September 28, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Some suggestions for media penitence

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

Some suggestions for media penitence

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


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

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

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

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

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

Consider something as simple as terminology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


September 13, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Keep Channel 20 on

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:35 pm by yisraelmedad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is another important chapter to this saga.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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