EBU warns Israeli government against threatening public broadcaster

In an EBU new release, Director General Noel Curran, sent a letter to incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu citing his concerns about what he labeled as ‘threats to the integrity and independence’ of Israel’s national public broadcaster, KAN.

KAN began airing immediately after the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest, which was broadcast in Israel by the now defunct IPBC. They broadcast Eurovision 2017 using a skeleton crew, no commentary and used subtitles during the program for voting purposes, knowing the station would shut down hours later.

IPBC was shut down partly because the EBU accused the broadcaster of financing politicians and its plans to no longer air news services. Staff were informed on 9th May about the closure of KAN, which took place six days later.

Now, almost six years later, similar concerns are being raised about KAN. Remarks by Israel’s Communications Minister, Shlomo Karhi, challenged the freedom of the press at KAN and threatened to shut down their news operation. The EBU notes Karhi is reported as saying: “[…] the public shouldn’t fund one particular channel, there should not be public broadcasting”.

Should KAN stop airing free and fair news, the broadcaster would no longer meet its eligibility for EBU membership and KAN would lose its ability to take part in major events – notably the Eurovision Song Contest.

Were this to happen in the near future, Israel would no longer participate at Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool this May, and internally selected Noa Kirel would not be able to compete. This would drop the total of participating countries to 36 – the lowest since 2004. Back then, there was just one Semi Final of 22 countries.

The EBU’s Director General Noel Curran remarked,

“Independent news and information form an integral component of public service media organizations and make a key contribution to media pluralism in well-functioning democracies…. With the primary interest of the public in mind, that directly funds KAN, we trust the new government will also safeguard the independence of KAN and enable it to continue to fulfil its mission in democratic society”.

This also isn’t the first time KAN has discussed abandoning its news operations. In 2017, the previous Israeli government raised this issue. These talks were finally abandoned when the EBU insisted KAN’s news service continuing, or else Israel would lose the right to host Eurovision 2019.

Israel was last represented at Eurovision by Michael Ben David in Turin. His song I.M failed to qualify for the Grand Final, getting 61 points in the 2nd Semi Final and finishing in 13th place overall.

What do you make of this news? Will Israel respond and stay in Eurovision? Let us know below or on our social media @escbubble.


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