Channel 20, ‘Israel’s Fox News,’ granted permission to broadcast news

State body rules for religious tolerance, says right-wing channel must open up to pluralistic branches of Judaism for license

Channel 20's Erel Segal satirizes Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir on a February 29, 2016 show. (screen capture: YouTube)
Channel 20's Erel Segal satirizes Zionist Union MK Stav Shaffir on a February 29, 2016 show. (screen capture: YouTube)

The Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting gave its okay Thursday for Israel’s Channel 20 television to broadcast a news program for up to one hour during the prime time hours of 8 p.m. until 11 p.m., Hebrew-language media reported.

During the rest of the day, the right-wing Channel 20, also known as the Heritage Channel, can broadcast up to 30 minutes of news in total.

Permission was granted following a decision in November approving the channel, sometimes referred to as Israel’s Fox News, to broadcast news content.

Channel 20 began broadcasting in August 2014 as a station focusing on Jewish tradition with a conservative bent.

The station is owned by Yitzhak Mirilashvili and Avi Bar, who is also director-general. Bar must leave his position in order for the channel to be permitted to broadcast news.

The council stated that the channel must commit to give expression to all branches of Judaism. Another requirement was that the channel join the Israel Press Council, which it did.

Avi Bar is Director-General and co-owner of Channel 20 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Avi Bar is director-general and co-owner of Channel 20 (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The Reform Movement opposed the development, claiming that the channel was biased against its rabbis and against Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism.

Gilad Kariv, Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism said “we hope that the decision made by the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting will cause the channel to change its policy immediately” and added “we hope that Channel 20 will adopt a policy of religious tolerance.”

In a statement, Channel 20 said the decision “will allow the public to enjoy a wider range of voices that had been marginalized and kept out of Israeli media up until now,” Hebrew-language media reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the channel and vowed to further the goal of making a variety of media channels available to the Israeli public.

“Congratulations to Channel 20! I will continue to work for competition in the media industry in Israel so that you — the citizens of Israel — can choose who to watch and who to hear,” Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page.

Channel 20 came under fire in December of last year when it censured president Reuven Rivlin for attending a conference in New York at which members of Breaking the Silence — a group that publishes allegations of Israeli soldiers’ transgressions against Palestinians in the West Bank — also appeared.

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