The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee today began discussions on the government proposal to amend the Telecommunications Law for the purpose of regulating commercial broadcasting in Israel and consolidating the Second Broadcasting Authority and the Cable and the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting into a single regulatory agency.
This consolidation has been discussed for many years, but was prevented for political and bureaucratic reasons. Ministry of Communications legal advisor Adv. Dana Noyfeld mentioned that the proposal was discussed in the past, and said, "It's finally going through on the third try," after being first proposed in 2012 by then-Minister of Communications Moshe Kahlon, and subsequently by former Minister of Communications Gilad Erdan.
"Broadcasting has many regulators: the Second Broadcasting Authority for television and radio and the Cable and the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting, each of which works according to a different law and set of rules. The current bill is designed to establish a single agency that will wield all regulatory authority," Noyfeld explained.
Noyfeld added that the proposal was "essentially technical, giving the two agencies' authority to one agency, without changing the substance of regulation or the existing situation."
DBS Satellite Services (1998) Ltd. (Yes) VP Regulation and Legal Affairs Michal Rafaeli-Kaduri said that the company supported the bill, provided that it is relevant to the new developments. "The law does not address pirate broadcasts, which can destroy the broadcasting industry here," she said.
Rafaeli-Kaduri added that Yes opposed payment of a fee to an agency regulating the company, saying, "If Israel wants my regulator to supervise the length of a Kofiko episode, it should pay for this supervision."
Adv. Noa Geva, who represented Yes, said that the fee was actually an underhanded method of regaining the royalties, which had been canceled.
Israeli Documentary Filmmakers Forum chair Osnat Trabelsi also expressed support in principle for the bill, but also noted that it did not affect content. She remarked that broadcasting had changed, and that the bill did not deal with this.
In the discussion, Hot Telecommunication Systems Ltd. (TASE: HOT.B1) Channels Content and Regulation Department Manager Michal Rivlin called for introducing the same supervision applied to Hot and Yes to the Internet platforms, which would require supervision of not only Cellcom Israel Ltd. (NYSE:CEL; TASE:CEL), but also Netflix.
According to Rivlin, "The discussion is technical, but authority is also a technical matter, and it should therefore be decided whom this agency will supervise. The discussion has focused on the supervisory authority, and it must therefore be decided whom it will supervise. Concerns that broadcast on Internet platforms are certainly among the concerns that should be supervised. They did not comment on the new platforms that have emerged, both legal and illegal, and this is critically important to the existence of the television industry in Israel. It is important to bring up the authority of the consolidated regulator to also deal with other platforms.
"As far as the fees are concerned, the companies do not currently finance the existing regulator, and there is no reason to change this."
In the discussion, MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union) welcomed the bill, saying, that there was no justification for two regulators. At the same time, she also commented on changes in broadcasting, saying, "The entry of Netflix, for example, is a significant development, and the bill cannot be discussed without discussing the material issues."
Economic Affairs Committee chairman MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) added that the communications market had already changed, and this bill should be part of regulation for the entire sector, including all the new forces that were entering it.
Israel Film and TV Producers Association legal advisor Adv. Lydia Mandelbaum-Falkov welcomed the bill, but noted that the opportunity should be taken to step up enforcement.
Second Broadcasting Authority legal advisor Adv. Hila Shamir said that while the bill had been around long enough to inspire nostalgia, "To me, it already feels like archeology. The bill was first introduced in 2002 by then Minister of Communications and current President of Israel Reuven Rivlin."
She added that the degree of independence and professionalism in the bill should be checked, including the appointment of professionals in a transparent procedure, dealing with enforcement authority, and the matter of the budget.
Noyfeld addressed complaints about regulation in a market that had changed, saying that the Filber Committee was addressing this point. She commented, "The guiding principle is freedom that will allow the development of new concerns, and also freedom of expression."
Rafaeli-Kaduri said in response that Internet broadcasting was not a romantic matter of freedom of expression, but of technology and infrastructure. "We asked for regulation of broadcasts, not talkback," she said.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on January 20, 2016
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