But shouldn’t the media, like any other business, come under the oversight of the government? Would we want our restaurants to be free of “government intervention” which assures that the food meets certain health standards? We believe that it is the government’s job to make sure the Israeli media upholds the law, which states for example that the media should provide fair coverage of all opinions in the Israeli public. This is only possible if the regulator represents the public, rather than the media itself. The only way for this to happen in a democracy is for the power of oversight to remain in the hands of the representatives of the public, which, for good or bad, are the elected politicians, not any elites.
We do not doubt that the present government, like any government for that matter, whether in Israel or abroad, desires a supportive media. But let us not have such a low opinion of our politicians. Some of them actually do recognize the danger inherent in a media which is too powerful.
The leaked legislation is an example of what should be. Sadly though, we are afraid it will be watered down in the legislative process to the point that it, too, will be useless.
March 1, 2017
|Israel’s media has repeatedly accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of wanting to control it. For example, his backtracking on the formation of the Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC), which had been supposed to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), was interpreted by his detractors as another attempt by Netanyahu to impose his will on the media. Since the IBC seemed to be filling up with anti-Netanyahu forces, the story was that Netanyahu had decided he’d be better off with the “old” IBA, which would be forever thankful to him for preventing its dissolution. This perverted interpretation is but one of many “fake news” items to which the Israeli public has been subjected.
Who really controls Israel’s media? Is it the government, the politicians, the “tycoons” – or, just perhaps, could it be those elements in the media that cry wolf loudest while doing all they can to assure the continuity of their influence and at the same time expand their own control.
Politicians can, at least in principle, exercise their influence mostly on the public media. This is why for years they would not close down the wasteful Educational TV network, or impose fiscal restraint on the IBA. Similarly, we suspect that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s threat to shift control of the Galatz radio station to the Defense Ministry was just another political ploy aimed at assuring influence over the station.
In a similar vein, Israel has another public media station, the Knesset Channel, which costs the taxpayer “only” NIS 25 million a year.
The American system is simple. Congress televises its public proceedings and make them available to anyone who wants to use them, whether live or via the Internet.
C-span uses whichever proceedings it finds interesting and broadcasts it through the cable and satellite networks. The cost to the taxpayer is nothing. The consumer can, via the Internet, watch any congressional proceeding she or he desires. The American system is not predicated on many hours of studio broadcasting with panels, interviews and debates between politicians or public figures such as pundits, academics and social activists.
The Israeli system is very different. The Knesset provides a budget of NIS 25m. annually and contracts a company for a period of 10 years to take over Knesset broadcasting.
Although nowadays almost all Knesset proceedings are recorded by Knesset staff, the public can only access them through the filter of the Knesset Channel. In principle, the concessionaire has to be impartial, whereas in practice any broadcaster will always use some filter to provide what is perceived as interesting to the public.
This filter is very meaningful. Consider a typical Knesset committee debate. Does the Knesset Channel pick up all speakers? By no means – only those considered acceptable by the concessionaire. Although many NGOs, companies, groups and private individuals exercise their democratic right and spend their precious time appearing in front of Knesset committees to testify and provide information, only a very small minority will ever be seen by the public since the Knesset Channel does not broadcast all the proceedings. Instead, it uses precious air time for useless, boring and repetitive debate, and biased commentary.
The concessionaire can choose, for example, to spend more time on someone from a company which advertises on the parent channel or whose goals benefit the parent channel by inviting the people involved to one of the talk shows. Owning a TV concession is about much more than just broadcasting. It is a source of power, influence and money.
It is not surprising then that the 10-year concession is highly valued. There are four finalists in the current bidding process. TV Channel 2, which operated the channel for the past 13 years, is one, as is TV Channel 10, which is under the aegis of the R.G.E. Group, a privately-held media operation whose main assets, besides Channel 10, are NOGA Communications and Sports Channel 5. The other two are smaller companies: on is TV Channel 20, the other is funded by Ami Giniger, owner of the Ulpanei Herzliya company.
The final decision will be made in the coming month, as the concession of Channel 2 runs out in May.
Logic would seem to have it that the concession should not be given to Channel 2 for, after all, government funding should be spread out and a chance given to other companies.
A monopoly is not healthy in general and certainly when it comes to the media. One would also have liked to think the concession would not be given to a company which has violated its previous fiduciary commitments to the state, in addition to bilking the public of over a billion shekels, which is the amount the company should have paid the government over the years but refused to. It did, however, provide outrageous salaries for its “celebrity staff.” In other words, TV Channel 10 should also not be in the running.
But that’s not the way things are done in Israel. Both channels, that cry out that the government wants to control the media, actually not only control a sizable portion of the media market, but have an insatiable appetite for more. Any attempt by Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein to assure that the new concessionaire does not use its power to show the Knesset at its ugliest was nixed. In fact, politicians had very little influence over how the new concession would be formulated or awarded. Those who really influenced the process in the Knesset, thus far, were the TV stations themselves. They can afford to peddle their wares for the politicians’ fear of them is deathly.
So, what have we got? The public, as usual, is the loser.
It not only pays the concessionaire but in the process loses the ability to really know what is happening in the Knesset. The politicians have no say in the operation of the channel. It is the concessionaire who has the power, who can focus the spotlight on politician A or B and who can further any agenda – political, economic, cultural.
Israel’s democracy would profit if the media exercised a wee bit of self-control. The ideal situation would be for the Knesset itself to provide live coverage, available to all, at no cost. A media company or NGO that wants then to cover Knesset proceedings could do so. The only legislation needed would be to increase the number of legal TV stations in Israel, which means, for all intents and purposes, operating under free market conditions. This is precisely what the present concessionaires do not want; they prefer “self-control.”
February 15, 2017
|‘Fake news’ has been anointed by at least one dictionary as the “word of the year” and most assuredly it is one of the linguistic highlights for others who promote vocabulary inventiveness.
To our mind, fake news is the lesser problem. Most of it turns out be fake and the public knows. A much more difficult issue is when real news is made fake by journalists who have no respect for their own profession and its code of ethics.
A fact can easily be misrepresented.
Imbalance of coverage or the makeup of a discussion panel will divert attention from unpleasant matters. A wink, shrug or raised eyebrow will mislead the viewer. A tagged-on comment from a supposedly impartial anchor can persuade a listener to believe what is not actually true.
Amanda Taub, writing in the January 11, 2017, edition of The New York Times, asserted that the problem could lie with the media consumers who are becoming more insular and resistant to a pluralistic review of news and views.
She had it that “Partisan tribalism makes people more inclined to seek out and believe stories that justify their pre-existing partisan biases, whether or not they are true.” We would point out that there is a corollary to this: journalists are more inclined to publish and air stories that play up to their own political and social peer groups. If violations of the professional journalism rules becomes a regular feature of some media personalities, outlets and programs, the result is quite fake.
American columnist David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun expressed related concerns when he admitted in a CNN interview that he is upset with “over-the top rhetoric, historical ignorance, an utter lack of proportion and, in some cases, just plain bias.” He has issued a “call for calmer, more centrist media” instead of the “feeding frenzy” that too often dominates reporting. He urged “real reporting – not alleg[ing] it with over-the-top rhetoric.”
“Credibility,” he wrote, “remains the highest prize of all.”
Of course, there is always the comic approach of Ron Burgundy (the Anchorman character): “Why do we have to tell the people what they need to hear? Why can’t we just tell them what they want to hear?” Even that approach, in Israel, is impossible.
The media, from the editors down, presume that they know much better than average Israelis what they should be hearing or reading. One cannot find a single public poll which attempts to understand the media needs of Israelis. Even the public broadcasters do not give a hoot for the public’s interests as they know it all.
For example, shortly after the recent Amona evacuation, Judge Miriam Lipschitz-Previs of the Jerusalem District Court handed down a spectacular decision. Four years after the previous Migron expulsion, she declared that Arab ownership of the lands in question was unproven. She issued an order that the plaintiffs who had sought damages themselves would pay the residents of the former Migron location for the discomfort they had caused. She also prohibited the Arabs from attempting any future court challenges connected to land upon which the original Migron was built.
This decision merited headline treatment and studio debate. But hardly anyone knows about it. Our media, which is so good at exposing political misdeeds and at deifying “investigative reporters” such as Ilana Dayan, did not, as far as we know, devote an investigative report to the fate of the families evacuated from Migron. Where are they today? What are their conditions? Has anything been learned from the catastrophic Gaza and North Samaria expulsion of 2005? And what of the conditions of the current Amona evacuees? Even the Left should be interested in such facts, given that it promotes further expulsions of Jews from their homeland.
Another item has been the ongoing media treatment of police investigations into actions taken or not taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One concern was Netanyahu’s rumored involvement in the process of contracting for the purchase of German submarines.
Some media outlets indicated that bribes were involved.
Last week, as if in a “still, small voice,” it became apparent that Netanyahu was not a suspect. Almost daily, several times a day, Israelis, almost obsessive consumers of news, were primed by the media to think “Netanyahu” and “bribery” as if in a Pavlovian experiment. And then, within a day, we learn the matter never really existed. Headlines? An apology? Only additional “news” about the alleged misdeeds of the prime minister and his wife.
A recent media study, based on a content analysis of articles by Johannes Kaiser and Katharina Kleinen-von Konigslow about the EU crisis in German and Spanish online newspapers and published in Journalism’s December 2016 issue, found that ideology-guided framing is present in nearly half of all articles. This type of self-injected involvement has long been a negative factor in Israel’s media establishment elite.
A charge of agenda-driven journalism was made last week in Maariv by Kalman Liebskind against Rino Tzror, who broadcasts over Galatz Army Radio (which will not be transferred to the Defense Ministry as we had urged in our previous column, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman having backtracked on his own suggestion).
Liebskind expressed outrage at Tzror’s characterization of a film clip Liebskind and others employed as satire. It showed snakes chasing an iguana, to highlight how Netanyahu is being hounded by the media, and was depicted by Tzror as “incitement.” He searched Tzror’s Facebook page and found that back in 2011, complaining about what Tzror considered to be a Netanyahu- led anti-media campaign, Tzror himself used an image of a snake.
What is prohibited for the Right is, Liebskind indicated, quite a permissible tool for the Left.
Prime Minister Netanyahu left Israel earlier this week for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump. Over the past weekend, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Yehudi party, warned that Netanyahu should not continue to push for the “two-state solution.” This warning was the media’s introduction to the trip. Only Israel Hayom mentioned that the prime minister would raise the Pollard issue with Trump, a news-worthy item.
Although everyone knows that the Oslo process which was initiated 25 years ago was a total failure, one will never find the mainstream media considering the consequences.
Perhaps a strong joint US-Israel stand, supporting the recognition of unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, promotion of settlement activity and legitimization of Israel’s claims to Judea and Samaria would bring the PLO to its senses and the negotiating table?
Perhaps Israel’s housing crisis is directly related to the prime minister’s acquiescence to Obama in prohibiting construction in Judea and Samaria? The atmosphere in Israel’s mainstream media is one of denial and misrepresentation of the issues facing Israel. If this were not so serious, as the destiny of our small state depends so much on the decisions of weak politicians who let themselves be guided by a fake media, it could be considered ludicrous.
February 5, 2017
|Galatz’ is the Hebrew abbreviation of Galei Zahal – Army Radio (literally “the waves of the IDF”) Last week the Israeli public was informed that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had decided to move Galatz from the military to the Defense Ministry.
This is not a trivial move, for it means that if and when it actually happens Galatz will become an independent entity, operating within the Defense Ministry, much as the Israel Broadcasting Authority is an independent entity operating within the Communications Ministry or the Israel Educational Television network is attached to the Education Ministry.
The present IDF chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, has made public his opinion that a radio station should not be part of the army. Former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon disagreed, but now with Liberman replacing him, the decision seems to have been made to accept the recommendation of the chief of staff, one that Ehud Barak, too, supported in 1992 when he was chief of staff.
But truth be told it is far from certain that it will happen, and worse, even if it does it may not improve the situation. In fact, if deputy attorney-general Dina Silber has her way, it will only further the distance between the station and the public. Silber, who is known for her left-wing views, has been given the authority to lay down the legal guidelines which are to govern the transition of the station. The headline in Makor Rishon last Friday had it thus: “This is the method by which Galatz will keep its independence in the Defense Ministry.”
As reported in Makor Rishon, Silber’s directive, presumably affirmed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, had it among other things that the station would be under the control of the Defense Ministry director-general, and not the minister. Moreover, the government would not be permitted to move the station from the Defense Ministry to any other structure or institution within the government. Of course, the head of the station would not be chosen by the minister but by a committee whose head is someone such as a former Supreme Court justice or the president of the Israel Press Council. It really does not matter how it is accomplished, as long as it is the outdated elites who identify with the liberal progressive Left who control the station.
One would hope that Liberman will ignore these antidemocratic directives. But then what? What type of station will it be? What should its mandate be? News? Entertainment? Political commentary? Battle chronicles? Analysis?
We believe that the best decision is to close the station. We have published our outlook for over two decades now. Israel does not need the station, there is no need for taxpayers to fund it. We already have more than enough government-funded media outlets. It would be much better to leave the playing field to private competition and spare the government the expense.
We are not naïve, however. This will not happen. Bureaucratic inertia and the love of politicians for “playthings” outweighs logic. The shouts of “gevalt!” coming from Israel’s elite will be heard from one side of the world to the other. The government will be accused of being antidemocratic. The media elite, many of whom are alumni of the station and fully understand its important role of keeping Israel’s airwaves clear of true pluralism, will use their power to stop such a decision, as they have successfully done in the past.
What then, will the station continue to employ army recruits? Probably yes, even though this, too, is not exactly justified. Where does the state get the moral right to draft young people into jobs that do not have anything to do with the defense of the State of Israel? But let’s gloss over the niceties. Minister Liberman could take advantage of the transition and change the ground rules. Nowadays, soldiers who are of combat quality cannot even apply to serve at Galatz. This is a wonderful rule, since in practice it means that highly motivated and Zionistic youngsters will never be able to enter this bastion of the Left.
Galatz has suffered in the past incidents in which employees seemed to “misunderstand” the station’s identity. Examples abound. In 2002, Galatz commander Avi Benayahu had to suspend Amos Krieger for allowing Saed Kashua to attack the IDF’s actions across the Green Line – on Remembrance Day. This past summer, Yaron Dekel, the station’s current commander, was reprimanded for permitting an interview which touted the anti-Zionist poet Mahmoud Darwish’s output as a “classic Israeli text.”
There is, though, a way out. Being accepted as an employee of the station should be conditioned on having first served 18 months in a regular unit. Moreover, the gender discrimination should cease. Both men and women should agree to a three-year stint in the station, of which during the last 18 months they would be considered regular soldiers receiving a modest salary. This would assure that the people serving in the station had first-hand army experience.
It would increase their identification with what should be the station’s core Zionist values. It would insure that the recruits do not partake in the post-Zionist army bashing which has been too often the hallmark of the radio station.
Original unedited version:
Galatz no more?
By Yisrael Medad and Eli Pollak
Radio Galatz is the Hebrew abbreviation of Galei Zahal – the air waves of the Israel Defense Forces. Last week the Israeli public was informed that Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman decided to move Galatz out of the army to the Defense Ministry.
This is not a trivial move for it means that if and when this actually happens, the radio station will no longer be under the command of the officer responsible for education in the IDF, who is under the command of the general heading the personnel department and whose boss is the IDF Chief of Staff. Instead, the idea is to have the station become an independent entity, operating within the Ministry of Defense, much as the Israel Broadcasting Authority is an independent entity operating within the Ministry of Communications or the Israel Educational Television network is attached to the Ministry of Education.
The present Chief of Staff of the IDF, General Gadi Eisenkot has made his opinion public that a radio station should not be part of the army and its budget should not come on account of the IDF’s budget. Former Defense Minister Ya’alon disagreed, but now with Lieberman replacing him, the decision seems to have been made to accept the recommendation of the Chief of Staff, one that Ehud Barak had supported in 1992 when he was Chief of Staff.
We are happy to say kudos to Lieberman, but truth be told, we are far from certain that this will happen and worse, if this does, it will not make the station better. In fact, if Ms. Dina Silber, who is one of the deputy attorney-generals, has her way, it will only further the distance between the station and the public. Silber, who is known for her left wing agenda, has been given the authority to lay down the legal rules which are to govern the transition of the station. The headline in Makor Rishon last Friday had it thus: “This is the method by which Galatz will keep its independence in the Ministry of Defense”.
Strange, when it comes to life and death, the left wing is quick to blame the government for not allowing the cabinet to take responsibility for operational decisions of the army. At least that is the line taken by the IBA’s perpetual left wing legal commentator Moshe Negbi this past Sunday on his weekly radio program on Kol Yisrael.
He noted that it was a “crime” not to involve the Cabinet in the decision making process leading to the Protective Edge operation. But, when it comes to the really important issues, such as the strategy, policies and budget of a media organ, the Government must be kept at arm’s length. One might think that Ms. Silber is paying the expenses and not the Israeli public who elects officials to carry out policy. Ms. Silber is not an elected official.
As reported in Makor Rishon, Silber’s directive presumably affirmed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had it, among others that the station would be under the control of the Director General of the Defense Ministry and not the Minister. Moreover, the government would not be permitted to move the station from the Defense Ministry to any other structure or institution within the government. Of course, the head of the station would not be chosen by the Minister but by a committee whose head is someone such as a former Supreme Court justice or the President of the Israeli Press Council. It really does not matter how it is done, as long as it is the outdated elites who identify with the liberal progressive left wing who control the station.
One would hope that Lieberman will ignore these antidemocratic directives. But then what? What type of station will it be? What should be its mandate? News? Entertainment? Political commentary? Battle legacy chronicles? Analysis?
We believe that the best decision is to close down the station. We have published our outlook for over two decades now. Israel does not need the station, there is no need why the taxpayer should cover the bill. We already have more than enough government-funded media outlets. It would be much better to leave the playing field to private competition and totally remove the defense ministry from wasting any of its budget on Galatz.
We are not naïve, however. Unfortunately this will not happen. Bureaucratic inertia of the love of politicians for ‘play things’ outweighs simple logic and money-saving ideas. The shouts of Gevalt! coming from Israel’s elites will be heard from one side of the world to the other. The government will be accused of the most horrendous crime of being anti-democratic. The media elites, many who are alumni of the station and who fully understand that it is an important part of keeping Israel’s airwaves clean from true pluralism, will use their power to stop such a decision as they have successfully done in the past.
What then? Will the station continue to employ army recruits? Probably yes, even though this, too, is not exactly justified. Where does the State garner the moral right to recruit young people into jobs that do not have anything to do with combat and the defense of the State of Israel? But let’s gloss over the niceties. Minister Lieberman could take advantage of the transition and change the ground rules. Nowadays, soldiers who are of combat quality cannot even apply to serve in Galatz. After all, their job is to go to the fighting corps, not the “jobniks” who serve behind the desks and computers. This is a wonderful rule, we ruefully note, since in practice it implies that especially those youngsters who are highly motivated and Zionistic will never be able to enter this bastion of the left.
Galatz has suffered in the past incidents when employees seemed to “misunderstand” the station’s identity. Examples abound. In 2002, Galatz Commander Avi Benayahu had to suspend Amos Krieger for allowing Saed Kashua to attack the IDF’s actions across the Green Line, on the Memorial Day for the IDF’s fallen. This past summer, Yaron Dekel, the station’s current commander, was reprimanded for permitting an interview which touted the anti-Zionist poet Mahmoud Darwish’s output as a “classic Israeli text”.
There is, though, a way out. Being accepted as an employee of the station should be conditioned on having first served 18 months in a regular unit. Only then would one be able to enter the radio station. Moreover, the discrimination between women and men should cease. Both should agree to a three-year stint in the station, of which during the last eighteen months they would be considered as regular soldiers receiving a modest salary for their duties. This would assure that the people serving in the station would know the army from first-hand experience.
It would increase their identification with what should be the station’s core Zionist values rather than another outlet for our cultural and intellectual elites. It would insure that the recruits do not partake in the post-Zionist army bashing which has been too often the hall mark of the radio station.
January 22, 2017
|For more than half a year, Eldad Yaniv has been publishing stories in his column on Walla’s website promising a spectacular revelation regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ethics as well as hinting at criminal actions. He was the pincer’s second jaw, along with Channel 10’s Raviv Drucker, in an attempt to cause the prime minister to resign.
Yaniv was previously an extremely close adviser to former prime minister Ehud Barak, of the Labor Party.
He coauthored the New Zionist Left political manifesto, and also ran in the 2013 elections as head of the Eretz Hadasha (New Land) Party, which failed to garner enough votes to pass the electoral threshold. He styles himself a social activist and journalist.
Yaniv and Drucker are not the only ones who have been promoting the doomsday scenario for Netanyahu.
The mainstream media, via Army Radio, Yediot Aharonot and Haaretz began to fall in line along with channels 2 and 10. Yaniv was extensively interviewed, commentators commented and predictions were made – all with a negative attitude toward Netanyahu. No one investigated how Yaniv “knew” what he knew or what his sources were. Details began to emerge only during these past two weeks, and even now, no one has bothered to inform the public who is doing the leaking.
There are two central stories. One has to do with expensive presents received by Netanyahu and his family from friendly moguls. The other has been portrayed as an attempt to bribe Netanyahu, through the vehicle of favorable press coverage by the Yediot Aharonot media empire, in return for the elimination of Israel Hayom.
We cannot judge the seriousness of the claims against Netanyahu. But we note that what started out as questions about how many cigars were gifted to Netanyahu and how many bottles of pink champagne Sara Netanyahu imbibed, has ended up as a major debacle for the local media. Whether Arnon “Noni” Mozes, owner and publisher of Yediot Aharonot, will be indicted for attempted bribery is meaningful, but not the real essence of the story. His attempted negotiations with Netanyahu, ostensibly to eradicate his competition, revealed the true face of the country’s self-proclaimed “most influential newspaper.” Mozes is motivated by crass commercial interests, rather than the champion of the free press he portrays himself as.
As MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) said: “On a public level, this is a very grave thing… there’s a risk here that the public will lose faith in the government and in the media.”
Based on the published transcripts of the negotiations between Mozes and Netanyahu, whose genuineness has so far not been denied, Mozes sought to trade with Netanyahu: favorable coverage for a law that would weaken Israel Hayom.
The proposed legislation, portrayed as “saving” the domestic press from the jaws of billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the owner of Israel Hayom, was, it turned out, a major element in Netanyahu’s decision to call early elections in 2015. This past Sunday Netanyahu freely admitted this consideration on his Facebook page.
The legislation was initiated by Eitan Cabel of the Zionist Union in 2014, passed its early reading in the Knesset, against the wishes of the prime minister who voted against it, and was halted only when the Knesset was dissolved. Cabel has been questioned by the police.
This sordid affair has set off an internal media war.
Haaretz is attacking Yediot, as is Israel Hayom. Nahum Barnea, Yediot’s Israel Prize-winning journalist, claimed in his January 12 column that “everyone is a suspect.”
He added, “The reports that are being published are hard to digest for the newspaper’s editors and writers, who are doing an excellent job fearlessly and [without bias]. They are difficult for me too.”
If indeed Mozes was promising a quid pro quo in the form of a more moderate portrayal of the prime minister, this means that self-promoting journalists such as Barnea, who are on Mozes’s payroll and who ferociously attacked the prime minister, are in fact far from what they would want their public image to be.
They are nothing more than pens for hire. Barnea, in writing “everyone,” really means “no one.”
Barnea, though, reserved a special barb for Haaretz.
Accusing it of possessing “a lot of influence on the legal system and on the regulators,” he noted that the fact that it’s printing of Israel Hayom in its printing house was a factor that “contributed to the repression [of the country’s press freedom].”
But the story does not end with the media. It might also have serious political repercussions. Various ministers and MKs have already been required to give testimony to police. One name that has not appeared is that of Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett. Will he be investigated? Let us recall that beginning in 2013 Bennett benefited from some rather flattering coverage in Yediot. The observation in the media was that he had managed to make it onto Yediot Aharonot’s prestigious list in record time.
Bennett, openly competing with Netanyahu as leader of the nationalist camp, was also one of the supporters of the short-lived anti-Israel Hayom bill. Bayit Yehudi Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also supported the bill.
Did they agree to or were they offered a quid pro quo? Netanyahu claims that the negotiation with Mozes was a farce, or better, a sting operation. He purposely had his chief of staff Ari Harrow tape the meetings, so that if necessary he could use the material against Mozes. From his point of view, the tapes prove Mozes is hungry for power and money. Morals, or the media ethics code, were the last thing on his mind.
Was it a sting operation? Was Netanyahu trying to curry favor or was he trapping Mozes? We do not know, but just like Mozes, Netanyahu’s image has been sullied.
From the material published thus far, it turns out that Netanyahu’s emphasis was on the negative portrayal he was receiving from Mozes and his cronies. We would have expected that the prime minister would take the high road and blast Mozes for destroying the concept of a free press. Instead, like Mozes, it seems that his central interest was self-preservation and the public interest be damned.
We should not forget that a central issue on the agenda is the status of the public media. Netanyahu is also the communications minister. Thus far, he has used high terminology in his attempts to derail the establishment of the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, which is supposed to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority. But after this Mozes mess, can the public trust that the prime minister’s interests are pure?
The aftermath of the Mozes debacle is that in Israel, an independent media is a myth. It doesn’t exist in the private sector or in the public one. It is high time that public funding for the media be stopped, but not less so, the prime minister should not, if he wants to protect his image, continue to serve as communications minister.
January 4, 2017
|A central role of government is regulation and oversight. The regulation of restaurants, building standards, educational standards and such is necessary and, in principle, serves the population as a whole. At the same time, regulatory agencies often have too much power, power that stifles private initiative and competition.
And so the question is: who then regulates the regulators? Certainly not the government, especially not in a democracy where the professional regulatory staff outlives by years any elected politician.
In a democracy, the job falls to the media.
Despite criticism, the media very often is helpful in this regard. Radio and TV programs often bring up cases in which the rights of the individual have been trodden upon due to one governmental agency or the other. But there is one sector which for many years has been almost free to do what it wants without fear of the media: the media regulatory agencies.
Their power in Israel is much too great – and they do not hesitate to use it. It is the Second Authority for TV and Radio (SA TR) and the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting (CCTSB) which for many years have prevented the development of a free competitive media atmosphere.
Well into the twenty-first century Israel’s radio broadcasts are deeply mired in the middle of the twentieth. National news on the airwaves is controlled by the publicly funded media organs – Galatz, the army radio station, and the Israel Broadcasting Authority. The SA TR has for years fought tooth and nail to prevent truly free radio broadcasting in Israel. The media itself has been silent on this matter.
The regional radio stations, organized in the Second Authority framework, are part of this deal. They do not let their journalists expose SA TR’s conflict of interest, which is to hold on to its regulatory power at the expense of the public’s right to free airwaves.
In return, SA TR safeguards the turf of the regional radio stations. It does not permit the opening of new ones, or puts in place impossible regulatory conditions.
The public pays the price by being cheated out of multiple voices, news and opinions as well as cultural diversity.
The situation was not any better on TV.
For many years only channels two and 10 were allowed to broadcast news. The result was boring, one-sided and all too often post-Zionist news programs. Of course, if the prime minister attacks the media this is immediately interpreted as an attempt to control it. A better alternative is, as we have done over the years, to point out to the prime minister, especially in view of the fact that he is also the communications minister, that if he really wanted to he could change the situation by reducing the powers of the regulatory agencies.
In fact, almost under the radar, this is precisely what he and his director general, Shlomo Filber, have been doing. Israel Channel 20 TV went on air on June 30, 2014. It was a cable station, operating under the watchful eyes of the CCTSB. Its mandate was to provide “Jewish” TV. That is, to assure that viewers would have the option of seeing more Jewish content than was available on other channels. It was considered an entertainment channel and specifically forbidden to broadcast news of any form.
The channel, true to its mandate, did the unthinkable: it displayed the Israeli flag on its broadcasts. Instead of welcoming the change, Haaretz was upset. On March 30, 2015, Rogel Alpher ran a piece headlined, “Channel 20: An Illegal Outpost on our Television Screens.” The subtitle was “by displaying an Israeli flag every second of every day, the cable station – which is supposed to broadcast Jewish content, not right-wing propaganda – looks more like the state-run channel in some dictatorial Arab regime.”
Worse, though, the channel very much wanted to broadcast news. The CCTSB forbade it. As summarized in a recent article on the INN website by Ofra Lax, the channel managed to get itself fined a total of NIS 400,000 for broadcasting news without permission. TV channels two and 10 were outraged. They rightly perceived that in time, Channel 20 would encroach upon their monopoly. Channel 10, the perennial thief of public funds and violator of written contracts, even went to the Supreme Court demanding that Channel 20 not be allowed to broadcast news.
After a lengthy process the CCTSB finally caved under the pressure. On December 22 it allowed Channel 20 to broadcast a one-hour news program at some point between eight and 11 p.m. Another 30 minutes of news were allotted for the rest of the day. One may rest assured that this permit did not come without political backing from the Prime Minister’s Office. Indeed, as reported on The Times of Israel website, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the channel adding: “I will continue to work for competition in the media industry in Israel so that you – the citizens of Israel – can choose who to watch and who to hear.”
This is real progress, but slow and limited.
Why does a regulatory agency find it necessary to limit news content? Its job is to assure that the content abides by the ethical code, no more and no less. Of course, we do not expect channels two and 10 to do their job and criticize the CCTSB for its draconian decision. But the least one would have expected is that our public broadcasting stations, especially the IBA which claims that “it’s yours and for you,” meaning the public, would pick up the cause and help the CCTSB open up much more.
But that is not the case. Our public broadcasting stations, in collusion with the commercial ones, will do everything to protect their turf. Democracy, free speech and all other nice slogans are conveniently forgotten.
But, the times, they are a’ changing, slowly but surely.
This past Tuesday, the Knesset took a first step to allow cable TV companies to also own TV news channels. This should allow the HOT TV, owned by Patrick Drahi, who also owns HOT, to broadcast the i24 News channel. To prevent unfair competition with its competitor YES, the cable company will have to allow YES to also broadcast i24 News. This is a double win: Israel will be getting another news station and it will hopefully appear on both cable companies.
The same day the Knesset also passed a law mandating the continued operation of the IBA and delaying implementing the law mandating the new and post-Zionist Israel Broadcasting Corporation. This, too, is a healthy step. Public broadcasting is justified only if it serves Israel, not if it attempts on a daily basis to undermine it and its institutions.
These recent steps, which limit and overrule the regulatory powers which deny us a pluralistic media, should be cheered by anyone who values freedom of speech and opinion.
December 21, 2016
|Last week, we were informed that President- elect Donald Trump will appoint David Friedman as the next US Ambassador to Israel. Friedman is an unabashed supporter of Israel, and a proud member of the Jewish People. He, like Trump, is not politically correct, supports Israel’s right to settle in Judea and Samaria, and “worst” of all, does not believe in the viability of the two-state solution. The self-proclaimed Israel lovers all over the world are really worried.
Something must be done to stop this insanity! President-elect Trump must be brought to his senses! The future of Israel as a liberal democracy is at stake! If God forbid the US Embassy would be returned to its proper place – the unified city of Jerusalem – as advocated by Friedman, Israel’s place among the nations would be jeopardized, and they warn it would become, in the words of J Street, an “apartheid” state. The impression this and other similar groups in the Jewish “progressive” camp wish to purvey is that the United States would be creating havoc within the Arab world, would lose its influence, and it is clearly against American interests to allow such a policy to become reality.
Much is at stake. It is unthinkable that our local media, as well as that of Europe and parts of the American media, who presume to know it all, would find out that in reality – as compared to their imaginary media world – the annexation of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capital would after 50 years be recognized as such, without ifs and without buts.
This is a war launched by the media, and it started with the New York Times’ mild headline of last Thursday: “Trump chooses hard-liner as ambassador to Israel.” But the column itself was far from mild. The Times made sure that its readers would know that in June Friedman wrote: “The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty … But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas – it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.”
The sign was given, and the good and loyal soldier, in the form of Haaretz, immediately followed through. The next day, December 16, one might have thought that an international incident of the highest urgency had occurred. Their headline was “Trump taps David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel.” But in the article describing the atrocious act, we are informed “Friedman has been a columnist for two Israeli rightwing English-language media outlets: Arutz Sheva and The Jerusalem Post.” One wonders what some of the editorial writers in this paper think about their identification as being part of a “right-wing” newspaper. Personally, we are proud of it, but this is beside the point. Writing in a “right-wing newspaper” obviously identifies the author as belonging to an immoral camp. Friedman’s antipathy to J Street to whom he referred to in one of his articles as “worse than Kapos,” was similarly mentioned.
This, though, was just the beginning.
Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev, on the same day, had an article headlined: “Trump’s radical- right ambassador makes Netanyahu look like a J Street lefty.” True to form, the subtitle was: “It’s good thing ambassador-designate David Friedman will have diplomatic immunity; otherwise he might get arrested for incitement.” Shalev wrote that “from where Friedman stands, most Israelis … are more or less traitors.” Ridiculous, libelous, but who are we to dare and disagree with a Mr. Know-it-all? Indeed, in Shalev’s la-la land, Friedman’s ilk would “give rise to more extreme leaders who will try to spark a new intifada.”
Debra Nussbaum Cohen followed in the same direction, making sure to repeat Friedman’s crimes against J Street. Arieh Golan of Israel Radio, who had publicly sided with Hillary Clinton, was quick to pick up the implications. In his ramblings prior to the 7 a.m. news magazine on Friday morning, he made sure that all of Israel knows that Friedman dared to accuse those peace-loving J Street supporters. Actually, Friedman’s crime was of the worst kind: he dared to use World War 2 imagery with respect to the decent people of J Street.
Back at Haaretz, Allison Kaplan Sommer cited Friedman as saying “Palestinians seek ethnic cleansing of Jews.” The paper made sure to remind the world that on a September 11 interview, Friedman claimed that “Palestinians want ‘their so-called state’ to be, ‘as the Nazis said, Judenrein,’ or devoid of Jews.”
The battle intensified on that same Friday, with The New York Times, no less, describing the appointment as “a dangerous choice.”
In the words of the Times editorial board, Friedman “would be far more likely to provoke conflict in Israel and the occupied territories… and undermine American leadership.”
The New York Times also knows it all, noting that Friedman “hold(s) extremist views that are radically at odds with … the views of most Americans.” One wonders whether their source was the same reliable one that predicted the victory of Hillary Clinton.
But who cares about truth these days, when such catastrophic events are unfolding.
The onslaught continued Sunday with Barak Ravid, one of Haaretz’s senior correspondents, and true to form army radio station Galatz picked it up. Prior to the 7 a.m. news, Asaf Lieberman, the anchor – whom we pointed out some weeks ago was also a Clinton supporter – made sure to read out his column, and then have Ro’I Dan and Rotem Danon, two discussants with the same views, criticize the appointment.
The European media followed through.
The Swiss Neue Zuericher Zeitung had the headline: “Trump is sending more than Netanyahu would like,” as if the correspondent, Ulrich Schmidt, knows how to read the prime minister’s mind. The article clarifies to the Swiss public that Friedman is an unrealistic hardliner. The Frankfurter Allgemiene Zeitung stressed that Friedman is an Orthodox Jew who supports moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and has nothing against the construction of settlements on “Palestinian land.” Their political correspondent for Israel, Jochen Stahnke, knows that Friedman calls all those who think differently “antisemites.” And so the diatribe continues.
The British Guardian was not far off the mark. Correspondents Peter Beuamont in Jerusalem and Julian Borger in Washington open their report with: “Donald Trump has named as his ambassador to Israel a pro-settler lawyer who has described some US Jews as worse than concentration camp prisoner- guards.”
The French LeMonde had it that “Friedman is actively engaged with the extreme Israeli right wing.”
Even veteran Israeli presenter Ya’akov Achimier broadcast on his weekly Saturday night Ch. 1 program “Seeing the World” a CNN review of Friedman’s appointment, without finding it necessary to mention that CNN was an avid supporter of Clinton, that it had its facts wrong prior to the election, and in general, has a pro-left bias.
The bottom line is clear: the liberal leftwing media will do all that it can to stop this appointment, with no holds barred. We would only hope that President-elect Trump will continue to ignore these voices which belong to the past, and do what he believes in, support Israel wholeheartedly.
The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imediaw.org.il).
December 8, 2016
|For almost a decade, since his 2008 story on the travel arrangements and expenses of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, investigative reporter Raviv Drucker, current star of Channel 10 television, host of its investigative reporting magazine Hamakor (“the Source”), has been trying to haul Netanyahu before criminal proceedings.
The history of their mutual animosity is long and complex but it has not only become a local story. It has also attracted foreign media attention especially those who seem to delight in portraying Israel as undemocratic or akin to dictatorships.
Ha’aretz’s Udi Segal recently told The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont that Netanyahu is in “a win-win situation because he manages to have a chilling effect on the media outlets while portraying himself as a victim.” Of course, it could be just the opposite: that the media, while portraying itself as a victim, is actually attempting to frighten or chill the prime minister with, so far, baseless reporting of his supposed crimes and illegalities.
Even Drucker himself, in that same December 1 Guardian interview, admitted, “I don’t think we’re on the slippery slope towards Erdogan and Putin. In Russia and Turkey people like me were already behind bars years ago.”
What is new is the extent to which Drucker and his fellow journalists, such as Ilana Dayan of Channel 2 television, are willing to bend ethics for the sake of their crusade to bring the “Bibi era” to an end, as well as distort Netanyahu’s personal responses on social media platforms.
At the beginning of November, Dayan, who hosts the investigative reporting Uvda program, after unsuccessfully attempting to smear Netanyahu through the actions of his wife, read out the response from the Prime Minister’s Office word-for-word for over six minutes. That response was sharp, biting, and it labeled her a “leftist.”
In Drucker’s case, Netanyahu took to Facebook and wrote, “by means of daily brainwashing the public and character assassination against me and my family, the [media] hope to distract the public’s attention from the core issues of the political debate in Israel.”
Some journalists, like Greer Fay Cashman, are wondering if Drucker is “carrying out a vendetta against Netanyahu and members of his family.” As she wrote last week, “when Drucker can’t find any real dirt to hurl at the prime minister, he starts on Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, and son Yair…
This week Drucker really went overboard [in reporting on the Netanyahu family’s relations with Australian James Packer].”
Yoav Yitzhak, an award-winning investigative journalist in his own right claimed in a November 21 Galatz radio interview that Drucker had been misleading the public when he “exposed” the “conflict of interest” in the purchase of German submarines, involving David Shimron, who also happens to be Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and confidant. Yitzhak used rather strong words with respect to Drucker: “He misled everyone; false information, simply a blood libel.”
The seeming vendetta against the prime minister even reached the Saban Conference in America last week where part of his video recorded message echoed a Facebook post Netanyahu published a week ago: “It is also amusing to hear the media’s cries of dismay and its double standards when I respond to their smears. They hold freedom of speech to be a preeminent value – as long as it is reserved only for them.”
Drucker’s crusades are not limited to the prime minister. This past Sunday, journalist Erel Segal interviewed Oded Svorai, a lawyer, on his Galatz radio program. Svorai is a personal friend of Brig.-Gen. Ofer Winter, formerly a commander of the Gaza Division’s Northern Brigade and currently the chief of staff to the GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Roni Numa. Svorai related that in 2012, Drucker sent a soldier with a concealed recording device to try and entrap Winter, by getting him to admit to giving an order to shoot an innocent Arab boy. Winter not only was not trapped, he offered to provide the soldier with psychological help.
To defend his actions, Drucker, on his Facebook page, insisted that the soldier had initiated the matter and that he (Drucker) was simply using normal methods of obtaining evidence. As reported in Walla, according to Svorai, the soldier, when caught with the recording device, claimed that Drucker sent him. “Drucker understood that you would be appointed to head the Givati brigade and we decided to prevent that from happening.” Winter, a religious soldier, drew criticism for his biblically phrased battle order to the Givati Division at the start of Operation Protective Edge, as well as his later Hannibal Order, aimed at preventing Israeli soldiers from falling into the hands of Hamas.
The prime minister himself was angered at the method Drucker employed. Using Facebook, a platform which nowadays is replacing newspapers, televisions and radios, he attacked Drucker, posting, “If this is true, it is just shocking.” He then launched a frontal assault, adding, “The people of Israel know full well that Channel 10 is taking part in the smear campaign led by [Yediot Aharonot publisher] Noni Mozes, Raviv Drucker and others… Channel 10 airs libelous propaganda against me and my family every night, with the goal of toppling a Likud prime minister, but apparently Channel 10 and Drucker think that is not enough. [Will] Drucker, the darling of the New Israel Fund… be investigated as well?” As we have noted previously, it was as though Netanyahu himself, who knuckled under media pressure and, despite Channel 10’s enormous debts of unpaid financial broadcasting license commitments to the state – to the tune of over NIS 60 million – permitted them to continue to broadcast.
For over ten years, Channel 10 created an ethos of unethical relations to the state.
This creates a lack of respect for law, order and ethics.
Netanyahu’s weakness as well as those of many other politicians in facing off against a media corporation has aided and abetted this atmosphere.
This lack of respect surfaced again on Drucker’s Hamakor program on Tuesday evening. Evidently, Winter’s ethical reaction to Drucker’s setup was strong enough to prevent Drucker from even attempting to use it directly. But this did not deter Drucker or his partner Baruch Kra from trying to give Winter and General Sami Turgeman (Winter’s boss) a black eye. The central accusation was that they dared to try and solve sexual problems that were disclosed over two years ago within the Givati Brigade on their own without going to the police. The program was a rehash of known stories, nothing really newsworthy in them except for muckraking, innuendos and unsubstantiated accusations.
We should add that Turgeman and Winter’s “guilt” is that they are excellent soldiers who continue to make significant contributions to the security of the State of Israel.
But this does not deter Kra and Drucker.
Kra used the summary at the end of the program to describe Winter’s behavior as “disgraceful.” Winter was not even asked to respond. We should pity Drucker. His legacy is the attempt to give people a black eye from the bully pulpit. Truth, ethics and honest journalism are beyond him.
November 23, 2016
|There is no question that the American media suffered a colossal and embarrassing double failure during the US presidential election campaign. It did not assess the possible outcomes nor did it provide fair coverage of the day-to-day developments. The failures should have been a déjà vu moment for those who have been following our columns these past years as well as our work at Israel’s Media Watch since 1995.
Israel’s elections in 1996 and 2015 as well as many intermediate events were treated by Israel’s mainstream media in an almost parallel fashion.
To their credit, American media figures admitted their errors. Will Rahn, political correspondent at CBS, wrote, “We were all tacitly or explicitly with Hillary Clinton” while “mocking the people who had a better sense of what was going on.” He admitted the press’ “assumption that Trump voters are backward, and that it’s our duty to catalogue and ultimately reverse that backwardness.” Journalists possess “smugness [and] meanness” toward the electorate, he wrote.
The New York Times’s Frank Bruni referred to “we geniuses in the news media” who were “telling… how the Republican Party was unraveling.”
He admitted that the media’s “political correctness has morphed into a moral… sanctimony, undermining its own goals.”
His is a fair description of the elitist character of too many media figures, editors, producers and reporters not only in the US but also here in Israel.
The rumblings from below were heard in America but during the campaign the media there ignored and rejected the valid criticism directed at it, refusing to take stock of its performance.
On August 22 this year, it was reported that nearly four in 10 American voters believe that the US media was biased toward the Democratic presidential nominee. Thirty-three percent said that the media’s fairness to each candidate was “poor.” A September 14 headline reads: “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low” and an October 19 poll had it that “Majority of voters believe media biased against Trump.”
The findings of a post-election poll by the Media Research Center (MRC) claimed 69% of voters “do not believe the news media are honest and truthful” and that 78% of voters believe the news coverage of the presidential campaign was biased, with 59% of them believing Clinton was the media’s favorite.
Polls in Israel also indicate a growing disdain for the ability or even willingness of the media to preserve the values of professional objectivity and fairness. In light of the American experience, will our journos take time out to reconsider the way their own personal prejudices corrupt their reporting? We doubt it.
CBS’s Rahn, quoted above, could have been commenting on Israel’s media when he wrote, “Journalists, at our worst, see ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs divined from an advanced understanding of justice.”
The damage done is not a simple matter of wrong facts or misunderstood trends but, as The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker noted on November 18, “Of all the losers in this season of discontent, the mainstream media top the list…. and I sincerely fear that loss of faith in journalism ultimately will cause more harm to the nation than any outside enemy could hope to.”
Despite being witness to all this, and more, many of our own media people continue in their unethical, smug and sanctimonious ways.
The press here gleefully reported that only 24% of US Jewry voted for Trump. This was based on exit polls which we know were not accurate.
Who cares? The fact that Jewish voters played a crucial role in certain key states that swung to Trump, like Florida, was simply ignored by our media.
Consider Aryeh Golan, whose performance has been criticized by us many times in the past. He was sent to cover Election Day and its aftermath in the US and chose to cover the happenings at the Clinton base.
To his chagrin, in more ways than one, the center of attention turned to the Trump camp where Nathan Gutman was installed. The least that should have resulted from his professional debacle is that he would come to realize and internalize the errors of the media. But no, that would be asking too much. Political correctness cannot be discarded so quickly.
Just this past Sunday, Golan in his unethical personal opinion opening to Reshet Bet radio’s morning news magazine continued his Trump bashing.
Among other remarks, he said the following: “Now Trump is putting together his dream team. An attorney general who hates blacks and the Ku Klux Klan only disturbs him because the use marijuana; a national security adviser who tweets with respect to the possible election of Clinton – ‘no more you Jews, no more’; and Steve Bannon who according to testimony of his former wife thinks that the Jews educate their children as crybabies.”
Golan considers Trump and his aides to be antisemites. Golan is ridiculous and petty, but his editors and bosses do not even chastise him for debasing our publicly funded broadcasting, presumably they too have been infected with political correctness.
The story, however, is not only Trump, for here in Israel, it is also Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Too many in our media really despise the prime minister and are willing to clutch at any straw to try and remove him. The latest story is the decision to obtain submarines from Germany and the fact that Netanyahu’s adviser, advocate David Shimron, had as his client businessman Miki Ganor who was employed by the German submarine building company. Raviv Drucker of Channel 10 was the one who got the scoop, and the media jumped at it.
Sure enough, opposition leader Isaac Herzog fell into the trap and is now calling on the Knesset to appoint an official inquiry panel. In contrast to many Israelis and Americans who have stopped believing the media, Herzog did not study the issue deeply and took the populistic route.
Had he done his homework he would have realized that Netanyahu’s dealings were, as reported on the News One website by Yoav Yitzchak, government to government. Netanyahu could not have had any direct contact with the construction company, since this was a decision solely of the German government. In other words, Netanyahu certainly did not commit any breach of trust, let alone any legal violation. But, our media has been incessantly promoting the issue already for a whole week, and woe to the person who dares question it. Yitzchak was not interviewed on public radio; the powers there do not believe that his type of reporting is worthy of their listeners. Did we mention smugness and a “we know it all” attitude?
The bottom line is that Israel’s media does not understand the public, does not want to cater to it, is not willing to change its ways and like El Al, is digging its own grave.
November 10, 2016
|T he latest brouhaha surrounding the decision of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to stop the establishment of the new Israeli Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and leave the old Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) as is, has been humongous. It did not come from the public, but from the media itself. The amount of harangues against the PM and coalition head MK David Bitan has been unprecedented. How dare these two rethink the process initiated by former Finance Minister and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and Likud Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan? One might think that the decision really threatens Israeli democracy and moves Israel towards fascism.
The truth is far from it.
Let’s put things in perspective and proportion. In February 2016, England’s BBC came under criticism.
The Commons Media select committee had said the BBC’s Trust, its management body, has a culture that is considered “bureaucratic, arrogant and introspective” and called for the abolition of the public broadcaster’s governing body.
The committee’s 65-page report said the BBC’s “lack of transparency” about the pay of stars and senior executives “must be addressed.” It called for the BBC to have a unitary board with an independent chair. There are echoes here of criticism voiced in Israel, both in regard to inherent bias in a so-called public broadcaster (the “public” being a small elitist unrepresentative clique) and atrocious management style regarding personnel and the authority’s budget.
There is nothing outlandish in critically reviewing a public broadcaster’s performance. Democracy is not being threatened – at least no more than an unsupervised public media outlet that demands complete freedom from public control.
As readers of this column know, we were and continue to be highly critical of Erdan and his formation of the IBC.
His legislation suffered from major drawbacks. The IBC was formed on a post-Zionist basis. It disconnected the public corporation paid for by the taxpayers from any public influence on it. The facts speak for themselves. The new IBC, just like the old IBA, does not give a hoot about public opinion.
It makes the decisions for us, and in the old Bolshevik bosses-know-it-all style.
Bitan claims that the new IBC is left of center. The problem is that the old IBA is not exactly right of center. Why then does he support either one of them? The mantra is that Israel needs a public broadcaster. But why? For more than 20 years, Israel Media Watch’s monitoring of the IBA showed unequivocally that it was a fiefdom that abrogated power unto itself, avoiding oversight of its activities. It did not represent the public interest and worse, it sought to manage the news rather than report it.
According to the Landes commission set up by Erdan, the IBC does not need to broadcast to the Jewish Diaspora, is not committed to Jewish values, does not need to cater to minorities (for example to the Israeli English speaking public), there is no need for it to produce Jewish-oriented drama and Jewish values take a back seat. Landes’ center of attention was news. In this day and age do we really need to spend taxpayer money to get news? Many years ago, the old IBA provided an important service. It lived up to its mandate, as a Jewish Israeli broadcaster.
But during the past 20 years, it has moved away from its ethos. Even the Hebrew language is no longer respected by the IBA and its new cadre of hyperactive journalists. Advertisement is the name of the game, the more ads the more money for the personnel. The public suffers silently, but the IBA couldn’t care less.
It freely spends our money. Was it necessary to send Kol Yisrael’s Arye Golan to America to cover the elections, when the IBA already has a correspondent (Natan Gutman) there? Yes, if you ask Golan, he is having a great time there, on our account.
Do we really need a public broadcaster that competes unfairly with private stations? It receives public funding and so can afford to take less for advertising.
One can understand Netanyahu’s frustration with the media. In July, Haaretz attacked Netanyahu in defense of Yedioth Ahronot. “Netanyahu Declares War on Israel’s Media” was the title of Yossi Verter’s July 23 column in which he claimed that “the prime minister has shamelessly set out to annihilate free press”.
A week earlier, another rabble-rousing piece, an “analysis” no less, was titled “Netanyahu runs amok in his attack on freedom of the press.” Ilana Dayan, who has a weekly radio program on the publicly funded Galatz radio station, had the gall to warn that everything necessary must be done to prevent Netanyahu from closing the IBC.
True to her word, this past Monday, Dayan devoted her Channel 2 TV program Uvda (Fact) to a rehash of charges made against Netanyahu in the past, none of which have been proven in a court of law. Even Haaretz admitted that “the general gist of the report was already known to Israelis who have been following these affairs closely in recent years, but the package created by Dayan and her team was both compelling and disturbing.”
Dayan read out a six-minute long response from the Prime Minister’s office and then, added a droopy, if even snide smile, another silent-butdeadly tactic media people employ, similar to the infamous Haim Yavin raised eyebrow. They don’t even need to say anything biased. The PM’s office reaction which Dayan read out was a list of cases accusing Dayan of partiality and belonging to Israel’s left.
The media, instead of considering any of the points raised by the PM continued the attack. The “political correspondents forum” of Israel published a manifest signed by notable public broadcasting correspondents such as Ilil Shachar from Galatz and Shimon Aran and Yair Weinreb from the IBA. The letter noted that “in a democracy the government cannot threaten journalists. A situation in which the PM… paints journalists politically undermines Israeli democracy.”
The truth is that the PM’s critics, as well as those of MK Bitan, have one interest: to continue to control and undermine Israel’s public media.
Dayan does not understand that she has to make one of two choices, either to publicly defend the IBC, or to host a documentary program. Doing both puts her in a conflict of interest and the public loses its trust in her veracity.
For more than 20 years, we thought that the good outweighs the bad. Israel could benefit from public broadcasting, but only if it is truly public and caring of the public. Sadly, this is a pipe dream.
Israel’s public broadcasters are incapable of providing us with fair, pluralistic, Zionist and Jewish-oriented programming. They are not willing to internalize that they are public servants.
Who knows, perhaps Trump’s victory in the USA is a sign that also here the old elites should start counting their days of hegemony. It is high time to close down the public broadcasters – all of them, including Galatz.