TV network said to offer Likud primary candidates exposure boost for NIS 50,000

Package reportedly grants buyers interviews and articles on right-wing Channel 14 ahead of vote; Meretz’s Galon asks attorney-general to investigate Netanyahu’s ties to channel

Screen capture of the Channel 14 website, August 4, 2022. (Channel 14)
Screen capture of the Channel 14 website, August 4, 2022. (Channel 14)

The Channel 14 TV network has been offering to sell Likud primary candidates a package of flattering interviews and media coverage, Army Radio reported on Thursday.

The package — which was said to have been suggested to a number of candidates and to include interviews, flattering articles and promotion on the station’s mobile app — was billed at NIS 50,000 ($14,921) by the network, a right-wing channel sometimes likened to Fox News and officially known as Now 14.

Two advisers for Likud MKs told Army Radio that Channel 14 representatives — insisting only on face-to-face discussions — offered to invite candidates for interviews in the run-up to the Likud party primary on August 10.

Although networks are permitted to publish paid-for content, they must be clearly marked as such under broadcast regulations.

Army Radio said that before publishing its report, it found a number of articles on the Channel 14 site that should have been marked as paid content but were not. After the radio station requested a response from Channel 14, the website was altered to show that such posts were paid content, according to the radio report.

In a statement responding to the report, Channel 14 said the offer it made to MKs was only for content on its website and its app, “with no connection to the channel programs.” The network added that “this was made unequivocally clear to those who were interested.”

However, another primary candidate later told Army Radio that when he inquired about an interview on the network’s broadcast program, he was told that NIS 5,000 would buy him a spot in the studio.

Zehava Galon at a rally in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv on May 27, 2017 (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

The revelations came as Zehava Galon, a former Meretz party leader who is running to be head of the party again, asked the attorney general to open an investigation into opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu over allegations that he used Channel 14 for his own political purposes.

In a letter to Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, Galon wrote that Netanyahu, the Likud party leader, should be probed on suspicion of committing crimes of fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

“The Israeli viewer is exposed every day to a despicable propaganda channel that operates on behalf of a criminal defendant,” she wrote to Baharav-Miara in a letter submitted by attorney Daphna Holetz-Lechner.

Galon referred to a Walla news report from Tuesday that cited a recording of a Channel 14 employee discussing how a segment earlier in the week had been aimed at discrediting Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, head of the new Zionist Spirit party, which is competing with Likud for right-wing votes.

The employee was referring to a Monday interview by Channel 14 with the wife of Moshe Saada, the former deputy head of the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department. Last month, Saada alleged that top members of the country’s legal establishment, including the previous state attorney, ignored misconduct in recent years by the then-police chief due to fears it would damage efforts to prosecute former Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption.

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked attends a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem, June 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Saada’s wife, Naomi, told Channel 14 that Shaked, who was justice minister when the alleged misconduct was going on, knew of the issues at the time. Channel 14 headlined the report with “Shaked knew — and kept silent.”

Shaked and Moshe Saada both swiftly rejected the claim.

On Tuesday, Walla reported that it had obtained a phone recording of a Channel 14 employee saying that the whole purpose of the Naomi Saada interview was to spread that “Ayelet Shaked knew.”

Channel 14 responded that the interview with Naomi Saada “is a journalistic document of great importance to the public,” and that it supports the decision of editorial staff who chose the article’s headline.

Netanyahu is currently on trial on several counts of corruption in multiple cases, including charges that he improperly granted favors to Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder in Bezeq, in exchange for what amounted to editorial control over Elovitch’s Walla news site. Netanyahu denies all the charges against him.

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