May 24, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Truth? What’s that?

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:41 pm by yisraelmedad

Truth? What’s that?
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
05/24/2017
So what have we got? A media industry of questionable trustworthiness and with no accountability.
These past few weeks were quite bad for Israel’s media. One falsification followed the other. The latest absurd episode was a Friday night report on May 12 on the prime-time Channel 2 program Ulpan Shishi.

As reported on the ICE website, Channel 2 correspondent Omri Kronland gave a saucy report about one Adir Peretz, supposedly a bridegroom, and his prenuptial trip to Bucharest with friends. The 11-minute report followed in some detail the group’s immoral shenanigans, starting with a limousine, complete with stripper, which picked them up at the airport. This of course is Channel 2’s method of making its weekly news program attractive. Sex always sells, also as news.

Only it turns out that the whole story was staged. As reported by ICE’s Alexander Katz, for starters Peretz did not get married that week. The Israelis arrived in Bucharest a day prior to the limousine ride. And it was Kronland, or so it would seem, that had the limousine ordered. In other words, the correspondent did not “fall” for the fake story – he created it.

Channel 2’s response? As reported by Keren Greenblat on the Seventh Eye website, the initial reaction was, “The widespread response just proves the importance of the report.” It took three days for the item to be removed from the channel’s Mako website. The channel’s spokesperson, Alon Shani, responded that the item had been removed on Channel 2 news chief Avi Weiss’s order, and that the story was being checked thoroughly – but that it had already turned out that some of the story’s details were “inaccurate.”

Kronland has a quite a record when it comes to “interesting” reports. As reported by TV Channel 20, Kronland tried in the past to induce “settlers” to perform illegal acts. According to Greenblat, Kronland’s report on her struggle to counter sexism on Israeli TV was manipulative, and included pornographic content.

Channel 2 should not only have fired Kronland immediately, it should never have hired him. Dana Weiss, the presenter of the Friday evening show, should have had some hard questions about the report before airing it. But no, neither Kronland nor Weiss have been fired or even suspended until the whole story is thoroughly investigated – and not by Channel 2 personnel.

Eva Meziboz, chair of the Second Television and Radio oversight panel, expressed her dissatisfaction but beyond words did nothing.

Neither did former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, president of Israel’s press association, who usually is quick to criticize any supposed attempt at limiting the freedom of the press in Israel, make a statement or a demand an accounting. The Israel Democracy Institute has kept mum.

The bottom line of this story? Channel 2 is delighted. It had an item which made much noise. Truth? Ethics? Journalistic responsibility? Who cares.

This is though not the only recent case. As reported on the Walla news website on April 30, Reshet’s former content editor Uri Shzigovsky and reporter Guy Hochman were fired by the Channel 2 concessionaire. They were held responsible for fabricating a report on an ultra-Orthodox individual who broke a pole bearing the Israeli flag on Independence Day. In true form, Shzigovsky then went on to blame Hochman for the fabrication and had no regrets about provoking the ultra-Orthodox to show spite for our national holiday. The ethical quality of former editors and reporters at Channel 2 does not seem to be of the highest grade.

Consider another item that made headlines. The main news channels gleefully parroted the report of the IDF spokesperson that Tel Aviv residents were tops in number of days spent doing reserve duty. Adam Gold (and quite a few other bloggers) did some simple homework, first calculating the percentage of residents in various cities who even do reserve duty. Tel Aviv with 8.5% stands behind cities such as Beersheba with 9.1%, or Kfar Sabba with 10.3%. As reported by Ma’ariv journalist Kalman Liebeskind, when considering the number of reserve days served per capita, Tel Aviv is far behind Modi’in, Beersheba, Rishon Lezion, Holon, Bat Yam and Ramat Gan. But who cares? Most journalists identify with the Tel Aviv milieu or themselves live in Tel Aviv, so they happily swallowed the story.

Had they not been so lazy, or biased, they could have exposed the fallacies of the IDF report. That would have been real news, demonstrating that the army cannot be trusted to provide us with objective and well researched information. It would have raised a truly serious issue.

A similar case is the recent headline-making report of State Comptroller Yosef Shapiro that Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel used his powers as minister to transfer tens of millions of shekels to what is known as “Garinim Torani’im” – that is, groups of religious Israeli families who establish community centers in various cities, in the midst of secular neighborhoods. The implication was that these transactions were illegal and that there was a need for a thorough investigation by the attorney-general. The media reported this gleefully, after all Ariel is a “settler” and a proud symbol of the national religious community.

The media swallowed the comptroller’s report hook, line and sinker. Instead of immediately attacking Ariel, reporters should have looked a little deeper into the allegations. The comptroller’s report based itself on among other things the work of a left-wing organization called “Molad,” a Hebrew acronym The Center of Democratic Renewal. This organization was accusing Ariel back in 2014 of distributing funds to his supporters. Molad clearly has an agenda – how then could the comptroller use its “data” as a source?

Here, too, Kalman Liebeskind of Ma’ariv was a voice in the wilderness, noting that Ariel distributed funds to many, including left-wing secular groups with agendas far from his own.

So what have we got? A media industry of questionable trustworthiness and with no accountability. “Journalism” which perpetuates myths as long as it identifies with them but which hangs in the public square anyone with whom they do not, and journalistic standards be damned.

Perhaps we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we are not the only fools in town. The Harvard Kennedy Center just published a report on media bias in coverage of US President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. Trump’s coverage during this period “set a new standard for negativity” – 80% negative reports. In no one week did the “coverage drop below 70% negative and it reached 90% negative at its peak.”

The report goes on: “Trump’s coverage during his first 100 days was not merely negative in overall terms. It was unfavorable on every dimension. There was not a single major topic where Trump’s coverage was more positive than negative.”

Truth? What’s that?

^

May 10, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Not yours, not for you

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:58 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Not yours, not for you
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
05/10/2017
The makeup of the governing body of the PNC is not representative of the Israeli public, but rather will perpetuate the present stranglehold of the elites on our public broadcaster.
Radio Kol Yisrael’s main news channel, Reshet Bet, informs us many times daily that it “belongs to you and is for you.” This promotional slogan is fiction. The channel wants us to believe that public radio belongs to the public, which funds it, and that its sole purpose is to serve that public. We ask our readers’ indulgence but, once again, our column will be about the public broadcaster which for some reason does not seem to be able to get out of the news headlines. Instead of reporting news, it is creating news. This is a story not about the supposed benefits to the public, but those of the employees of the broadcaster.

In brief, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got cold feet with regard to the operation of the new Israeli Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) and thought it wiser to prevent its operation and resurrect the old Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) in its present form. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon disagreed and the compromise worked out was that the IBC would no longer have a news division. Instead, a new Public News Corporation (PNC) is to be established and it will operate independently of the IBC, just as the news corporations of TV channels 2 and 10 operate independently of the parent channels. The employees of the PNC will be the present news division employees of the IBA. With this decision, hardly any employees of the old IBA would be fired and domestic peace will be achieved.

But all is not well: there still are some differences between the Histadrut and the Finance Ministry as to the exact details. Since the present law states that the IBA ceases to exist on May 15, the government is again requesting a two-week or perhaps longer delay in implementation, ostensibly to iron out those details. Some pundits claim that this in fact is just to guarantee that the Histadrut does not paralyze the country during the upcoming visit of US President Donald Trump and that this ongoing IBA saga does not affect the Histadrut elections that are to be held on May 23. The public interest seems not to be at the heart of the issue.

In the meanwhile, the Knesset is debating the legislation needed to establish the PNC. The government’s proposal is a model of how one should not form a public news corporation. For starters, it will have an independent CEO and chief editor – two added jobs, instead of one. One can only imagine the ongoing clashes between the two when it comes to budgets. A chief editor without budgetary power is a joke, since it is the chief editor’s job to decide which correspondent to send where and with what equipment and with how many supporting staff. This costs money (and is but one of the reasons the old IBA fell into financial disarray). Worse, the chief editor cannot fire employees. The CEO will be interested in cutting costs and will not see the editorial needs. This is an excellent prescription for an impotent corporation.

The proposed legislation provides for an annual budget of NIS 135 million for the PNC, to be transferred directly from the Transportation Ministry. These funds will come from the broadcasting fee paid by us when we renew our car license. The budget will be linked to the cost of living index. This is another sure source of friction. Since the annual increase in the number of cars in Israel far surpasses the cost of living index the parent IBC will see its budget increase far more than that of the PNC.

The proposed budget will also be insufficient to pay the salaries of an expected 400 employees coming from the IBA and additional “fat cats” who will be on special contracts. Worse, the PNC will have to pay for the IBC’s services. One may expect that the IBC will be less than generous in the fees it demands.

In short, a sure recipe for friction, waste and a permanent demand for increasing budgets at the public expense. It would seem that Minister Kahlon’s hope that the budget of the PNC will not come from the account of the Finance Ministry will at best last for the present fiscal year.

But what about content? Is the new PNC mandated to uphold Zionist values in its news reporting? No. The proposed legislation demands that it be: “decent, responsible, impartial, trustworthy and open.” Not a word about a commitment to upholding Zionist values, respect for Jewish heritage and culture, news about the Jewish Diaspora or anything similar. The new PNC is completely disconnected from the Jewish state. One might think that its mandate comes from the United Nations. Why Israel needs to waste public money on such a PNC is beyond our understanding.

And about that claim that the public broadcaster serves the public. In fact, it essentially works the exact opposite way. An argument justifying a public broadcaster is that the public is provided the kind of news which the commercial companies do not offer.

Since the PNC will also be operating over the Internet, it has an unfair advantage over under-financed news sites that actually do provide true pluralism in news coverage. Many news content providers on the Internet, working with shoestring budgets, will be washed out by the PNC with its government support. When a state finances a public broadcasting corporation through the Internet, it creates unfair competition for those who are really doing the job. The private investor cannot compete with the coffers of a government. The result will be a stifling of pluralism rather than its increase.

Another problem is that the public through its elected representatives will not select the PNC’s board of directors. As with the IBC, its search committee, whose mandate it is to present the government with the governing body, is appointed by the minister in charge after consultation with the Supreme Court’s chief justice. The law, whose purpose is to distance politicians from the news corporation, does something much worse instead. As IMW and the Kohelet forum wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister, it gives the Supreme Court unprecedented power, of a kind not existing anywhere in the world. Whoever heard of a court involved in the appointment of media officials? Just imagine the effect on media criticism of the court. Moreover, will this lead to impartial news coverage? No.

These are only the tip of an iceberg. The makeup of the governing body of the PNC is not representative of the Israeli public, but rather will perpetuate the present stranglehold of the elites on our public broadcaster. The public that foots the bill and is disillusioned by the media in Israel will become even more so if this legislation passes.

The whole process is hasty, not well thought out, and does not serve the Israeli public. Public broadcasting in Israel should be abolished, that is the best way to really have news media that serve the public.

^

April 27, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Ethics? Not for us

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:21 am by yisraelmedad

Media comment: Ethics? Not for us
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
04/26/2017
Ethics and truth are not a major concern for our media, their collaborators and the regulatory agencies.
Or Heller is no stranger to our readers. He is a star example of why we believe that TV Channel 10 should be closed down. As we reported on May 3, 2012 in this column, Heller is an expert at presenting fake news. His unethical reports have always been defended by the channel.

In January 2010, he reported on Arab youths demonstrating near Neveh Tzuf. They were contained by the army, which used smoke grenades and other standard methods to break up demonstrations. Heller described the Arabs as non-violent even though an IDF jeep’s mirror was broken, a shed was burned down and the Arabs engaged in forcible shoving. Then some Jewish youths appear on the scene and throw rocks at the Palestinians. The IDF, according to Heller’s report, did nothing to stop them. To show that it is IDF policy to do nothing against Jewish hoodlums, Heller interviewed an IDF lieutenant who “explains” that his job is not to arrest Jews but only Palestinians. Trouble was that the “interview” was old and totally unconnected with the Neveh Tzuf demonstrations.

A year later, he presented another clip, “documenting,” as it were, “how police violently arrest a Palestinian child.” In fact, the video did not show any violence, only the arrest of a youngster the police claim was throwing rocks.

Heller also illegally recorded a telephone conversation in April 2012 between Hagit Rhein, mother of Maj. Benaya Rhein who was killed during the Second Lebanon War, and then Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner, after the latter was photographed hitting a demonstrator with the butt of his rifle. Heller did express an apology but no sanctions or even regulatory measures were applied against him or the station.

Habits are very difficult to change and this past week Heller did it again. He thought he had a scoop. On the prime Channel 10 news roundup Friday evening, a week before leadership elections for the Bayit Yehudi party, he showed a clip featuring an Education Ministry book which had pictures of religious people displayed in a positive light, while a secular family was portrayed as empty and egoistic. Heller added: “A racist book, disgusting. Naftali Bennett is not an education minister but a minister for re-education.”

Bennett responded on Facebook, noting that the book had been published in 2008 by then Labor education minister Yuli Tamir, and that many other pictures in the same book show secular families in a positive light. Channel 10 was not willing to publicize Bennett’s response.

Why? Because it completely undermines the story, which is nothing but fake news. The damage to Bennett’s reputation, however, was done. Is Channel 10 afraid of Bennett and attempting to harm his chances for reelection as leader of Bayit Yehudi? Given the past behavior of Heller and Channel 10, it would not surprise us.

Of course, there is a regulator, in the form of the Second Authority for TV and Radio (SATR), as well as an ombudsman. But both do nothing. Ethics do not interest them very much, the public pays the price and democracy is undermined.

This lack of interest in media ethics is not limited to the SATR. The same can be said for the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting (CCSB). As also discussed previously in this column, the Knesset issued a tender for a new operator of the Knesset TV channel. The tender was to be decided on by a subcommittee of the CCSB. One member of this committee is Naomi Schchori. It so happens that her husband is Katriel Schchori, CEO of the Israeli Film Fund (IFF) since 1998.

The IFF is the central funding agency for Israeli films. However, to obtain funds from the Culture and Sports Ministry it must match them with outside sources. For example, during 2009-2015, TV Channel 2 Reshet and Keshet concessionaires contributed more than NIS 11 million to the IFF. The RGE company, a co-owner of Channel 10, coughed up during the same period almost NIS 4m.

BUT BOTH channels 10 and 2 have submitted their proposals for operating the Knesset channel. Schchori’s conflict of interest was clear, and she should have recused herself. Moreover, the legal adviser of Channel 10 should have imposed her removal. In fact, one might question how Schchori ever became a member of the CCSB in the first place, and remained one for the past six years given the fact that her husband has business relations with some of the companies the CCSB regulates. The Hot and Yes cable companies have invested millions in movie productions together with the IFF. Was there anyone there who cared?

CEO of Israel’s Media Watch Ziv Maor did, and early in March he sent an urgent letter to the CCSB demanding that Schchori be excluded from the Knesset channel tender committee. As might be expected, the CCSB, for whom ethics are an obstruction rather than a guide, stonewalled. Maor had no choice but to submit an urgent petition to the High Court of Justice. The threat worked and this past Sunday, in an interim response, the Justice Ministry gave notice that Schchori had recused herself from the tender committee.

All is well that ends well? No. Why was it necessary to appeal to the court? Why didn’t the CCSB itself understand the conflict of interest? Why did the Justice Ministry wait for a whole month, during which the tender committee met a number of times, before imposing Schchori’s resignation?

Ethics seems also to be a weak point at the IFF. For Holocaust Remembrance Day this week, the Begin Center in Jerusalem premiered the documentary film Will we remember all of them? The Warsaw Ghetto uprising – the true battle, produced by Yuval Haimovitz-Zusser and Simon Schechter. The film follows the actions of the Zydowski Zwiazek Wojskowy (ZZW, Polish for Jewish Military Union) underground resistance in the ghetto. Its members came from the Revisionist Betar Youth and their story and bravery had been suppressed for many years by Israel’s establishment in favor of the socialist Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Fighting Organization).

The names of the leaders of the ZOB group can be found commemorated in many cities and towns in Israel. But even the leader of the Betar group, Pavel Frankel, remains unknown in Israel. This sad chapter in the attempt by Israel’s Left to rewrite history became public through the extensive efforts of former Likud defense minister Moshe Arens. The veracity of the story is supported by the diary entries of the infamous German Gen. Jürgen Stroop, who destroyed the ghetto and who specifically mentions the huge damage inflicted by the Betar fighters on German forces.

It took the producers seven years to finish the film, and as they testified, one of the major reasons was that not a single Israeli fund was willing to help, including the IFF.

The bottom line is that ethics and truth are not a major concern for our media, their collaborators and the regulatory agencies.

^

April 23, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: The end of the never-ending IBA saga?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:38 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The end of the never-ending IBA saga?
By YISRAEL MEDAD, ELI POLLAK
03/15/2017
Media bias is not some imaginary wand that politicians wave about and which the media claims is, in a sense, “fake news.”
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 30, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Netanyahu, government and the media

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:17 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Netanyahu, government and the media
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
03/29/2017
As we wrote two weeks ago, the saga of public broadcasting in Israel is truly never-ending. As of the writing of this article, the future is not clear. Perhaps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon will reach a compromise or an agreement regarding the future format of a public broadcasting service. Perhaps not, and we will have new elections. What is unbelievable is the amount of time wasted on our airwaves and the number of trees destroyed on this issue, and most of it not addressing one of the central issues at hand, namely governance and how our present government operates.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s handling of the endless saga is truly very worrisome.

The fundamental question is not whether his policy is right or wrong, whether he is interested in controlling the media or is just using the public broadcasting issue as an excuse for going to new elections. What should be of concern, and appears not to be, is the prime minister’s decision-making process.

We will give Netanyahu the benefit of the doubt and assume that he truly realized that the new Israel Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) legislation, which had been introduced and led by former communications minister Gilad Erdan, was flawed from the outset. The legislation wrested control of the public broadcaster from the government, which at least previously had public oversight, and gave it to an unelected elite, themselves not free of a desire for political, cultural and ideological control.

Last July, the prime minister reached an agreement with Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn to defer the implementation of the IBC until the beginning of 2018. This meant that already then, Netanyahu realized his error. Minister Kahlon at that time disagreed with Netanyahu and wanted to see the IBC go into action and the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) closed down.

Kahlon obviously agreed with at least one senior official involved in the new IBC, who was quoted as saying that in putting off the start of the new IBC until 2018, the prime minister was “trying to concoct some kind of formula that will include the old IBA and the new corporation and will preserve all the dysfunctional management culture and political control that has prevailed at the IBA.”

Kahlon and Netanyahu then reached a compromise by which the IBC would start operations on April 30, 2017, that is, a month from now. But if Netanyahu realized his error back in July, what did he gain from deferment? One might argue that he obtained the time needed to convince Minister Kahlon that his decision is the right one. The prime minister gained nine months in which to resolve any remaining differences.

But nothing was done until two weeks ago, until the last minute. Netanyahu did not submit new legislation or enter into serious negotiations with anyone. Only at the last minute did he “wake up.”

The impression is that the deferment was obtained to: a) move a thorny issue away from the decision making process for a while; b) use the old Jewish thinking that time would resolve the issues and that by some miraculous process, something would happen to remove the problem. We are not under the impression that a serious decision-making process was implemented.

Netanyahu’s allies, especially in the form of coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud), claim that the coalition agreement signed by Kahlon imposes upon him the obligation to accept the decisions made by the Likud regarding the media. Therefore, either Kahlon accepts Netanyahu’s directive or there will be new elections.

But we would ask MK Bitan why wait until after the Knesset goes for its spring break? Why weren’t these issues resolved one way or the other without working under last-minute pressure? A fundamental difference between the IBC issue and the government’s decision making process concerning the tunnel threat from Gaza is that in contrast to defense issues, here the ploys are on the table, open for anyone who wants to see them. Netanyahu’s decision making process seems to be very flawed. Looking ahead and planning for the future does not seem to be the signature of his government.

The case can be made that this modus operandi of the government is evident in many other issues. These would include the Amona evacuation crisis which was left for the last minute, the lack of a coherent strategy with regard to the new US administration, apart from the order to the ministers not to mention the issue, the last-minute retraction of the compromise concerning the usage of the Western Wall area by Conservative and Reform Jewry and many other items.

Our media complains that the prime minister is attempting to control it, stifling free speech and freedom of opinion.

People such as the IBA’s Aryeh Golan and Prof. Moshe Negbi claim that Netanyahu’s actions are a threat to Israel’s democracy.

They, together with the Israel Democracy Institute’s vice-chair Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, compare Netanyahu’s actions to the dictatorial practices in countries such as Turkey or Russia.

Right-wing journalist and editor of Makor Rishon Hagai Segal attempted last weekend to analyze the motives of the prime minister.

But he only succeeded in concluding what his true motives are not. They are not that the IBC is left-wing dominated and the IBA is a bastion of right-wing conservative thinking. We all know that for years, the IBA has been and continues to be dominated by so-called liberals who impose their convictions on the public and do it with public funding. Netanyahu’s actions have nothing to do with ideology, but then what? Segal admits he does not know.

Even Segal, though, missed the point. It is not what the motives are, but how Netanyahu goes about acting on them: in the most shlemiel fashion imaginable.

There is a Chinese motto which says that the best emperor is he who does nothing.

But we are not Chinese. We are a small country, that cannot afford to lose a single war. We cannot afford to wait until the estate owner, the poritz in Yiddish, dies.

There is a well-known story of two friends, an American and an Israeli. The Israeli asks his friend, “do you know what differentiates us? You are 90% stupid, we are 90% smart. But do you know what we have in common? It is the remaining 10% that governs.”

Bad governance and the IBC/IBA farce is a luxury Israel cannot afford.

^

 

March 15, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: The end of the never-ending IBA saga?

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:39 pm by yisraelmedad

Media comment: The end of the never-ending IBA saga?
By YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK
03/15/2017
Media bias is not some imaginary wand that politicians wave about and which the media claims is, in a sense, “fake news.”
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

MEDIA COMMENT: Desperately needed: Self control

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:01 pm by yisraelmedad

Desperately needed: Self control
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
03/01/2017
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.
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

MEDIA COMMENT: Fake news, Israel-style

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:39 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Fake news, Israel-style
By YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK
02/15/2017
The media, from the editors down, presume that they know much better than average Israelis what they should be hearing or reading.
‘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

MEDIA COMMENT: ‘Galatz’ no more?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:22 pm by yisraelmedad

‘Galatz’ no more?
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
02/05/2017
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.
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?

MEDIA COMMENT

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

MEDIA COMMENT: Mozes exposes Israel’s media

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:34 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Mozes exposes Israel’s media
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
01/19/2017
Yaniv and Drucker are not the only ones who have been promoting the doomsday scenario for Netanyahu.
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.

 

^

Next page