October 2, 2007

Media Atonement?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 11:04 pm by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT  BY  ELI POLLAK AND YISRAEL MEDAD  MEDIA ATONEMENT?  A year has passed, a year in which we wrote more than 50 columns, reporting on the media but also directly and indirectly voicing criticism. We touched a large variety of topics, ethics in advertising, public broadcasting, media regulatory agencies, media personalities, media ethics, accuracy and more. One of the central themes of Yom Kippur is the personal atonement. Among others, we ask for forgiveness for the sin of slander or gossip. Can one write a weekly media column without transgressing? And, if one cannot do so should one continue writing? Even if the answer to the last question is positive, and we believe so, we all should be continuously introspective and try to correct errors. We too were probably guilty of sins of omission and bias. On Yom Kippur we ask for atonement for sins that we are and are not aware of. But Yom Kippur does not atone for sins between fellow man. We ask forgiveness for those who felt hurt by our media comments and if pointed out to us, will make an effort to correct any error. In a similar vein, Israel’s media, both print and electronic, might also have a few things to reconsider.  TV commercials too often promote intrusive sex standards on an unwitting audience.  Reporters hide news from viewers, for example in their coverage of the single-parents campaign. Cross ownership is becoming a serious problem and recent legislation has exacerbated the issue. Too often, we hear our broadcasters using connotative language terms favorable to the PA without any sense of a modicum of objectivity.  And there are the regular repeats: ignoring news items such as a retrospect of the ten years that passed since the Oslo accords were signed or the demonstration of Women in Green against the Peres festival, unbalanced panels, sympathetic interviews awarded to Left wing personalities, too much opinion and too less facts and the inability to permit the right of reply. With this in mind, perhaps these days of atonement should be utilized by our media industry for a yearly conference entitled – where did we go wrong? An open discussion, which would include reporters, editors, TV and radio anchors, public officials and the public itself, could do wonders to reduce the credibility gap of our media. A high-light of such a conference would be the annual report of the various media ombudsmen.  To the credit of the Israeli media it should be said that they have already taken some tentative steps in this direction. In the bimonthly journal “The Seventh Eye” published by the Israel Democracy Institute one finds various journalists who openly talk about their errors. Last year, the Documedia media criticism program provided a stage for a number of media celebrities to discuss what they considered to be errors that they would have wanted to correct. But is this enough? Are the various “person of the year” programs really more important than an “error of the year” program? Isn’t the “media error of the year” agenda more in the Jewish spirit of the days surrounding the New Year, than a gala festive show in which one celebrates those who starred in the media?  Do our major newspapers provide the necessary forum for a serious discussion of media issues? The New Year is a period in which we find major interviews with our political leaders. Wouldn’t it be in place to have similar interviews with our major editors? Shouldn’t they too be called upon to reflect upon the previous year, consider their strengths but also their weaknesses? The media year of 5763 was a fascinating one. In many instances, social issues gained the forefront, coming even before security news. The inauguration of channel 10 TV and the “Hatchelet” cable TV channel and the increasingly pluralistic social background of TV reporters on TV Channels 2 and 10 have led to a greater plurality in our major news programs.  We are receiving more documentaries than ever before on our TV screens. The government is making a serious attempt to curtail public broadcasting expenses and reduce the bill paid by the ordinary citizen. Israel’s media audience has become ever more conscious of its rights, as evidenced by the growing number of complaints to the media ombudsmen. And yes, our Jerusalem Post has received a much needed face lift. The Israeli media has come a long way from its monolithic and narrow minded views prevalent ten years ago.  Let us hope and pray that this coming year be an uneventful media year, a year of increased personal, physical and economic security for all.

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