Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to give way on his decision to postpone the opening a new public broadcasting corporation until January 2018.
Following a torrent of criticism and a heavy political backlash, the new corporation is now set to begin operating on April 2017 and may even begin broadcasting from January 1.
The ministries of finance and communications accepted the plan suggested by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, the minister responsible for leading the change in public broadcasting which will include the closure of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and and launching of the corporation.
Erdan mediated over the last few days between the political figures involved in the disagreement - Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Chairman of the Economics Committee Eitan Cabel and the heads of the new broadcasting corporation.
The arrangement will postpone the launching of the new corporation by half a year, (it was originally meant to begin in September 2016), in accordance with what the corporation itself requested, but also provides it with the option of starting earlier. The corporation will be required to announce when it is ready to begin broadcasting in advance after which the existing broadcasting station will be closed.
Last week, the prime minister and Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn caused a stir when they announced that the new station would be postponed by a year and a half and that the IBA would continue as usual. The move, which would have effectively ruined the new corporation, sparked a raft of criticism from within the government.
Minister Kahlon promised to oppose the delay both in the Knesset and in the government, adding that “we will not allow waste of public funds without any reason.”
Kahlon was in a position to thwart Netanyahu’s intentions due to the coalition agreements between Kulanu and Prime Minister Netanyahu's Likud party which stipulated that budget transfers exceeding 10 million shekels must receive the finance minister’s approval. In this case the money which would have needed to be transferred in order to implement the delay would have been in excess of that sum.
Gilad Erdan also stated that he opposed the move and that he had tried to convince the prime minister to reverse his decision. Notwithstanding the political remonstrations by senior ministers, Netanyahu’s hand was ultimately forced by the knowledge that changes of legislation which would be been necessitated by the plan could have ended in ignominious failure in the Knesset.
On Monday, the new corporation issued a statement saying: “The corporation will become operational in accordance with the agreement between the finance minister and the minister of communications (Netanyahu). It will be ready for full, quality, popular and independent broadcasting by January 2017 on the assumption that the government will fulfill its obligations and enable the corporation to so on that day.”
Histadrut Chairman Nissenkorn also released a statement: “This decision reflects the balance which must be struck in order to ensure that the corporation is ready for proper public broadcasting and on the other hand also to protect the workers and to implement the decision in a responsible fashion.”