High Court temporarily puts news division back in broadcaster’s hands
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High Court temporarily puts news division back in broadcaster’s hands

Court will decide Monday whether to permanently nullify government legislation that separated current affairs dealings from the new public entity

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

The newly-built control room at the offices of the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, in Tel Aviv. August 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
The newly-built control room at the offices of the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation, in Tel Aviv. August 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

In a blow to the governing coalition, the High Court of Justice issued a temporary injunction on Sunday evening preventing the establishment of a news department that would function independently of the new public broadcaster set to launch Monday.

The ruling temporarily nullifies a March compromise reached by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon that was approved by the Knesset last week.

On Monday at noon, the High Court will rule on whether to make the injunction permanent. In the meantime, the news division will once again be under the auspices of the soon-to-air TV and radio corporation — known as Kan.

What was believed to have been final arrangement had the news division excised from Kan and a separate news department established in its stead, ostensibly ending a years-long saga surrounding the dismantlement of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

Israeli broadcast authority employees outside the IBA headquarters in Jerusalem, on May 10, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli broadcast authority employees outside the IBA headquarters in Jerusalem, on May 10, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

While all other Kan departments are set to begin broadcasting Monday at 8 a.m., the separate news division was not going to be among them due to the passage of the Netanyahu-Kahlon compromise less than a week before the airing. The government has yet to even appoint a manager of the independent news division. But with the court’s Sunday decision, the future of the independent department is now clouded.

Netanyahu, who was until recently also acting communications minister, oversaw passage of the 2014 law to establish Kan (which then included its centerpiece news division) but has long been leading an effort to abort it before it goes on the air, complaining of a lack of government control of the corporation’s editorial line, which may be critical of his coalition.

IBA employees were in limbo for several years as the government approved the reforms, backtracked, attempted to merge the two entities, before finalizing the Kahlon-Netanyahu agreement that absorbs more workers from the IBA, while laying off hundreds of others.

Sunday’s ruling also delays the dismissal of employees originally hired by Kan to staff its news division.

MK Eitan Cabel chairs an emergency meeting of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee regarding plans to dismantle the new Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
MK Eitan Cabel chairs an emergency meeting of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee regarding plans to dismantle the new Israel Public Broadcasting Corporation. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Among those who submitted the High Court petition was Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel, who praised the decision late Sunday evening. “This (injunction) means that tomorrow morning the public broadcasting corporation will begin airing full broadcasts of Kan, including news broadcasts and current events, which will be under its responsibility and authority,” the lawmaker said.

In response to the injunction, the state said that there was “no basis” for the directive, adding that it could have far-reaching implications for the delicate relationship between the legislative and judicial branches.

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