Row Over Public Broadcaster Hits Israel Coalition

Row over public broadcaster hits Israel coalition

JERUSALEM, , (Pakistan Point News - 03rd Nov, 2016 ) - The future of Israel's public broadcaster is at the heart of a fierce political battle over control of the media, pitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against his own cabinet. Netanyahu and his finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, have been locking horns for weeks in a dispute analysts said could even bring down the government. The conflict focuses on one of the most bitter quarrels in the government since it was formed in March 2015: the fate of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, an offshoot of the historic Kol Yisrael radio which broadcast the first hours of the State of Israel in 1948.

Millions of Israelis have grown up with the IBA, viewing their first colour images on its television channel, and it remains the home of some of Israel's best known media figures. Nearly 70 years later, it has emerged as a major media power -- with a leading tv channel and eight radio stations in multiple languages. But two years ago a plan was launched to replace it with a new body, officially with the aim of revitalising public broadcasting so it can compete with private channels.

Critics argued the licence fee model for television was outdated and suggested replacing IBA with a new Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBC). Kahlon supports the plan as did Netanyahu initially. Yet the minister has since made an about-face, despite the fact hundreds of IBA employees have already left, with many joining the PBC, which has offices ready to open on January 1. Speaking in parliament Monday, he said the government would "rehabilitate" the public broadcaster in a "fiscally responsible" way. Netanyahu was allegedly planning to approve cancelling the creation of the PBC on Sunday but Kahlon refused, causing, at least temporarily, a rare setback for Netanyahu. In a compromise agreement, a committee was formed to find a way forward in the next three weeks.