Knesset okays changes to new public broadcaster, ending years-long fight
Lawmakers approve separation of news division from new corporation, apparently bringing saga over shuttering Israel Broadcasting Authority to a close
Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.
The Knesset overnight Wednesday-Thursday voted to excise the news division from the new public broadcaster and establish a separate news department in its stead, ostensibly ending a years-long saga surrounding the dismantlement of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
Forty-three Knesset members supported the proposal in its second and third readings, which took place just after 3 a.m. on Thursday morning, following a nearly six-hour debate. Thirty-three lawmakers opposed it.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was behind efforts to remove the centerpiece news division from the new corporation — known as Kan — was not present at the late-night vote.
The vote came hours the legendary IBA-run Israel Radio went off the air after 81 years, and a day after Channel 1’s “Mabat” nightly news broadcast was abruptly shut down by the government after half a century, with just two hours’ notice.
According to the reforms, advanced in marathon legislative activity by the coalition, the new public broadcaster’s programming will officially launch on May 15. However, the news department will be launched separately at a later date, absorb additional Israel Broadcasting Authority employees, and will have managers appointed by a judge-led committee to oversee its operations.
Journalists who had been hired to the Kan news department over the past year had expressed concerns last month they would be laid off as the news department is gutted from the corporation. It was not immediately clear how many of the hired employees would be retained under the new framework.
Thursday’s vote restructuring the new public broadcasting corporation implemented a March compromise reached by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
Netanyahu, who was until recently also acting communications minister, oversaw passage of the 2014 law to establish the new corporation but has long been leading an effort to abort it before it goes on the air, complaining of a lack of government control of the corporation’s editorial line, which may be critical of his government.
Kahlon, meanwhile, has fought for the establishment of the new broadcaster, as legislated in 2014, and with reduced government meddling.
IBA employees were in limbo for several years as the government approved the reforms, backtracked, attempted to merge the two entities, before finalizing the Kahlon-Netanyahu agreement that absorbs more workers from the IBA, while laying off hundreds of others.
The IBA was established in 1948 and held a monopoly on TV and radio broadcasting in Israel until the 1990s.