Last days?
Last-ditch effort to save Channel 10 underway
Threat of going off air looms closer than ever, as Second Authority for Television and Radio, Treasury are expected to decide on Channel 10's fate Monday

With only 24 hours left before Israel's Channel 10's fate is sealed, and unless a miraculous solution is found to the station's debt problem, the Second Authority for Television and Radio is expected to announce a new franchising tender, which would force it off the air pending the bid's results.


Channel 10 has been facing growing financial difficulties and earlier in July, primary shareholder Yossi Meiman said his media group may stop financing its broadcasting as early as August.


Thursday saw the channel's captains manage to get Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz personally involved in the efforts to save Channel 10, which is Israel's second commercial channel after Channel 2, but to no avail.


The Treasury demands the channel pay its NIS 12 million (approx. $3.1 million) debt in cash. Channel 10's employees have staged several protests against the Second Authority's intention to cease broadcasting, and another rally is planned for later Sunday, across from the cabinet meeting.


Sources familiar with efforts to spare the station, said that Meiman is aware that without the shareholders' funding, the channel will have no choice but to go off the air. "The real question isn’t whether Meinan has the NIS 12 million, but whether or not he wants to keep the channel operational," said the source.


Should a new franchising tender be issued, Meiman's Israel 10 company, which operates Channel 10 News, may suffer the proverbial deathblow.


Blame game

Leo Malamud, one of the channel's directors, said Sunday that "the shareholders know that the maintaining the channel would require funneling substantial amounts of money, but we are not willing to pay the Regulator another NIS 10 million ($2.58 million).


"We are not asking anyone to erase one penny off our debt, but are asking that this ridiculous debt to the Regulator be deferred."


Should Channel 10 go off the air, the Second Authority for Television and Radio would bear the brunt of responsibility for failing to save it, since it consistently chose to ignore its bailout alternatives, such as the recommendation to promote a legislative change that would have allowed for the current franchise to be automatically renewed.


Former Communications Minister Ariel Atias will also shoulder some of the blame, for refusing to push the legislation, fearing public backlash. Atias chose to leave the matter up to the current minister Moshe Kahlon.


Kahlon too, is likely to face criticism for opting instead to have the Treasury take over the negotiations.


Channel 10 would be held responsible for its own demise: Former CEO Mody Friedman focused all of his efforts on changing the franchising system, paying little attention to repaying its amounting debt. Friedman was sure he would be able to force a shareholders'-friendly solution on the Regulator, but failed.


Meiman and Steinitz are also unlikely to emerge from the decision unscathed, as the former seemed content to lose millions without interfering with the channel's operations in the past; and the latter heads to nearly doomed negotiations.


Meital Zada contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 07.26.09, 12:16
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