UPDATE, WEDNESDAY AM: After facing possible closure when its broadcast license expires at midnight tonight, Israel’s Channel 10 has been given a six-month reprieve. The long-struggling channel was granted the last-minute grace period by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. This will allow broadcasting to continue through the Israeli elections in March, the Jerusalem Post reported. During that time, Channel 10 will be obliged to find funding to satisfy the Second Authority for Television and Radio that it can remain solvent.
PREVIOUSLY, MONDAY: Israel’s long-suffering Channel 10 is set to shutter this Wednesday after an announcement was made on Sunday night blasting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not having done more to resolve the channel’s long-standing financial difficulties. Regular broadcasting was interrupted dramatically at 10:30 PM local time with a statement broadcast over an image of Netanyahu:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who serves as communications minister, refuses to find a solution,” the announcement said. “Due to this, the workers’ union has decided to stop Channel 10’s broadcast tonight.”
Channel 10 halted its broadcasting for several hours before resuming services temporarily. The channel is due to go dark by the start of the new year. It is one of Israel’s two private commercial channels alongside market leader Channel 2, and has struggled for years with rising costs and declining revenues. Its shuttering will create essentially a monopoly on primetime news coverage for Channel 2, which splits its airtime between content providers Keshet and Reshet.
There are fears now that Channel 2 will have an unduly high influence on the coverage of the impending elections. “There has never been something like this, that you really never know,” says one Israeli exec. “It’s a game between them and the government and who is going to blink first, but it looks serious now. Democracy-wise, it’s terrible before elections to have one news channel.”
In September this year, draft legistlation was introduced that would have forced a split of Keshet and Reshet into two separate broadcasters in 2015 — both of whom would have been obliged to have a news division. But when Netanyahu called snap elections and fired several members of his cabinet, he also took on the post of Communications Minister. Deadline understands that he immediately kiboshed the proposal to split up Channel 2.
Channel 10 could still rebound. Last Thursday, CEO Yossi Warshavsky claimed he had raised over $8M to pay its debt to the broadcasting watchdog, the Second Authority for Television and Radio, and called on its council to grant the channel a license. A source adds that Channel 10 has been pledged upfront money from advertisers that would cover the next two years, but that money is contingent on the broadcast license being valid. The Second Authority, the source says, has asked for the money first.
At Channel 10, there has been a dearth of commissions in the last few months. “They have a lot of things on hold,” we’ve been told.
The Israeli government previously stepped in two years ago in 2012 to grant Channel 10 a two-year reprieve on its debts to the state. Some commentators have suggested Netanyahu’s reluctance to save Channel 10 comes on the back of a series of critical reports on him and his wife Sara on the channel.
Deadline’s International Editor, Nancy Tartaglione, contributed to this report.