After a long battle in the Knesset and in the media, MKs on Monday night authorized Channel 20 to broadcast news. The authorization was part of a package that kept media outlets for Israeli music and Russian content, along with Channel 20, on the air. The law, passed on its second and third reading by a vote of 36-2, allows the station to produce a news broadcast nightly, and to accept advertisements and sponsorships for its news programs.
MKs, mostly on the left, had opposed allowing Channel 20 to produce and broadcast news programs, as the station has a rightwing bent, and appeals mainly to the traditional and Religious Zionist public. The station shuts down for Shabbos, and includes numerous programs on Jewish culture and history. The law was the idea of MK Shiran Haskel (Likud), who proposed it several years ago. Since then it has undergone numerous changes.
MK Haskel said in response to the passage that “for 30 years we have been trying to open up the media market in Israel. Important figures in the media business warned us against doing this, claiming we would start a media war. There were also threats, and accusations that we were trying to set up a ‘mouthpiece’ for the right. I am happy that the Knesset has finally seen [it] worthy to approve this bill. Freedom of expression is an absolute requirement in presenting the news.”
In a statement, Channel 20 thanked Communications Minister Ayoub Kara for promoting the bill. “As a result of the bill, we are working on a new broadcast schedule that will include among other things a news broadcast. We will do our best to present rich, high-quality content, in the spirit of Israeli culture and traditional Jewish values,” the statement said.