Israel's first right-wing TV channel, which began broadcasting in 2014, has been ordered to portray the Reform Movement in a more positive light, raising questions about media censorship.
The Cable and Satellite Council chair, Dr. Yifat Ben Hai Segev, has sent a letter to the heads of the Heritage Channel, Channel 20. The letter was in response to recent statements by the channel against the Reform Movement.
"Further to the matter of the Council's decision on amending the channel license for the designated Israel Heritage Channel (Channel 20) last Thursday, the Council wishes to make clear that the meaning of the decision was to allow the channel to dedicate up to 25 percent of its non-technical programming to heritage programming, with limitations on the number of such programs during prime time," the letter stated.
"In the Council's decision it was clearly written that the Council would carefully ensure that the channel follows the existing instructions, including offering a range of opinions, approaches and movements in the public, a range of views in society and including opposing views. As such, compartmentalizing or excluding various groups from the channel's broadcasts would be a violation of the license instructions," emphasized Dr. Ben Hai Segev.
She further commented on the strong, negative comments written on Channel 20's Facebook page about the Reform Movement. "The channel's actions that are not part of its broadcast do not legally fall under the Council's supervision. However, the Council considers the content published by the channel in digital formats and in interviews with the channel's employees as content that requires the appropriate responsibility, mutual respect, sensitivity and respecting the licensing instructions, as the content appearing in these formats are directly identified with the channel's broadcasts.
"The Council again reiterates that it will strictly enforce the licensing instructions, including the instruction demanding that the channel give expression to different movements within the public. Ignoring this instruction will lead to enforcement actions on the part of the Council, as it is legally authorized to enforce its decisions. I would like to close this appeal by quoting the Sages who, for generations emphasized that 'proper behavior precedes the Torah.'"
Channel 20 is the only television news channel associated with right-leaning politics and was established to counter the perceived left-wing bias among nearly all other television news agencies in Israel. Recently, Channel 20 has come into a disagreement with the Reform Movement in Israel. It is estimated that there are over 10,000 synagogues in Israel, not counting small groups that meet in schools, individual homes and more. Of these, only about 25 belong to the Reform Movement, meaning that it represents less than a quarter of a percent of the synagogues in Israel.
It is not known whether similar instructions have been sent to other news stations, telling them not to criticize certain sectors of the Israeli population.