Broadcaster gives Netanyahu ultimatum over Eurovision funding

PM told he has 2 days to come up with the €12 million guarantee or Israel will pull out of hosting the song contest; government says ‘no’ to covering costs

In this July 24, 2018 photo, Netta Barzilai poses for a portrait in New York. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP)
In this July 24, 2018 photo, Netta Barzilai poses for a portrait in New York. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP)

The Kan public broadcaster on Sunday warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it would pull out hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest if the government does not help it with a €12 million ($14 million) security guarantee.

The government has refused to give any money to the broadcaster, claiming that its annual budget is sufficient to cover the costs, Hadashot news reported, adding that the government believes the broadcaster was playing a game of chicken to increase its funding.

The head of the broadcaster, Gil Omer, sent a warning letter to Netanyahu saying the deadline for making the payment to the European Broadcasting Union already expired, but it received an extension until August 14.

“This is the point of no return. Afterwards, if the required deposit is not given to the EBU, it will be impossible to change the situation and the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest will not be able to be held in Israel,” the letter stated.

“For the past two weeks we have exerted much effort to inform the decision makers of the difficulties we face in order to make every effort to solve them,” Omer wrote. “Unfortunately, our repeated requests for intensive work to solve the serious problems that stand in the way of hosting the competition in Israel have not been answered.”

In addition to the deposit, it is expected to cost NIS 157 million ($42 million) to host the song contest. Even after the revenues earned by the broadcaster, it will face a shortfall by some NIS 104 million ($28 million), The Marker business news site reported. Kan wants the government to top up its budget to cover these costs.

However, it appeared unlikely Kan would get its money.

“The broadcasting authority is trying to destroy the Eurovision with its wasteful attitude,” a source close to Netanyahu was quoted as saying by Hebrew media.

“The prime minister and the finance minister decided that a body which receives NIS 750 million in public funding can find the budget for the Eurovision guarantee,” he said.

Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in two decades on May 12, as Netta Barzilai won with the women’s empowerment anthem “Toy.”

Barzilai’s win meant Israel would host next year’s Eurovision competition — an event expected to bring thousands of fans and worldwide exposure to the Jewish state.

At first Israel insisted that the competition must be held in the capital, Jerusalem. But after backlash from the organizers, who threatened to find another host country, Netanyahu instructed his government to keep quiet on the issue. Several cities in Israel are expected to vie to host the contest.

Another threat to Israel hosting the competition is a threatened lawsuit by a major US record label which charged that the composers of the Israeli entry infringed their copyright.

Universal Music Studios, one of the world’s biggest music companies, in recent weeks sent a pre-suit notice letter to Doron Medalie and Stav Berger, who jointly wrote the winning song, Netta Barzilai’s “Toy,” saying it was copied from The White Stripes’ 2003 hit, “Seven Nation Army.”

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