The Knesset passed the Public Broadcast Law before dawn Thursday in the final readings. The law, which replaces the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) with a new corporation and would force it to streamline its operations, was passed after the government agreed to delete a clause that calls on IBA immediately begin slashing NIS 10 million ($2.57M) from its budget every month.
Instead of implementing the clause – which would have cost 430 jobs – the government and labor unions will negotiate over how many of the current IBA employees will migrate to the new broadcasting corporation that will replace the IBA. Another key section in the law abolishes the infamous annual Television Tax that Israelis in possession of television sets have had to pay for decades.
However, journalists in the IBA are now accusing MK Yisrael Eichler of the haredi United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party of slipping a clause into the law that forbids journalistic bias, and threatening to turn to the High Court.
"The authority's broadcasts should devoid of unilateral presentation, bias, expression of personal views, giving out marks and placing of labels, hiding facts or stressing them in a selective manner that does not correspond to their news value,” according to the clause.
IBA Military Affairs Reporter Carmela Menashe told Channel 2 Online that the IBA's employees are “journalists and not clerks, they have a world view. A journalist's job is to make a change, to investigate, to inquire. Journalism is a mission and a purpose.” Diplomatic reporter Chico Menashe, called the clause “shameful,” and Foreign News Editor Oren Nahari said it was “ridiculous”:
"If I take the clause to the absurd end, my colleagues and I may not express opinions about ISIS, the refugee crisis, and the fight between trump and Clinton,” explained Nahari.
Esti Perez, who presents a noontime radio news show on the IBA's Reshet Bet, used the pulpit to say: “A democratic state that forbids its public journalists from expressing an opinion shows panic and weakness that are typical of weak dictatorships. Handcuff me – I've expressed a opinion.”
MK Eichler told Galei Yisrael Radio Thursday: “Every listener in Israel knows that there are groups that receive strong expression. The nation demands to hear both sides. It is unthinkable that I, as a taxpayer, should pay a person who incites against me and my views, and this includes eight million citizens.”
The Union of Journalists said that the clause runs is undemocratic and vowed to take “any kind of legal, legislative and public action to cancel this addition to the law.” It said that it is currently looking at the possibility of turning to the High Court."
A painful fact
The leftist slant of Israel's broadcasters is a well-known and painful fact of life in the Jewish state. Another IBA journalist admitted as much two years ago, in a Facebook post he published after Arabs hurled a fire bomb at a car driven by a Jew south of the Tunnels Roadblock in the Etzion Bloc.
Yotam Barazani, a news editor on Kol Israel public radio, quoted the news item that reported the attack, as it was broadcast on the station. He then added:
"Three dry sentences in the 10:00 p.m. news edition. Three sentences that do not convey the drama that took place there. This fire bomb was thrown at a car that was driven by my brother, Tal. At the last moment, he managed to see a person who was about to throw something at him, and stepped on the gas with full force. In the rear view mirror, he managed to see an explosion on the road behind him. There was a lot of luck here.
"Events like this take place numerous times, every day, in Judea and Samaria,” Barazani added. “Most of them are not reported. If my brother had not informed me, I am sure that the news would not be reported on Kol Israel. As it is, I do not see a report about the fire bomb anywhere [else]."