update report # 33
March 9, 2000
- Resignation of the Galatz commander, Dr. Zeev Drori
- Media Monitor International
- IMW protested this week to IBA Ombudsman
- The police responded to the IMW complaint against
employees of Kol Israel Radio
- The satirical "Chartzufim" program
- On the invasion of privacy, Ofra Haza's death, By Orit Shohat
- Yitzhak Mordechai Affair
- Media Analysis By Allison Kaplan Sommer, Jerusalem Post
- TV Notes: NBC Quits the Club By Bill Carter
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1. IMW's chairman, Prof. Eli
Pollak, in his capacity as chairman of the Galei Tzahal
[Army radio station, or Galatz] committee of the IBA (please note: by law, the IBA
supervises all non-military programming of Galei Tzahal), convened a session of
the committee in Tel Aviv on Monday, March 6. The committee met in the
wake of the resignation of the Galatz commander, Dr. Zeev Drori, amid recriminations that
he met opposition to his attempts to turn the station away from its image
as a "yuppie-Ashkenazi-paternalistic" station, what is know in Israel as a
"Shenkin" attitude, named after a street in Tel Aviv with a bohemian flavor.
Galatz has long been an anomaly as the only other radio permitted to broadcast
national news though it be staffed mainly by soldiers who usually are not
permitted to engage in any political activity. In addition, Galatz employs, to great
expense, civilian media personalities who have long provided the station with its
distinct trendy-lefty character.
The resigned commander, Dr. Zeev Drori, had initiated some very basic changes
such as the introduction of soldiers from outlying areas, from religious
backgrounds and more representative music from Mizrachi sources.
Unfortunately, Drori did not show, nor did the Chief Army Education
Officer send his representative. A brief statement from the Manpower Division Head was
read out but no dialogue could take place. In essence, the committee was neglected.
A news item follows which will help clarify the matter:
Arutz 7 News - March 6, 2000:-
The search is on for a new director for Galei Tzahal Army Radio, following
the sudden resignation two weeks ago of Yitzchak Drori. The leading
candidate, Gil Omer, announced yesterday that he is not interested. The
IDF's Chief Education Officer, Elazar Stern, plans to form a search
committee to help IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Sha'ul Mofaz in his decision.
Among the names being mentioned are Avi Benayahu, former press aide to
then-Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai; IDF spokesman and former Israel
Television reporter Oded Ben-Ami; and Yitzchak Tunik, a former aide to
then-Minister Amnon Rubenstein of Meretz. The first two were also
considered candidates for the post when it was last vacated, just over two
2. A representative of Media Tenor (Media Monitor International) spent several
days in Jerusalem instructing IMW monitors in the use of the international MMI
code book process. It is expected that IMW join shortly the global effort of
media watch dog groups utilizing a professional and scientific monitoring
3. IMW protested this week to IBA Ombudsman, Amos Goren, over the inclusion
of a speech by PM Ehud Barak in the service commerical broadcast by the Lotto
National Lottery authroity.
The Nakdi Document ethics code, paragraph 167, explicity prohibits political
or religious advertising in ads broadcast over the public broadcasting service
IMW noted that this type of support for a political figure can only be seen
in the framework of some "personality cult".
Another IMW complaint related to the participation of Dr. Zohar Shavit as
a guest interviewer on Daliah Ya'iri's morning radio program on Kol
Yisrael. Dr. Shavit led a public camapign to retrieve an hour of air time that was shortened
from Ya'iri's show a year ago.
Ya'iri also gave a promotional mention to Shavit's book, causing IMW to add
a possible conflict-of-interest between Shavit and Ya'iri in a quid pro quo
relation between the two.
4. The police have finally responded to the complaint made by IMW against
employees of the First Programme of Kol Yisrael Radio on January 13, 2000. The
complaint was made following the order of Eitan Almog to prohibit all discussion
of the police raid on Arutz 7's Bet El offices on the talk show "Litening to Listeners".
IMW opined that this was a baltant attempt to stifle free public discussion.
The police informed IMW that they will not pursue any further investigation
in the circumstances following their efforts to date and that there is no "criminal guilt".
IMW announces that it will appeal this ruling to the Attorney-General and
utilize all legal avenues open to us.
5. IMW has complained several times over the past four years
regarding certain aspects of the satirical "Chartzufim" program on
TV's Channel Two. Modelled after the British "Spitting Images",
the program, at times, has exploited antisemitic themes against
ultra-orthodox Jews, compared Shas leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
to an Iranian Ayatollah and used explicit sexual connotations,
especially against Likud female MK Limor Livnat.
It was no surprise then that we received the following item
which we share with our readers:
**** Satirical TV puppets are pulled
France's most influential television programme announced its demise this
weekend amid claims that it had become sexist, overbearing and unfunny.
The announcement, made by the puppets, plunged the country's political
class, as well as the Canal Plus television station, into uncertainty,
while Bruno Gaccio, the creator of Les Guignols de l'Info, remained
silent on his decision.
Although the nightly ten-minute show is widely credited with playing a
decisive role in Jacques Chirac's 1995 presidential election victory,
its wit has been dulled in recent months and viewing figures have fallen.
Mr Gaccio was recently attracted controversy when he was accused by
Sylvie Kerviel, a journalist at Le Monde, of putting his hand between
her breasts and making lewd suggestions during an interview. Even the
head of Canal Plus, Alain de Greef, has described Mr Gaccio as ''stupid,
rude and ridiculous''.
Local Media News
A major media controversy erupted in
the details of the illness that proved fatal to internationally
recognized singer, Ofra Chazzeh. The following excerpts
from Ms. Shohat's article presents an interesting point-of-view.
On the invasion of privacy By Orit Shohat, Ha'aretz, Friday, March 3, 2000
The publication of the cause of singer Ofra Haza's death, despite the express
wishes and request of her family, was not an unreasonable journalistic act,
but neither was it an essential one.The press is forced each day to infringe
upon the right to privacy of one group of individuals yet, every day,
it restrains itself from invading the privacy of another group. This is
the constant dilemma with which journalists must contend. When
the press reports the arrest of people who, up to the time of the arrest,
were anonymous, it is infringing upon their right to privacy. However, at
the same time, the press will avoid reporting a suicide, even that of
a famous person, if the family requests non-disclosure.
Illness is still considered a strictly private matter. Only when senior
public officials become ill can the press publish the details of the
illness even if the official in question objects.
- - - -
Ofra Haza was only a singer. She was neither a cabinet minister
nor an ambassador nor a chief of staff nor the director of a public
corporation. She did not serve in some responsible post whose importance
would have justified a probe of her private life.
While it is true that the public was curious to know the cause of
her death, the public is also curious to know the names of the winners
of big lottery prizes, yet those names are never publicized, even
when the winner is a celebrity. Does our society respect the
confidentiality of bank accounts more than the confidentiality of medical
- - - -
The argument that AIDS-sufferers have nothing to be ashamed of does
not hold water. The fact is that Haza WAS ashamed. Although
homosexuals and lesbians have nothing to be ashamed of, we have
yet to see public officials disclosing to the media the nature of their sexual
preferences. It could be argued that public officials who choose to keep their
sexual preferences a secret are candidates for blackmail; nonetheless,
the press is highly reluctant to publicize a list of gay public officials.
- - - - - -
Publishing of the cause of Haza's death could have been a natural and
self-evident development were it not for the fact that her family had
specifically requested that the cause of death be kept confidential.
From the moment the family made this request, a new set of conditions
were created, and these conditions should have required the
newspaper that made the disclosure to more carefully consider
whether the publication of the cause of death was necessary or not.
From now on, nearly every deviation from accepted norms can be
justified using the case of Ofra Haza as a precedent .
© copyright 2000 Ha'aretz.
(PS - it was Ha'Aretz which was the first newspaper to break the news that
AIDS was indeed the cause of her heath)
Comment & Response
Prof. Elihu Katz has responded to my op-ed and we are reproducing
his comments. Although this is not a discussion list, but an
electronic version of a newsletter update, Katz's thinking is an
important contribution to the subject of civic responsibility for
media performance, what we at IMW refer to as "media consumerism".
Prof. Katz was a founder of the IBA and has taught communications
courses for decades at Israel's universities.
"...Israel's media system was based on the British
model of public broadcasting not the American. To sharpen the
implications of this difference, I would argue that even a monopoly
channel (radio or tv), provided that it is publicly owned and operated and
truly independent of both government and market, can be as
pluralistic--perhaps more so--than a multi-channel system that is
commercially owned and operated. Scattering listeners and viewers to
their "own" stations actively PREVENTS people from seeing each other.
The obligation of the public broadcaster is to bring differences to the
SAME forum. It is conceivable, by the way, for a public channel even to
have competing news programs, if the possibility of objectivity is denied.
That IMW may have found bias in the identity of guests to one important
political program is worth bringing to the attention of the public authority
that oversees the programs, and you deserve an answer. But
this problem is not intrinsic to public broadcasting.
Public broadcasting is in trouble everywhere, and the Israeli
version is in particular trouble. Its destiny in an era of multiple
channels is unclear, and it is easy enough to bring the whole thing down
in favor of the kind of segmentation which is mistakenly called pluralism.
Let me urge you to consider the potential contribution of public
broadcasting to politics and culture, before we give up on it. You will
find it nearly impossible to match the quality of Kol Israel, I believe,
and public television has to be saved from itself just now."
This following comment on the media's behavior in the case of
Minister Yitzhak Mordechai and charges of sexual misconduct
is quite relevant to the subject of media ethics and
we include it for your interest.
The attempted rape story unfolded at a dizzying speed
Media Analysis By Allison Kaplan Sommer, Jerusalem Post
(March 8) - "It's just frightening to live in a country where you can sit
in a police station at 8:30 in the evening, tell about something that
happened to you, and when you wake up in the morning, the entire story is
in the newspaper."
That's what Shirri Dunevitch, the attorney representing the woman who filed
a sexual harassment complaint against Transportation Minister Yitzhak
Mordechai told Israel Radio yesterday morning. Indeed, less than 24 hours
passed between the time the woman filed her complaint, and Mordechai's
announcement of his decision to take a vacation from his job.
Even for the new information age, the pace at which the story unfolded was
dizzying. The first leak in the dam of scandal occurred when the full
story, without Mordechai's name, was published in yesterday's Yediot
Aharonot. From that point, it didn't take very long for the dam to explode,
drowning the country in the story.
Speculation as to the identity of the minister began from the minute that
Yediot hit the newsstands. Mordechai's name was rapidly whispered among
media and police people in the know, and it was clear that it was just a
matter of hours until his name became public knowledge. Radio and
television refrained from using his name, though they were clearly champing
at the bit and there is no legal prohibition to do so.
At 9:15 a.m., radio reporters were saying on-air that "everyone in Tel Aviv
knows who it is." Grumbling began that people accused of far less serious
crimes had been named publicly, and that a conspiracy of media silence was
surrounding the prestigious figure.
By 9:24, Mordechai's name began appearing on Netking and IOL, two of the
main Internet sites on which Israelis trade rumors and information
Finally, at 9:50, Army Radio reported that "the Internet is reporting" that
the minister in question is Mordechai, and repeatedly broadcast his brief
reaction: "I don't deal with nonsense." The media free-for-all had begun.
The 10 a.m. newscasts opened with Mordechai's name and the story.
By 10:05, morning show host Shelli Yehimovitch was reading the detailed
polygraph test of the complainant, in which she described precisely which
body parts she was accusing Mordechai of touching.
Media experts were on the airwaves within the hour, offering Mordechai
advice as to how he should react. He huddled with his own experts, planning
his media strategy, and at 5 hit the airwaves with his denial and
announcement that he would be on vacation until the investigation is complete.
For the entire day, the media dealt entirely with the accusations - nearly
no other story was deemed worthy of reporting. One anecdote reported was
that a minister attempted an experiment in which he told a reporter that he
had a copy of the proposed agreement with Syria, simply to see if he could
be distracted from the Mordechai story.
The experiment failed.
The media will shortly face its true test: whether it will strictly abide
by the laws barring the publication of details which would indicate the
identity of the woman. Her attorney has publicly thrown down the gauntlet,
saying that she does not want to be identified, will refuse to be
interviewed, and is only interested in telling her story to the police.
Sadly, prior experience shows that if this young woman succeeds in
maintaining her anonymity in the firestorm of media coverage, she will be
Media News (Abroad)
NBC Quits the Club By BILL CARTER, March 8, 2000
NBC continued to go its own way in the broadcasting industry yesterday,
announcing that it had quit the National Association of Broadcasters,
the Washington-based organization charged with representing the
industry's interests with Congress.
The crux is a decision by the group not to push for further relaxation
of rules in areas like station ownership and the networks' relationship
with their affiliates.
Richard Cotton, general counsel for NBC, said yesterday that
the network could no longer take part in an organization that was
sticking with "archaic, anachronistic rules" in a "marketplace
that is turning upside down."
NBC had sought backing for an effort to change rules that limit
the number of stations one company can own.
One organization cannot own television stations that reach
more than 35 percent of the country. NBC argued that the association
had been extremely aggressive in pushing to relax regulations
that had limited station ownership in radio but had held back in television.
Networks and other station owners have been on a collision
course in recent years, especially over the issue of the networks'
payments to stations that carry their shows. The networks have
been trying to end that practice, which goes back to the days of
network radio; stations have been fighting to keep it in place.
Stations fear that if the networks gain too much power it will be
easier for them to force their affiliates to hew to their wishes.
Station owners are also concerned about networks' having the
ability to buy more stations, fearing they might bid up the prices
of stations that come up for sale.
Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company
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