Concern voiced over plans to dismantle Israeli pubcaster

The European Broadcasting Union has today expressed concern over plans to disband the Israeli Broadcasting Authority and the country’s license fee and said the move is ‘regrettable’.

On Sunday, the Israeli government approved a draft bill that would see the IBA closed and replaced. Should the bill receive the final green light the move to close the public broadcaster and replace it with a “slimmer and more efficient organisation” would take effect next year.

The IBA runs free-to-air broadcaster Channel 1, which generates significantly smaller ratings than its commercial rivals such as Keshet and Reshet. It levies an unpopular ILS345 (US$99.9) annual license fee.

The authorities in Tel Aviv have set a ten month deadline for the initial transition phase from the IBA to the new broadcasting entity, which the EBU says is an “extremely ambitious” timeframe.

“It is deeply regrettable that such drastic steps have had to been taken,” said EBU director general Ingrid Deltenre. “We shall watch vigilantly as the situation develops in Israel, to ensure that the Landes report’s commitment to public service broadcasting will be honoured.”

Deltenre added that governments are frequently unrealistic when implementing audiovisual reforms, and overlook the need to meet several key conditions for public service media to function.

“Scrapping the licence fee is a step in the wrong direction,” she said. “The Landes Report attributed many of IBA’s problems to political interference, but a broadcaster that is entirely dependent on direct state budget funding will logically be even more vulnerable to political interference.”