After years of debate and political wrangling, the public broadcast bill was expected to pass Wednesday night, allowing for the Israel Broadcast Corporation to replace the Israel Broadcast Association next week.
The bill’s passage and the IBC’s planned launch bring to a close four years of work on the reform – including many cases of backtracking and changing and political crises – to close the IBA and replace it with a more efficient public broadcaster.
The legislation, the eight amendment to the public broadcast bill since it was passed in 2014, is the result of a political compromise between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who wanted the IBA to stay intact, and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who said too much money had already been spent on building the IBC, would have the IBC’s news division be separate from the rest of the corporation, have its own director, and run mostly by IBA alumni.
Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) presented the bill in the plenum, explaining that it creates two corporations – a news one, and a general one for all other broadcasts, such as sports or entertainment.
“In the framework of this bill, we examined a number of things, like the connection between the two corporations, how they’ll work as two corporations on one TV channel and how the budget is divided,” he said. “According to this bill, activity will start on Monday, May 15 for both corporations. There will be problems in the beginning with quality. No one is saying it will be excellent from the beginning.”
As for IBA workers who lost their jobs, Bitan said they did all they could to help them find new ones: “A large part got special early retirement benefits, and some got jobs created for them in the civil service…If implemented by the bureacrats, most [dismissed] workers will get a response.”
The details of the broadcast bill were not finalized after 9 p.m. Wednesday, and it was officially submitted in the last minutes before the debate began. Bitan was given a final draft shortly after he began speaking in the plenum.
In the preceding days’ committee meetings, coalition parties began asking for resources to be allocated to their constituents, like a public haredi radio station at Shas’ request, and more hours of Russian radio for Yisrael Beytenu.
Throughout the day Wednesday, the Knesset was abuzz with talk about the sudden closure of the IBA and dismissal of most of its workers.
The evening before, not long before the 8 p.m. “Mabat” news broadcast, David Hahn, the bureaucrat responsible for dismantling the IBA, announced that it would be the last episode of the program, which had been on the air since 1968,…