Hundreds of top actors, directors, and writers gathered in Tel Aviv on Wednesday for an emergency meeting to oppose the government’s apparent plan to shut down the public broadcasting authority.
Following their meeting, dozens headed out to Kaplan Street, where they briefly blocked traffic. The area has become a focal point of the weekly demonstrations against the government’s policies. On Tuesday, hundreds of members of the tech industry protested in the same place against a major overhaul of the judiciary that is a central plank of the coalition’s plans.
Earlier this month, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said there was no reason to support state public broadcasting in Israel and indicated he intends to shut down the Kan broadcaster along with additional transmission regulating bodies.
Hundreds of actors, directors, writers, and other figures from the cultural world, along with workers from the Kan public broadcaster, attended the Wednesday meeting held at the Tzavta Theater to oppose the plan.
Riki Blich, chair of Shaham The Israeli Actors’ Association, told the Ynet news site that public broadcasting is needed to produce shows that do not have good enough ratings to be commercially attractive but are nonetheless valuable, such as those dealing with single-parent families or children with disabilities.
“We produce a culture for ourselves, and if the state does not help us produce it — it will not exist. You have to understand that there will only be things that bring in money,” she said. “It’ll be like watching commercials as television broadcasts.”
המחאה נגד סגירת התאגיד,
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Lior Raz, star and creator of the hit drama series “Fauda,” said that “a country without public broadcasting is a country with less democracy.”
Aside from the impact on shows, jobs will be lost, Raz said. “We only see what happens on the television, but there are many providers and people working” behind the scenes to produce shows, he noted.
“Taxi drivers and caterers, [workers] in studios, sound and lighting people — we don’t want to forget them,” Raz said.
Ahead of the meeting, organizers said that the corporation provides employment to thousands of people and accounts for about 70 percent of those employed in the film and television industry.
“Karhi is sealing mouths and drying up the fount from which original content draws its power,” the organizers said in a statement. They condemned as a “delusion” the idea that original Hebrew-language content can be produced without public support.
“If original work in Hebrew is important to us, public broadcasting is a necessity, and the corporation has proven this since its establishment,” the statement said. “Creativity and free communication have social, moral, and educational effects.”
Earlier this month, Karhi said the policy of his Likud party was to “remove obstacles and remove regulation” in the industry to allow the free market to prevail.
“In my view, there is no place in this day and age for a public broadcaster when there is a wide range of channels,” he added.
The Likud party, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has long been accused of seeking to shut down Kan due to its criticism of the government while receiving public funding.
Kan hit the airwaves in 2017 after a long legislative battle to shut down and replace its predecessor, the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
At the time, then-prime minister Netanyahu — who also served for years as communications minister — strongly opposed the creation of Kan, reportedly claiming it was too left-wing and too difficult to control.
Internal disagreement on the matter almost brought down the coalition in 2017. However, if the news department were to be closed now, the move would be unlikely to face pushback in Netanyahu’s current hardline right-religious government.