The controversy over the closure of the Israel Broadcasting Authority and its replacement with a new public broadcast body appears far from over. After government officials came to an agreement over the shuttering of the IBA – setting a date in mid-2017 as the end of its existence – Likud whip MK David Bitan on Sunday presented a Knesset law that would do away with the new organization altogether. Instead, the existing IBA would be repurposed to meet the criteria of the new broadcasting body.
The law proposed by Bitan actually has two sections – one, the rescinding of the law that was passed that called for the closure of the IBA and its replacement with the new body, and two, the “conversion” of the existing organization into a new broadcasting authority that would be a self-supporting public broadcasting group. One of the key tenets of the law that had already been passed was the ending of the “broadcast tax,” amounting to NIS 500 ($130) a year that nearly all Israelis – including those with a radio in their cars – were required to pay.
The situation is very complicated, Bitan told Army Radio; on the one hand, the IBA was being closed down because it seemed unable to reform itself, by firing excess workers and living within its means. On the other hand, the formation of the new body is far behind schedule, and it is unlikely that it will be ready by next year. “In this situation, we can take a step background,” Bitan said. “Nothing bad will happen if we do.”
Bitan’s law, if it does come to a vote, will be presented to the Knesset in October, when it returns from its summer recess.
Gilad Erdan, former Communications Minister who devised the replacement plan, slammed Bitan’s legislation. “It is a mistake,” he told Israel Radio. “I hope that the Prime Minister would oppose this idea vehemently. Even if there was a chance for this legislation to pass, it will be difficult to attract journalists because they will not be sure if the new organization will even be established. It will also be difficult to explain to the public how the Prime Minister is in favor of the new framework, while his coalition chairman seeks to cancel it.”