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Israelis see commercial TV on horizon.

In 1980, the then communications minister, Amnon Rubenstein thrust Israel into a media revolution, with the introduction of his 73-page bill calling for the establishment of a commercial television network.

The enthusiasm died quickly. The new station was to have begun broadcasts in March 1991, but politics, which has always been a thorn even in the side of Israel public TV (ITV), reared its ugly head. In one stance, the politicians argued for nearly a year over which of the Knesset's two largest parties would appoint the new station's director-general.

Now, unless a new Middle East war breaks out in the interim, it appears that broadcasts could begin by June 1992. Legislation has been completed, which will enable the government to issue a tender by mid-February. Three production companies are to be awarded two franchise days a week for a period of six years.

The government has also approved the appointment of the current Israel Defense Forces spokesman, Nachman Shai, as director of the new Channel Two. Shai will take up his five-year term in late August, and will be allowed to serve for three consecutive terms.

The Second Channel will be governed by an "Authority," a council comprising members of academia, public groups, and cultural institutions and organizations, which will appoint 40 per cent of the board. A governing council of public figures chosen by the Communications Minister will comprise 60 per cent of the body. Disputes between three franchises and the Authority will be mediated by the Ministry of Communications. The council will be financed from a tax on the revenue earned by the three broadcasting companies.

Six minutes per hour of advertising time will be allowed. The Authority will make the rules on all aspects of broadcasting advertising messages.

"It's most likely that disputes will occur when the three franchises decide that the Authority is spending too much money on studies and other investigations of |public policy,'" said Jacob Rosenblatt, who covers the media industry for a number of newspapers and maganizes in Israel.

The law requires that companies taking up the bids produce locally at least one-third or about 20 to 30 hours per week of their programming schedule, not including news and sports. According to the bill, the three broadcasters have to produce their programs in their own studios, instead of operating from one central installation. Currently, ITV produces only two or three hours of original programs per week.

It is estimated that commercial television will likely seize 20 per cent of the total advertising market in Israel of $587 million, split between the three Second Channel franchise holders. However, Israel's cable TV stations are also demanding the right to carry advertisements, in addition to subscription revenue.

Tel Ad Studios in Jerusalem with its main backer, Shamrock Productions, a subsidiary of Walt Disney Productions, is the leading company in Israel to participate in the tender for the Second Channel. Tel Ad's managing director, Uzi Peled, asserted that once the Second Channel is up and running, there would be no objection on his part to the cable TV operators soliciting local advertising. But if the government doesn't give the channel enough time to establish itself, the entire concept may be doomed from the start.

However, the real battle for advertising may be between the electronic and the print media. Some are predicting that by 1995, one of the countries' four dailies will no longer exist.

According to some, Channel Two, which has been on the air since early 1987 on an experimental basis, is already a better viewing bet than ITV. Despite ITV's operating budget of more than $70 million against less than $2 million for the Second Channel, it was the Second Channel that most Israelis tuned into during the Persian Gulf war, to receive live CNN news coverage.
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Title Annotation:broadcasts could begin as early as 1992
Author:Snow, Richard
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Words:634
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