The European Broadcasting Union has voiced its concern over the future of Israel’s public broadcaster KAN. These concerns follow statements made by Shlomo Karhi, the Minister of Communications.
Minister Karhi: No place for public broadcasting
Last month, Minister of Communications Shlomo Karhi made his statements in Israel. The Minister was reported saying there is “no place for public broadcasting in the state of Israel”. As a result of this statement, the 37th Israeli government threatened to withdraw all funding from KAN. Effectively, that would mean shutting down KAN and the news operation it provides to the people of Israel. Furthermore, it would mean a severe loss of jobs within the broadcaster.
As if this wasn’t enough for the government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, they’ve now revealed more plans. Three of KAN’s most popular radio stations would have to be sold to commercial owners. KAN would also no longer be able to earn commercial revenue if the government plans go ahead.
All of these plans were made by Minister of Communications Shlomo Karhi. He’s a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party. He’s held his role since 2022. Karhi has been the subject of criticism for his policies and actions. One major issue is his proposal to privatise KAN, which has drawn significant backlash from media professionals and civil society groups. Karhi has also been accused of stifling press freedom and restricting access to information, such as by refusing to grant press credentials to certain journalists.
EBU Director General responds
Noel Curran, the EBU Director General has responded to the plans made by the Israeli government. Curran isn’t happy at all with any of the plans made by the Netanyahu government. In a press release by the EBU, he says:
Impartial news and information are critical to the functioning of a healthy democracy. We call on the Israeli government to safeguard the independence of our Member KAN and ensure it is allowed to operate in a sustainable way, with funding that is both stable, adequate, fair, and transparent.Noel Curran about the current KAN situation
KAN became a full EBU member in late 2018. The relationship between the Israeli state broadcaster and the EBU has been tense since the very start. KAN was founded two days after former broadcaster IBA ceased to exist. Over the past few years, EBU and KAN have often had public arguments over funding. The role of the often changing Israeli government can’t be underestimated here, as KAN have shown willingness towards the EBU. The problems were mostly visible in the run to the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 in Tel Aviv, where Israeli politicians got involved more than once over the hosting duties KAN took on that year.
If the troubles increase for KAN, Israel’s Eurovision participation may see itself in danger. Currently, KAN are the only eligible broadcaster from Israel with full membership. If the EBU remains unhappy with the situation and if they do decide to take steps against KAN, Israel does not have another broadcaster who could step in instead.
This year, it’s Noa Kirel who will represent Israel in Liverpool. She’ll sing “Unicorn”, a song she’ll release on 8th March. Last year, Michael Ben David sang “I.M.” for Israel in Turin. He however failed to qualify for the Grand Final.
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