Noel Curran, the DG of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), has expressed his concern about threats to the integrity and independence of Israeli national public broadcaster KAN in a letter to incoming Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the EBU, causing particular concern were recent remarks by Likud MK and Communications Minister, Shlomo Karhi, that challenged the freedom of the press and threatened to shut down KAN’s news operation. In one radio interview, he is reported as saying: “the public shouldn’t fund one particular channel, there should not be public broadcasting”.
It adds that without a functioning news operation, KAN would no longer meet its commitment to a full range of programming as public service media, putting in doubt its eligibility for EBU membership and ability to take part in major events such as the Eurovision Song Contest.
Curran said: “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”.
EBU notes that since its creation in 2017, KAN’s television, radio and online offer has included a diverse range of news and information, entertainment, cultural and educational content. Its membership of the EBU also enables the broadcaster to benefit from world-class sports rights, including the 2022 World Cup, and live entertainment, notably the Eurovision Song Contest that was organized by KAN in 2019, following Israel’s win the previous year.
Back in 2017, the then Israeli government had issued statements showing intent to dismantle KAN’s news operation. These were finally abandoned when the EBU insisted on this being a condition of the Israeli broadcaster’s hosting of the 2019 Song Contest.
Curran added: “The EBU’s responsibility is to ensure that it supports all our members in their mission to serve the interests of the general public in the best possible manner. These developments risk undermining KAN’s capability to meet its commitments as a member of our international alliance of public service media organisations”.