Israeli networks have taken the unprecedented step of banding together to form an emergency group forum opposing the government’s new media bill.
A statement from Reshet 13, Keshet 12 and public broadcaster Kan said the Israeli TV Channels Forum will “operate in an emergency mode in order to prevent the expected harm to media independence and freedom of the press as a result of the reform.”
The group of decades-old channels are responding to a bill championed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, which they say has made “the takeover of the media market the government’s next target” – following the controversial judicial reform. The forum is already active and prominent execs from various channels, legal advisors and regulatory personnel will convene for the first time in the coming days.
The proposals, which are expected to pass but not for months, include the significant reduction of local original content quotas, the creation of a new regulator whose members would largely be chosen by the government and which could meddle with Israeli content, the cancellation of the requirement for networks to obtain independent licenses in order to broadcast news content and the oversight of ratings data by a government committee.
Today, the new forum said it will “use all the tools at its disposal to prevent the dangerous move of a hostile takeover of the Israeli media,” although it didn’t elaborate on next steps.
“Second to none”
Having a “political body that controls the news and TV market in Israel is second to none in the democratic world,” its statement said.
“The expected bill is intended to blatantly intervene in the economic sphere as well, by rewarding specific media outlets – that the government desires to reward – with specified benefits and exemptions from payment,” added the statement. “At the same time, the bill confiscates the rights of free channels, eliminates the local production industry, and severely harms Israeli public broadcasting and the Israeli music industry.”
The group already issued a joint statement against the bill last month. Karhi’s department has responded by saying the proposal will in fact “enhance competition and bolster freedom of speech,” claiming that those opposed are “media monopolies who have a vast interest to keep the market closed.”
“This proposed piece of legislation is aimed at alleviating congestion and removing all redundant government regulation from the market,” a spokesman told Deadline last week. “In fact, the legislation is explicitly designed to not intervene in any content while opening up the market, essentially enabling more players to enter the market, therefore directly increasing the aspect of freedom of speech.”
The legislation is expected to pass later this year and come into force in early 2024.
Protests have been raging in Israel for months since Netanyahu appointed potentially the most right-wing government in the nation’s short history, which plans to bring in laws to impinge LGBTQ+ rights and has rubberstamped judicial reform that weakens the power of the Supreme Court. Deadline