July 20, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: It’s the hidden news, stupid

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:13 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT:It’s the hidden news, stupid
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
07/19/2017
Incomplete news is another aspect of hidden news.
Do you recall reading this item recently: “Jewish youths attacked the vineyards of the West Bank Arab village of Kusra on Saturday afternoon, according to the IDF.” Well, you didn’t, even though such news items are routinely reported in Israel’s media as well as the foreign media, and often receive a high profile.

This parallel item, though: “Palestinians attacked the vineyards of the West Bank Esh Kodesh outpost on Saturday afternoon, according to the IDF,” did appear in this paper on January 6, 2013. Indeed, such an item would seem to be newsworthy.

On the Friday evening of July 1, 2017, those same vineyards were again damaged, seriously. The suspects are Arabs who perhaps were involved in the same act of criminal vandalism four years ago. As reported at the INN news website, Arab vandals destroyed 2.5 acres of vineyards next to the town of Esh Kodesh, near Shiloh.

Tzvi Struk, the son of former Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struk, discovered that much of his Cabernet Sauvignon- variety grapes, that were due to be harvested in just two months, were no longer. The loss is estimated at several hundred thousand shekels.

And again we ask you: did you read, see or hear this news item? Struk, one would assume, is newsworthy. In 2007 he was sentenced to 18 months in jail for wounding a 15-year-old Palestinian boy. In November 16, 2014, the media was reporting on an incident where he was suspected of planting vine saplings on Arab property.

But now, when Arabs are suspected of a crime against him, could it be that the media is just not interested? Israel’s media is very interested in Diaspora Jewry.

Reform and Conservative Jewry have been in the limelight most recently due to the disagreement regarding the Western Wall. Some elements of the media were threatening viewers and readers with dire consequences.

But what happens when, in London, someone is recognized as a “Zionist” and promptly he and his family are expelled from an open event for which he registered? Or when a Jew at that same event who put on a kippa was also expelled? Is that reported? A week ago, David Collier attended the Palestine Expo in London, which was advertised as a cultural event and a family affair. He went to the QEII Conference Center with his wife and 11-year-old son to enjoy the exhibits and activities, and “most of all,” he wrote, he “looked forward to the food.” Midway through their lunch, they were expelled after being spotted by members of a local anti-Israel group “London Palestine Action.”

He left in accordance with the requests of the security team even though he had told them he was a member of the press who was being evicted on discriminatory grounds. That didn’t help him.

He wasn’t the only one. Jason Silver, after meandering about for three hours, sat down to eat lunch (included in the price of a ticket), and placed a kippa on his head. He was then asked to leave. The incident was captured on video. Police were called when he insisted that all he was doing was eating lunch. If a Muslim woman had insisted on keeping on her niqab and was therefore expelled from an event, for example, would that not be newsworthy enough for our local media? The event itself was not ignored. Haaretz’s Danna Harman published on July 8 this story: “Dogged by Claims of Extremism, Biggest Palestinian Expo in Europe Opens in London… controversial event… draws thousands.”

Incomplete news is another aspect of hidden news.

On Sunday this week, Haaretz’s Barak Ravid published at 1:07 a.m. on the paper’s website that Jordan’s king had condemned the Temple Mount attack and that a government spokesman called on Israel to immediately reopen the holy site and to avoid measures that change the status quo. However, just before 11 p.m. on Saturday, Jordan’s official Petra news site had this: “Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Wael Arabiyat on Saturday warned of Israel’s unprecedented and persistent violations of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram al-Sharif sanctity under the pretext of containing violence and tension. The minister held Israeli authorities responsible for the mounting tension and violence in the holy compound.”

That viewpoint is significant but Haaretz prefers to keep its readers in the dark when it comes to negative news about a country which supposedly is at peace with Israel.

We can understand that an extreme left-wing publication like Haaretz will suppress news which does not jibe with its point of view, but the state-sponsored KAN radio news, too, avoided mentioning the negative messages from Jordan. The king’s demand to reopen the Temple Mount was as far as KAN would go.

The statement of Jordanian Minister for Media Affairs and government spokesperson Mohammad Momani on Friday that stressed that “any attempts to change the legal and historical situation in Jerusalem” by Israel were to be rejected was deemed unfit by KAN for public consumption in Israel. So, too, was the social media post of Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin, rapporteur of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Jordanian Parliament, that the international community should set punishments for Israel, as it has “executed unarmed Palestinian citizens, without a trial.”

KAN also suppressed the negative statements and threat of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas regarding the Temple Mount. As noted by IMRA, the official PLO news agency WAFA reported that Abbas considers Israel’s closure of the Aksa mosque to be just as deserving of “strong condemnation” as the “fatal Jerusalem shootout.” According to the report, Abbas did not condemn the Arab attackers, only “the fatal shootout.” But KAN, basing itself only on the communique of the Prime Minister’s Office, left out the negative aspects of Abbas’ comments to Netanyahu.

The IDF radio station Galatz did a much better job, providing a well-rounded report.

Arguably, the most egregious withholding or downplaying of news occurred during the historic visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel two weeks ago. Historically, India, as a leader of the nonaligned nations, was a leader in anti-Israel rhetoric. It also is a country with close to 20% of the world’s population.

In this day and age, when the media stresses time and again that Israel is being isolated, India’s Modi visits Israel and, moreover, does not visit the PA at the same time, nor raise the “two-state solution” mantra. The political implications of his position and leadership should have been the number one item on the news.

But this was not to be. On his first day, which coincided with the primaries of the Labor Party, TV Channel 2 opened the news with the primaries, which were not even over at 8 p.m. But of course Channel 2, a longtime supporter of Israel’s Left, considered the primaries of this decaying political party to be more important than Modi’s visit, coverage of which was relegated to second place and not in depth at that.

Fake news is less dangerous than suppressed news. It is much easier to root out. Media consumers, beware.

The authors are members of Israel’s Media Watch.

^

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July 6, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: Yes, the press is not objective

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:05 am by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Yes, the press is not objective
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
07/05/2017
In Israel, there has always been a media struggle between Left and Right.
The press assures us that it strives for objectivity, balance, facts and fairness. After close to a quarter-century of monitoring, analysis, research and several court cases we, as founders of Israel’s Media Watch, know well that in this country such claims are, well, less than honest.

Unlike the current media craze of “fake news,” we documented hundreds of cases of news items since 1995, as well as news shows and documentaries, where editorial intervention resulted in less-than-truthful news. Information was misrepresented, or was one-sided, or did not seek a rejoinder from the injured side.

In other cases, we detailed how via story location (front page or buried), headline size, background music or dozens of other methods a story could be downplayed or given a push. Standard newspaper practice is to publish a half-dozen op-ed columnists or even bloggers of one stripe and perhaps one of another. That isn’t always done.

Excuses abound, the most popular of which is “professional considerations,” implying that the public, which is not “professional,” cannot appreciate the deep underlying reasons which justify bias.

What we have not yet seen, although the Igal Sarna case comes close (more on that below), is anything like what recently happened at CNN.

Last week, three CNN employees were forced to resign and their story that had linked US President Donald Trump to Russia was retracted. The network let it be known that “some standard editorial processes were not followed when the article was published.” Blaming a “breakdown in editorial workflow,” CNN further informed the public that “these types of stories” did not go through the usual departments such as fact-checkers, journalism standards experts and legal experts. To be sure, CNN indicated that the retraction did not necessarily mean the facts of the story were wrong. But, rather, “the story wasn’t solid enough to publish as-is.”

We doubt that this could happen in Israel. That is, forced resignations or firings. If anything, the cases of Muhammed Bakri’s film Jenin, Jenin, which falsely accused the IDF of carrying out a massacre in Jenin in 2004, and Motti Lerner’s 1994 play Kasztner, which accused Hanah Szenes of handing two Jewish parachutists over to the Hungarian police, and was to be aired on Channel One, while not strictly hard-news media issues indicate that the opposite is true.

The lack of any responsibility to stick to facts has been justified by our High Court of Justice, which is quite lenient in defining “truth.”

Time and time again, in the name of freedom of the press and freedom of opinion the court permitted lies and untruths to be presented to the public.

In his new book Rediscovering Americanism, Mark Levin harshly criticizes the media’s adoption of progressive ideology, defining this as promises of a “utopia” measured by the end goals of personal freedom and individuality.

He writes: “They reject history’s lessons and instead are absorbed with their own conceit and aggrandizement in the relentless pursuit of a… final outcome… which is an oppression of mind and soul.”

In Israel, there has always been a media struggle between Left and Right. At times, it has been harsh and strident. In several of our previous columns, for example, we have noted the increase in the usage of Nazi-related terminology at Haaretz, a paper which was quite critical of instances when haredim (ultra-Orthodox) employed such invectives against police or the “hilltop youth” against soldiers. In Israel, there is no fairness, especially when reporting is ideologically tainted.

The main headline in the June 28 edition of Haaretz, splashed across all eight columns, was, “Lapid to visit Spain on trip by right-wing NGO Monitor.” The English-language edition’s editor, Noa Landau, could not simply write “NGO Monitor.”

She had to add “right wing.” As far as we know, NGO Monitor is not right-wing. It does, however, highlight the fact that 90% of Israeli civil society NGOs acting in the area of the country’s Arab population and in the administered territories happen to be extreme left-wing and foreign- funded.Haaretz in English will not be objective.

A more subtle example is how, for example, Daniel Gordis, in a June 23 column, described for readers of the Bloomberg Views website the newspaper reactions to author David Grossman’s Booker Prize win: “Even newspapers on the far right celebrated the extraordinary accomplishment.

Israel Hayom
, the controversial Sheldon Adelson-backed paper widely seen as a mouthpiece for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu….” Note the use of “far right” and “controversial.”

Somehow, in Israel, leftists are never “extreme” and left-wing extremists are but “activists.” There are no “ultras” or “radicals” in the left-ofcenter camp. Gordis or other columnists will never describe Haaretz as the “German-funded paper whose owners are tainted by the Nazi era.”

Nor will he describe it as a “post-Zionist anti-Jewish Israeli publication.”

Igal Sarna, who lost a libel suit initiated against him by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, provided another example of our politicized press. His loss was due to violation of what we would consider the most elementary principle of journalism: he was unable to support his claims with facts.

In a July 2 interview published in The Jerusalem Post Magazine, he readily admitted that “I’m a fierce opponent of Netanyahu.” He had written that Netanyahu is “a mushroom that grew out of [assassinated prime minister Yitzhak] Rabin’s blood, since Netanyahu was involved in inciting against him.”

As for his latest run-in with the Netanyahus, he remained unrepentant, admitting that “I’m not well versed in all the details. I couldn’t get to the person who was present there.” A journalist with such low standards should be fired. And he was – back in 2011. He was, however, rehired. Did Yediot Aharonot consider his politics more worthy than his journalistic standards? Our media in Israel is politically biased and overwhelmingly pro-Left.

Here’s how it works in England.

Anchor Jon Snow was accused of mouthing a noxious “anti-Tory rant,” but The Guardian took the opportunity to dispel “the myth of the pinko inside the TV” by asserting that Snow “is serious about impartiality – and sometimes what looks like bias is simply independent thought.” One wonders what the Guardian would have written had Snow gone against Labor with similar views.

The Atlantic 
journalist McKay Coppins wrote this week about “a vast alternative left-wing media infrastructure… polemical podcasters and partisan click farms; wild-eyed conspiracists and cynical fabulists… [that] traffic heavily in rumor and wage campaigns of misinformation… a media universe where partisan hysteria is too easily stoked, and fake news can travel at the speed of light.”

That framework exists in Israel as well. Channel 10’s item on a report by an extreme left-wing NGO, Molad – Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy, “Attracting Followers,” which asserted the existence of a clandestine campaign of the Education Ministry to promote religious indoctrination of secular school pupils, was shown by investigative reporter Kalman Liebskind and others to be quite baseless.

So, caveat emptor. Media consumer, beware. But also push back. Complain.

It’s your civic duty.

^

June 21, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: A pen for hire

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:49 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: A pen for hire
By YISRAEL MEDAD,ELI POLLAK
06/21/2017
The first edition of the free daily Israel Hayom hit our newsstands on July 30, 2007, almost 10 years ago. Its founding editor, Amos Regev, was replaced last month by Boaz Bismuth, who had served for nine years as the foreign news editor of the paper.

A new boss brings with him change and in this case, a spectacular change. Dan Margalit and Mordechai (Motti) Gilat, both long-time columnists, were summarily dismissed.

When it started, Israel Hayom was embarking on a revolution.

Its goal, which it met, was to replace the left-wing Yediot Aharonot newspaper and become the most widely read newspaper in Israel. To reach this goal, it had to prove that it was serious and had a stellar set of journalists.

Dan Margalit and Motti Gilat fulfilled that purpose.

The 79-year-old Margalit has had a stellar career.

While he began at Herut, the organ of Menachem Begin’s party, he went Left and wrote for Haaretz from 1964 until 1991 and continued at Maariv. His most famous scoop was the revelation in 1977 that then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin maintained an illegal bank account in the US. Forced to resign, Rabin’s replacement, Shimon Peres, lost to Menachem Begin.

Margalit’s career has been mainly that of a pundit and commentator and he has hosted numerous talk shows, notably Popolitika and Erev Chadash.

Margalit likes to portray himself as an ethical journalist, noting that when he realized that former prime minister Ehud Olmert was corrupt, he ended his 20-year friendship with him and started to regularly attack him in his articles. Indeed, Margalit is so enamored with himself that his tweet upon being fired was to characterize his job loss in terms of near-martyrdom: “My livelihood fell today in defense of freedom of speech.”

Margalit had been fired previously. Back in September 7, 2010, it was reported that his contract with the publicly funded Educational TV (ETV) network had not gone through the normal tender process. The Finance Ministry ordered Yaffa Vigodski, at that time the CEO of ETV, to terminate Margalit’s employment immediately since his contract did not conform to the norms of proper administration. His salary was reported to have been NIS 70,000 (Margalit claimed it was only NIS 35,000). Even Nahum Barnea of Yediot Aharonot could not refrain from asking in his column why Margalit received such a high sum from the state.

Globes reporter Eli Tzippori took Margalit to task over his freedom of speech comment. On June 16, he published an op-ed titled, “Dan Margalit is only concerned with Dan Margalit.” Tzippori, a recipient of Israel’s Media Watch’s prize for quality economic journalism, noted that Margalit was one of Israel’s richest journalists, who had made a small fortune from Israel’s public broadcasters, whether TV Channel 1 or the Educational TV. He added: “the attempt of Margalit to take for himself the defense of the freedom of expression is a sad symptom of the situation of a very elitist and limited group of journalists, which is very happy with itself and drunk with power, who thinks it has to govern and that it is responsible for liberalism, democracy and freedom of speech. The opposite is true.”

In this context, we should recall that Margalit had very little respect for the law of this land and its Supreme Court. In 1996, prior to the elections, he was the moderator of the Channel 1 Popolitika news show. Fairness was not his motto. Freedom of speech for those who disagreed with his view was not on the agenda. He used the show to consistently support the Oslo accords and to help Peres win the elections.

So much so that Israel’s Media Watch had to appeal to the Supreme Court to order the show to stop violating the law which prohibited such electioneering via public media shortly before elections. The court ordered an injunction but to no avail. Margalit used the show, after the court’s decision, to deride the court and of course continue his illegal and unethical usurpation of the public microphone.

Margalit is nine years past the age of retirement for government employees. Supreme Court justices and professors are pensioned at that age and do not complain. It is perhaps characteristic of Margalit that instead of being grateful to Israel Hayom for providing him a podium for the past 10 years, way beyond the normal pension age, he left in anger.

He accused the paper of preventing him from criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and indeed upon his dismissal he tweeted (on Friday, June 16): “I do believe Bibi [Netanyahu] that he decided not to be photographed in the ‘Herzl pose’ in Basel [a revelation of Ma’ariv journalist Ben Caspit]. But the fact that this possibility was even deliberated indicates megalomania. Maybe he should send Yair [Netanyahu’s son]?” Graciousness and fortitude seem not to be his forte.

Incidentally, Haaretz promptly rehired him; so much for his “sacrifice.”

A week after Margalit’s dismissal, another columnist, Motti Gilat, was also fired. Gilat worked for Yediot Aharonot from 1976 until 2008 when he joined Israel Hayom. He was an investigative journalist, highly regarded by Yediot, and was given a staff of investigators.

Indeed, while at Yediot he had some major successes. These included revelations concerning Shas leader Arye Deri in 1990, the sexual misconduct of former defense minister Yitzchak Mordechai in 2000, the illegal presents given to former Police chief Rafi Peled in 1995 and many more. Upon leaving Yediot for Israel Hayom he accused Yediot of censoring him and preventing criticism of politicians such as Olmert, who was supported by the paper. He sued Yediot and in a compromise agreement received NIS 600,000 from the paper.

Interestingly enough, during his nine years at Israel Hayom there was not one major revelation to his credit.

Perhaps this is why Israel Hayom fired him. Like Margalit, Gilat did not move out graciously, although he will be 70 years old in October, an age at which most people have already retired. Like Margalit, he too faulted the management of Israel Hayom for caving in to the paper’s owner, Sheldon Adelson, and asserted he had even been warned, via corridor conversation rumors, that his critical writing against Netanyahu would cost him his job.

Gilat was replaced by Akiva Bigman, the editor of the Mida website, which describes itself as “a news and intellectual daily magazine, which aims to present the public with information and opinions not common in the Israeli media” and has openly declared itself part of the national camp, as does Bigman.

The release of Margalit and Gilat, both left-wingers, and the hiring of Bigman are a sign that Israel Hayom no longer feels the need to strengthen itself with the aid of left-wing journalists who can be bought, but has become mature enough to hire who it wants.

^

June 7, 2017

MEDIA COMMENT: The brainlessness of the media

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:28 pm by yisraelmedad

The brainlessness of the media
By YISRAEL MEDAD AND ELI POLLAK
06/07/2017
There is no alternative but for the media consumer to be ever vigilant.
Journalists and the media in general may be able to disregard criticism they earn from media critics, such as ourselves, but they have not been getting favorable reviews recently in scientific publications, polls (one we noted in our immediate previous column), by serious pundits and even fellow media people.

And that should be cause for alarm.

A study conducted by Oxford-educated Tara Swart, a neuroscientist who lectures at MIT, in association with the London Press Club, analyzed in depth 40 journalists from newspapers, magazines, broadcast and online platforms over seven months. Ninety originally signed up but over half couldn’t persist, itself an ominous indication.

They had to take a blood test, wear a heart-rate variability monitor for three days and keep a food and drink diary.

The object was to review their lifestyle, health and behavior patterns and to draw conclusions. And those conclusions, published mid-May as “Study into the Mental Resilience of Journalists,” were that those journalists’ brains revealed a lower-than-average level of executive functioning. They had a below-average ability to regulate their emotions, suppress biases, solve complex problems, switch between tasks, and show creative and flexible thinking. To top it all off, those journalists drank too much.

But there’s a caveat in the study: the tendency to self-medicate with alcohol, caffeine and high-sugar foods.

In other words, it is inconclusive as to whether there is a correlation between the type of person who gravitates to the media profession and the lower than average level of functioning, or whether this is a result of the unhealthy lifestyle of the journalists once they are on the job.

On the other hand, the journalists sampled did display high mental resilience, which Swart viewed as a distinct advantage in dealing with the work pressure of tight deadlines. They also were better at abstraction, which she defined as the ability to deal with ideas rather than events, to problem-solve and to think outside the box. In other words, they should be aware of their wrongdoings.

Oddly enough, the test results showed that the journalists were on average no more physically stressed than the average person. Their levels of cortisol – known as the stress hormone – were mostly normal.

Researchers Michael McDevitt, Perry Parks, Jordan Stalker, Kevin Lerner, Jesse Benn and Taisik Hwang reported this past month in the Journalism Journal a study which demonstrated that journalistic anti-intellectualism is condoned by emerging adults in the United States. This is perhaps no surprise; young people, perhaps having no other choice, knowingly accept non-professional performances by media people.

Their article asserted that “anti-rationalism and anti-elitism as cultural expressions of anti-intellectualism correlate as expected with approval of corresponding news practices.”

Instead of the news affecting their views, it is their views affecting the news. The brainless leading the brainless may be an exaggeration, but nevertheless, something is not working correctly and the media is deeply involved.

With this background, one may well ask: why do so many journalists reject or shrug off complaints that too often they are woefully unprofessional, extremely biased and bereft of values that would bring honor to their responsibility to provide media consumers with fair, balanced and correct news content? Why do they get angry when their errors are pointed out? Interestingly, support for a very critical attitude toward the media came last week from one of Britain’s veteran and admired former BBC interviewers, Jeremy Paxman.

He is well known for his combative interview technique, grilling public figures on television, as he did with British Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on May 29. At the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts a fortnight ago, he termed journalists “a ridiculous, vainglorious bunch of clowns” and added, “I don’t like these media class sneerings about Trump.”

Too much of the media, despite its self-portrayal as society’s knight-on-horseback, is acting in an insular fashion, assuming elitist tendencies, demanding it be above criticism, while refusing to acknowledge its own political and cultural agendas. At the same time, they continue to steadily lose the public’s trust and, perhaps, are staffed too often by inadequate personnel interested in themselves, their societal standing and their salaries only.

Perhaps a prime example of this attitude was the astonishing decision taken this week by The New York Times to eliminate the position of public editor, their ombudsman.

While admitting that “we must all seek to hold ourselves accountable to our readers,” the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, argued that the public editor is now superfluous because “our followers on social media and our readers across the internet have come together to collectively serve as a modern watchdog, more vigilant and forceful than one person could ever be.” A “Reader Center” is to be created to “engage readers about our journalism.”

Sulzberger thus gives us the prime example of the idiocy of the press.

Does he really believe that the public does not see through his words? After all, it was his own ombudsman who forced his paper in mid-April to properly describe Marwan Barghouti as a murderer, not a “parliamentarian.”

Could a reader force the paper to retract false and misleading details? His move is nothing but an attempt to deflect criticism, sending it to the Internet junkyard.

Our over two decades of experience in Israel has been that without an independent oversight structure, without a known scale of punishment and without reports and decisions published for public consumption, a media outlet like the New York Times is simply uncontrollable and unreliable.

Ron Ross, writing in The American Spectator last week, could have been referring to the behavior of Israel’s media when he wrote, “The media have decided that reporting the news is no longer sufficient for them. They’ve decided they want to participate rather than just observe and report… they have taken upon themselves the negating of the results of the 2016 presidential election… [and] arrogantly concluded they’re entitled to greater responsibilities and influence.”

And he added, “[T]raditionally, the role of the press is to bring transparency to the government, to shine the light of day on politics and politicians. Ironically, the press is not even being transparent about its own objectives and motivations. There’s a fundamental dishonesty about what the media are up to,” an observation we have made numerous times in our columns.

There is no alternative but for the media consumer to be ever vigilant about the “product” he is presented, and he or she should never think a complaint is worthless.

We must assure that feedback tools exist for otherwise, journalists will turn us brainless.

 

^

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.

 

^

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