Culture minister vows to revoke law on book discounts

Miri Regev says legislation has failed to achieve its goals and is bad for the consumers

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, February 17, 2016 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, February 17, 2016 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev announced Sunday she aims to revoke a law preventing sellers from offering discounts on books, two and half years after the bill was legislated.

The minister said she hopes to have the law revoked in time for national Book Week, which is scheduled to begin on June 15.

“I have decided to cancel the book law because it failed in its main objective: The price of books has gone up and the main victims are the readers,” Regev told a culture conference organized by Haaretz newspaper and held at the Tel Aviv Museum.

The legislation ensures that the price of a book — for the first 18 months after being published — is not subject to change by the proprietors of a store in which it is being sold.

“My decision was based on the underlying principle of the policy that I am leading — access to culture for all Israeli citizens,” Regev said.

Following her appointment as culture minister last year, Regev signaled that she intended to cancel the law and ordered a ministerial report into its effectiveness.

The so-called Book Law was approved by the Knesset in July 2013. Authors have long railed against sales that offer four books for NIS 100 ($25.57), common in major book chains. Writers say it nets them less money and cheapens the industry. The bill was championed by then-culture minister Limor Livnat.

During her address at the conference, protesters booed Regev in an ongoing dispute over controversial legislation she proposed, which would end government funding to cultural institutions deemed disloyal to the State of Israel.

Regev’s so-called “loyalty in culture” bill allows the ministry to deny state subsidies to groups that disrespect state symbols or the flag; mark Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning; deny Israel’s right to exist; reject Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; or incite to violence, terrorism, or racist hate crimes.

Critics charge that Regev and other right-wing ministers are waging a wider “culture war” on Israeli artists rather than dealing with the ongoing political unrest.

Last month, the Justice Ministry approved the “loyalty” bill, which had previously been decried by opposition MKs, former attorney general Yehuda Weinstein, and a long list of iconic Israeli artists and writers.

Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.

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