Those viewing the Independence Day ceremony at Mount Herzl Monday evening were confused: All three news channel reports mentioned the planned protest of Yoel Shalit and his girlfriend during the ceremony – calling on the government to free captive soldier Gilad Shalit – however the viewer did not get to see it, as if nothing controversial had happened. The show just went on.
All three broadcasting channels refused to air the demonstration as it was happening. But it remains unclear who was responsible for failing to show the viewers the truth.
The ceremony was broadcast on behalf of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry. As the ministry is not a television body, they hired JCS – a private television production company – to produce the broadcast for the three news channels in Israel.
After the Shalit incident, officials from all three news channels criticized the ministry. "There is no doubt they're embarrassed by this and they didn't want to air it," a Channel 2 News official said.
"They could have easily aired the pictures. There were at least 10 cameras there. They clearly chose not to. In addition, the ministry also had preexisting knowledge about the provocation. They could have prepared for it ahead of time, they just didn't want to."
Channel 2 News also knew about the Shalit family's planned event ahead of time. They even sent a reporter to accompany Shalit and his girlfriend as they got ready, making posters and packing their bags. However because Channel 2 was not in charge of filming the ceremony, they could not intervene during the broadcasting.
|Yoel Shalit, girlfriend protest at Independence Day ceremony|
Now they plan to demand explanations from the Public Diplomacy Ministry for their puzzling decision, described by a Channel 2 News official as "an error in judgment."
Channel 1 refused to comment.
"The broadcasting was executed in accordance with the private company's decisions and respectively with the ceremony, without any guidance from us," insisted Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Spokesman Gal Ilan. "It was a well thought-out and scheduled national ceremony, and everyone involved had been preparing and getting ready for it for quite some time – including the film crews."
However a ministry official claimed an instruction was given to ignore any provocations. "Our job was to televise a national event to the public, not report the news," a ministry official stated. "That's the journalists' job, not ours."
JCS Productions refused to comment, however director Avi Amber, who was responsible for camera routing on behalf of the company, addressed the issue.
"I didn't know about the incident during the broadcast," he said Tuesday. "The cameras were facing center stage, according to plan, and the event took place at a darker side of the site. I wasn't instructed by the Public Diplomacy Ministry to conceal the event, which I didn't even know happened."
Even if the version told by news channel officials sounds acceptable, one cannot help but wonder why these independent news channels chose to depend on a self-severing governmental body.
Off the record, all three news channels admitted they could not believe a governmental body would ever deliberately ignore such a demonstrable news event.
"We've learned our lesson," said news officials. "Next time we'll send our own cameras as well."
Itamar Eichner contributed to this report