TV channel i24news, owned by Patrick Drahi, has petitioned the Filber commission to recommend the network be allowed to air on cable provider Hot, also owned by Drahi. According to the current legal position, the network which broadcasts abroad in Arabic, French, and English is not approved to broadcast in Israel because of Drahi’s dual ownership.
Meanwhile, the Filber commission intends to deliberate on opening the news broadcast market for competition and to allow the cable and satellite providers to host their own news channels; sources inform “Globes” that i24news CEO Frank Melloul has been working to launch a new Hebrew news desk to serve the network when it is allowed to launch on Hot.
The commission, chaired by Communications Ministry Director-General Shlomo Filber, is currently deliberating on streamlining the regulation of the broadcast market. The dominant players in the industry have met with the commission, in the hope of receiving favorable decisions for their areas of operation.
A letter sent by Melloul to Filber, which reached “Globes”, describes the chain of events which led to a network that broadcasts to the entire world being barred in its current iteration from broadcasting in Israel. According to the law, news broadcasts can be aired on cable or satellite, but only by an independent news producer. Thus, the owners of the broadcast medium cannot also own the news media.
However, the cable provider still filed a request two years ago to air the network for its Israeli subscribers, assuming the channel would be treated as a foreign broadcaster, and therefore fall under such regulation.
The cable council turned to Deputy Attorney General Avi Licht; he determined that the channel should be treated as Israeli because it broadcasts from Yafo and its subject matter deals with Israel.
“The channel has an association with Israel and has an influence on the Israeli public and on Israeli decision-makers. In the current case, the source of the broadcast is in Israel. Thus, on this merit alone it would be permissible to reject Hot’s request to regulate its channel as a foreign outlet,” wrote Licht in a legal opinion published June 2014.
“We are not looking at an Israeli channel,” Melloul wrote to Filber, “As far as we’re concerned, there is a fundamental misunderstanding in this designation, and it is possible that its source is in the fact that this channel is a new hybrid which had yet to be seen in the industry on one hand, most of the journalists are broadcasting from Israel; on the other hand, the channel’s content is directed to a global audience. In absurd fashion, as things stand today, the channel broadcasts to many countries all over the world, to more than one billion households, and the only place in which it cannot be aired is Israel.”
Melloul added: “The channel’s broadcasts are not transferred from Israel to a distributor in Israel. The channel goes up to international satellites, through which it is distributed ‘free-to-air’ across the globe. Thus, according to our position, this is not an Israeli channel. It must be emphasized that the primary audience of i24news broadcasts is intended to be viewers outside of Israel that are routinely exposed to critical reporting of Israel from many international news stations. As such there is a massive demand for the channel here in Israel from many international news channels. And there is also massive demand for the channel here in Israel because a lot of news information is centered in the nearby geographic environment.”
He claimed the demand was coming both from new immigrants to Israel and from Israeli Arabs. “In an age in which news outlets stumble into tendentious broadcasts, we must emphasize that i24news has been seen around the world as a fitting alternative to the claims of untrustworthy reports, to the lack of certainty, and to the many complaints of disinformation regarding developments in Israel.”
The Ministry of Communications said: “The commission has yet to deliberate on the topic of opening the news market for competition. In its mission statement, the commission was asked to formulate directives to encourage the entry of new players and to encourage competition in the content and news market.”
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 10, 2015
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