The dispute over the future of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) got more intense and more political over the past week. The whole subject is a “can of worms.” Originally, in the previous Knesset, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan of the Likud decided that he wanted to close the IBA down because it had become too big and too expensive and the salaries being paid there were excessive. Instead of trying to reform it, he decided to replace it with another organization with a similar name, the Israel Broadcasting Company. But, then in the current Knesset it became a political football, with members of other parties accusing PM Netanyahu in his role as Communications Minister of trying to establish a national media organization that he could control.
It is well-known that Netanyahu does not like the media because it has been critical of him in the past, partly because it has a liberal bias. That was one reason why he asked Sheldon Adelson, his American billionaire supporter, to establish a right-wing newspaper “Israel Hayom,” that supports Netanyahu. Netanyahu’s opponents on the left and the right fear that he is using this opportunity to make a national media organization that will reflect Government opinions rather than be editorially independent.
Over the past week Netanyahu has been attacked on this score by the leaders of the other main parties, Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi, a member of the coalition, as well as the opposition, Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid and Isaac Hertzog of Labor/ Zionist Union. All this political infighting has caused the whole issue of the reform of the IBA, and especially its English News service, to be delayed and mired in controversy. Some now want to go back to the old IBA, some want to reform the IBA, some want to replace the IBA, and of those some want to make it much smaller, while others want to see it grow as a mouthpiece for Israel, much like the Voice of America. What will eventually come out of this mess is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, hundreds of IBA employees are sitting on the edges of their seats to know what the futures holds for them.