Like many Israelis, I am following with great interest the establishment of a new public broadcasting corporation in Israel. At this point it seems promising – the service is recruiting experienced and reputable journalists from diverse sectors of the population - Arabs, Haredim, observant and secular Jews, and professionals from both the political left and right. I believe these people will produce good quality media if given a genuine opportunity.
The big question is if they will be permitted to do their work properly. A legislative bill that is being promoted at the moment seeks to abolish the public broadcasting corporation; a true blow to the freedom of the press. This move reflects in simple terms the sentiment expressed by the Minister of Culture, Miri Regev several months ago: “What value does a public broadcasting service have, if we (the government) do not control it?” This bill is one of the many initiatives designed to attack the broadcasting service and to renew efforts to shut down the IDF radio station Galatz, alongside the increasing intervention of the Prime Minister in this process.
Strong and independent public broadcasting is essential in a democratic state. It allows for freedom of expression, representation of the general population, and provides a platform for voicing criticism. The quality journalism produced up until now by the Israel Broadcasting Authority is testament to the importance of a public broadcast. The way in which the new broadcasting corporation is built needs to allow for exposure of interesting ideas from groups whose voices are not heard often enough in the mainstream.
This is true on condition that the politicians who are trying to disrupt the broadcasting corporation will fail. There must be enough Knesset Members and Ministers, who believe in freedom of the press, pluralism and freedom of expression and remember that a public broadcasting service should serve the general public and the public interest; not the political majority. The media should tell us about crony capitalism, expose injustices, failures and corruption, report rogue politicians, stand with citizens and voice criticism without fear – even if it is unpleasant to hear.
As George Orwell said — 'Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.'
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel