Amid reports that Israel’s Channel 10 faced a looming shutdown at the end of the month, politicians on the left accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of waging a “personal battle” against the station by withholding the bailout funding it needs to survive.
On Sunday, the station’s board of directors said it would delay by a couple of days the planned firing of all its employees as it attempts to negotiate with the government for a deal that would let it continue operating.
The government must sign off on a bailout deal that would allow it continue operating, but Netanyahu has not brought the matter before the cabinet.
The prime minister is “working personally to shut down Channel 10,” Labor head Shelly Yachimovich told reporters, “despite detailed agreements” that were reached in an attempt to save Channel 10.” Netanyahu wanted it closed “simply because the channel doesn’t serve his interests on the eve of elections and [instead] insists on journalism,” she added.
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.
Netanyahu’s office’s latest attempt to push off the firing of hundreds of the station’s employees wasn’t a surprise, Yachimovich said. Netanyahu planned to “toss them a few bones” and bring Channel 10 “down on its hands and knees to beg for its life until election day, using threats and fear to force reporters to give him positive coverage,” she said.
Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz said Netanyahu was seeking revenge for the station’s critical reporting, which included an investigative report alleging that the prime minister used public funds to pay for private trips.
The prime minister decided to carry out “a targeted killing of Channel 10,” Horowitz said, adding that Netanyahu used “violence against an independent TV station, in order to scare and terrify the Israeli media and suppress any criticism of the government.”
On Thursday Channel 10 announced it would give its employees their two-week notices on Saturday night, thus paving the way for the station to close at the end of December if the government does not sign off on a deal to save the property.
Earlier this month, the television outlet’s owners and the government reached an agreement by which the state would loan the channel NIS 65 million ($17 million) to enable the company to pay back the massive debt it has accumulated, comprising mostly state royalties and licensing fees.
However, the cabinet must still approve the deal before December 31.
“The prime minister is shutting down Channel 10,” the station said in a statement last week, upon announcing the firings. “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.”
Michal Shmulovich contributed to this report.