A legislative ministerial committee approved on Monday morning a proposed Channel 10 bailout deal, which is expected to provide a life-line to the embattled network.
The television station has been on the brink of closure for months, lacking millions of dollars in funds to settle its debts, which are comprised mostly of state royalties and licensing fees.
The proposed agreement, formulated by the station’s owners along with a team of government officials, must be approved by the Knesset before December 31. Sources said that they expect the bill to pass in the coming days.
Earlier Sunday, Channel 10 petitioned the High Court of Justice to order the prime minister to explain why he failed to bring the bailout plan before the Cabinet. The petition alleged that Netanyahu had “impure motives” in preventing discussion on the proposal, which calls for a NIS 65 million ($17 million) government loan.
Politicians on the left accused Netanyahu of waging a “personal battle” against the station by withholding the funding it needs to survive.
The prime minister is “working personally to shut down Channel 10,” Labor head Shelly Yachimovich told reporters on Sunday, “despite detailed agreements” that were reached in an attempt to save Channel 10.” She said the prime minister wanted Channel 10 closed “simply because the channel doesn’t serve his interests on the eve of elections and [instead] insists on journalism,” she added.
On Thursday, the station’s management announced that it would be firing all of its employees Saturday.
“The prime minister is shutting down Channel 10,” the station said in a statement. ”The prime minister … refuses to bring before the Knesset the law that was formulated and agreed upon to extend the network’s franchise. Therefore the Board of Directors…will meet on Saturday…in order to decide about the closing (of the station) on December 31, and to recommend to management to conduct the orderly dismissal of of all station employees, effective immediately upon conclusion of our broadcast on Monday, December 31.”
On Saturday night, Harel Locker of the Prime Minister’s Office arrived at a meeting of the station’s board of directors and asked them to wait an additional week before sending out dismissal notices. The board declined, but decided to postpone the move for 48 more hours.
Aaron Kalman and Asher Zeiger contributed to this report.