Ultra-Orthodox radio station won’t face crippling fines for exclusion of women
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Ultra-Orthodox radio station won’t face crippling fines for exclusion of women

Kol Barama breathes sigh of relief as Supreme Court appeal seeking NIS 20 million in compensation pulled; outlet previously ordered to pay NIS 1 million in discrimination suit

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

The broadcasting studio of the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Barama, July 1, 2009. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
The broadcasting studio of the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Barama, July 1, 2009. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

A popular ultra-Orthodox radio station cheered on Thursday as a feminist group withdrew its Supreme Court appeal demanding greater compensation from the station for its past policy of excluding women from its airwaves.

Had it been approved by the top court, the NIS 20 million ($5.5 million) fine sought in the class action suit would have likely forced the Kol Barama station’s closure.

In September 2018, in a precedent-setting discrimination ruling, the Jerusalem District Court fined Kol Barama NIS 1 million ($280,000) for its refusal to broadcast women on any of its programs between 2009 and 2011.  That class action suit was lodged by the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center on behalf of the religious women’s rights group Kolech. The station has since begun paying the fine in installments laid out by the court.

In an appeal to the Supreme Court heard on Thursday, IRAC and Kolech asked that the penalty be raised twentyfold, prompting concerns by Kol Barama that it could be forced under.

Justices Neal Hendel, Anat Baron, and George Kara criticized the motion as a disproportionate demand and convinced both parties to drop their dueling appeals, bringing the case to a close after seven years.

The broadcasting studio of the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Barama, July 1, 2009. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

“The fight today was not only Kol Barama’s, but also that of the entire Haredi and religious public seeking to uphold its independence and [religious] way of life,” said the station’s director-general, Ariel Deri. “The Kolech organization tried with all of its might to close Kol Barama, and with God’s help, and with the support of our sympathetic listeners and workers, this goal failed.”

The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Founded in 2009, the ultra-Orthodox station refused to include women on its shows for the first two years of its existence, citing the religious sensitivities of its listeners. Since 2012, in reforms introduced by the public Second Authority for Television & Radio, the station gradually incorporated female hosts and dropped its ban on interviewing women.

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