Israeli Public Broadcaster Closure Postponed “Until Further Notice,” Says Benjamin Netanyahu Government

The closure of Israeli public broadcaster Kan by Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government has been delayed indefinitely, according to a spokesman for the Communications Minister.

The Israeli TV community will be breathing a cautious sigh of relief, for now, after the representative for Shlomo Karhi told local press that the plan has been delayed “until further notice” in order for the government to focus on passing legal reform.

A public broadcasting blueprint was initially set to be delivered by Karhi next week. He had sparked outrage when he told the country’s non-public-service Channel 12 TV station “there is no place for public broadcasting in Israel” last month, while arguing that the TV market should be opened up fully to competition.

Lobbying has been taking place behind the scenes since from local TV unions and producer groups. Deadline understands organizations being lobbied to oppose the closure included the U.S. Democratic Party.

Israel has three public broadcasting TV stations: Kan 11, Arabic news channel Makan 33 and youth channel Kan Educational, along with a number of radio stations in several languages.

According to The 2050 Group, Kan, which was the originator of global smash Tehran, was responsible for 42% of original content production in Israel last year.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), of which Kan is a member, welcomed the news with caution.

“We’ve been extremely concerned by Israeli government statements that threaten the future of public broadcasting,” an EBU statement said. “We cautiously welcome reports that proposals have been ‘indefinitely postponed’. We must protect independent journalism and will monitor developments closely.”

However, the Union of Journalists in Israel, which assembled an “emergency conference” last week in response to the government’s sweeping budget cut plans, remains sceptical, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“In recent weeks, we have seen a new spin every day,” the union said in a statement. “The fight to prevent damage to the public broadcasting service will continue with full force until Minister Karhi announces, in his own voice, that he is shelving the plan to end public broadcasting.”

Israel has long punched above its weight in the global TV arena, introducing the world to the likes of Fauda and Shtisel and recently becoming a more attractive place to film due to a new tax credit.

Netanyahu became Prime Minister for a fourth time in late December following an unprecedented fifth election in nearly four years. His current government is the most right-wing that he has led, assembled with a coalition made up mostly of religious conservatives.

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