Cabinet disagreements over state control and amendments further delay the institution of a new public broadcaster in Israel.

A few days ago, members of the Israeli government outlined and approved the details of the future Public Broadcasting Company in Israel, a replacement of the existing Israel Broadcasting Authority. However, some of those details, especially those regarding independence from the government, stirred an intense debate in the cabinet.

The broadcasting corporation was set to begin in October 1, and sought to become the Israeli equivalent of the BBC, with independence, transparency, and high quality news among its core values.  However, being independent means not having to the respond to the government, and this has not been well-received, especially by the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

One of the amendments outlined in the proposal  suggests that political parties should not be in charge of making core decisions, especially in terms of the way the company will be managed. This caused turmoil during cabinet discussions last week. Miri Regev, the Culture Minister, argued that preventing the culture ministry from intervening would create a “members only” club. “It’s inconceivable that we’ll establish a corporation that we won’t control. What’s the point?” Regev said, according to the newspaper Haaretz.

Gilad Erdan, the minister of Information and Strategic Affairs, agrees with the amendment and is in favour of the company’s independence, saying that a further delay in the start date would prevent many journalists and professionals from joining.

Conflicts also arose over the journalists who have been appointed so far for the new broadcasting corporation. Likud MK Akunis said there is little variety, with a majority of nationalist or pro-government journalists.

The establishment of a new public broadcaster seems now to be turning into an intense debate among political powers. With this series of disagreements and arguments, the new company won’t be in action until January 2017, with a possible further delay to April 1.

With independence from the government and a diverse representation central to the remit of any public media organisation, the future of public service broadcasting in Israel looks more uncertain than ever.

Slider image: Israel’s Parliament, The Knesset. Image: israeltourism/Creative Commons