The European Broadcasting Union, the body responsible for the Eurovision Song Contest, issues a warning against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over its threats to shut down the Kan public broadcaster.
EBU director general Noel Curran sends a letter to Netanyahu against such a move, stating that “we trust the new government will also safeguard the independence of KAN and enable it to continue to fulfill its mission in democratic society.”
Curran cites as particularly concerning comments by new Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi calling for an end to public broadcasting in Israel.
“Independent news and information form an integral component of public service media organizations and make a key contribution to media pluralism in well-functioning democracies,” Curran writes in the letter.
“The EBU’s responsibility is to ensure that it supports all our Members in their mission to serve the interests of the general public in the best possible manner. These developments risk undermining KAN’s capability to meet its commitments as a member of our international alliance of public service media organizations.”
In order to be a member of the EBU and therefore compete at the Eurovision, countries must have a public broadcaster that airs both news as well as other programming.
Israel most recently hosted the Eurovision in 2019 in Tel Aviv after Netta Barzilai won the 2018 competition. Popstar Noa Kirel is slated to represent Israel at this year’s contest in Liverpool.
Kan first hit the airwaves in 2017 after a long legislative battle to replace Israel’s former public broadcaster, the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
Netanyahu sought to split the news division off from the rest of Kan due to complaints about its purported bias.
But after Israel won the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest, the prime minister gave up that plan, since splitting them up would make Israel ineligible to be a member of the European Broadcasting Union and therefore to host the 2019 contest.