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Why is Israel’s 24/6 News Channel 14 Soaring in the Ratings?

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Edited by: Fern Sidman

Since the inception of the modern state of Israel, the political and cultural landscape has been, for the most part dominated by the left wing, socialist governments that have held sway among the masses.

Since the shift in demographics in the last 20 years or more, thanks to the significant population growth of the religious sector and the rise of such right wing leaders as Benjamin Netanyahu and others of his ilk, people in Israel are hankering for a more diverse perspective in the media. The daily news broadcasts in Israel are now reflecting a gamut of views, many of which were not promulgated before.

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On a recent evening news broadcast, Channel 14 anchor Shimon Riklin and his team of commentators empathized with indicted Shas MK Aryeh Deri on his recent plea deal, called Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit a “bad seed” for putting former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on trial, and questioned the seriousness of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, according to a January 2022 report in The Times of Israel.

For those not in the know, Channel 14 in Israel is a politically conservative station and many have opined that it’s content and perspectives are similar to that of Fox News in the United States.

In 2021, it was announced that Channel 20 would be rebranded to Now 14 it subsequently moved to the 14th slot on TV receivers, right after Reshet 13. It is a 24/6 news station that only takes a broadcasting hiatus for the weekly Shabbat.

The channel moved studios a couple times, and their most recent move was on November 28, 2021, when they relocated to their current studio in Modi’in.

Wikipedia reported that Now 14 primarily features news programming and, occasionally, religious programming. The most popular show on the channel is The Patriots, which features a panel of journalists and other activists discussing issues in the world, as well as commenting on social media posts from various people, and everyone is given a limited time to give an opinion. When the time is over, a buzzer is activated.

In February 2023, the Jewish Press reported that Channel 14 is taking off as Israelis tire of left-wing propaganda in their news. Both prime-time programs on Israel’s Channel 14, the nightly news, and “The Patriots,” on Sunday night reached new rating heights. The Patriots hit 158,000 viewers, a six-point share, and the news rose to a 4.4 share.

The Jewish Press also reported that of the four news channels, The Patriots surpassed Kan 11 which showed only a 4.6-point max share. The other two competitors, channels 12 and 13, did measurably better, although 13 has been on a downswing, having lost two of its highest rating-getters, right-wingers Ayala Hasson and Sharon Gal. Channel 13 reached only a 7.8-point share max, 207,000 viewers. Channel 12 maintained its lead with a 17.4-point max share, 459,000 viewers.

Now 14’s main news show is broadcast on 7:30 Israel time, unlike the other big three channels in Israel who broadcast their main news show at around 8:00.

Wikipedia reported that the news staff includes Yinon Magal – Television presenter, Erel Segal – news anchor, Avraham Bloch – journalist, Hillel Biton Rozen – journalist, Efrat Finkel – journalist, Erez Zadoc – journalist, Motty Castel – journalist and Shay Golden – Television presenter.

The channel inhabits a milieu in which Jewish Orthodox garb and mores are standard — few anchors, presenters or reporters appear without a head covering — and in which Netanyahu remains a political hero, as was reported by the TOI in 2022.

Netanyahu was famously focused on his portrayal in the media and sought to control the narrative — two of the cases he is on trial for revolve around attempts to sway press coverage. In print, Israel Hayom is seen by many as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu, but there had been no broadcast equivalent, until Now 14.

Speaking to the TOI, veteran broadcast journalist Yaakov Ahimeir, 83, who served as a presenter on radio station Kol Yisrael and Channel 1 since the early 1970s, and still appears on the air occasionally said, “The other channels have completely left-wing tendencies. They may have had right-wing guests, but the right-wing public felt excluded from these channels. That’s why establishing ‘Now 14’ is a necessity. It gives a wider view of issues in Israel.”

The other two main commercial news channels, 12 and 13, reflect a more standard, critical approach to Israeli politics, according to the TOI report.  Channel 13, formally known as Reshet 13, probed much of the early corruption allegations made against Netanyahu, but then underwent a reshaping more recently as a more traditional, slightly less left-leaning news organization, the report indicated.

The TOI reported that the channel has received the financial backing from Russian businessman Yitzchak Mirilashvili, who is theson of Georgian-born billionaire Mikhael Mirilashvili. They paid for a new studio and on-air talent — and moved into a slot on the dial alongside other news channels, Now 14 is making a move for legitimacy as a true conservative alternative to Israel’s mainstream news channels.

In January 2023, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled that Channel 14 violated the anti-discrimination law by not broadcasting Reform and Conservative content. In doing so, the court accepted the claim of the Reform Movement (the Reform Center for Religion and State) and obliged the channel to compensate it for NIS 160,000.

The JPost also reported that Judge Elad Lang justified his ruling by saying, among other things, that “in the channel’s broadcast license, the culture of the Jewish public was defined in all its elements, currents and nuances, and that the channel is a public resource.

On the other hand, the channel claims that “the channel refused to reach a compromise and commit to giving positive coverage and defined screen time to the left-wing Reform organizations. The court ruled that this is discrimination in the provision of services.”

The struggle of the Reform movement against the channel has been going on for a long time. In the past, the movement submitted several requests to the channel and the council – and the movement even threatened to go to court on the issue, according to the JPost report.

On behalf of Channel 14, it was stated in response: “We will appeal against the ruling. This is an unfortunate interference with freedom of expression. It is dark days for a democratic country, in which a court dictates to journalists through fines, what, when and how to cover.”

The Jewish Press reported that last October last October, the chairman of the Central Election Commission, Judge Yitzhak Amit, rejected the petition of interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, which demanded that Channel 14 be declared an “election activist body” that encourages voting for the Likud. Yesh Atid was compelled to compensate Channel 14 and the Likud party for their legal expenses (NIS 20,000, or $5,500).

Judge Amit noted that “the media have an important position when it comes to exercising freedom of political expression, especially during an election period. Freedom of political expression is an integral part of free and fair elections, and through it, voters can get an impression of the marketplace of ideas and make an informed decision when they come to cast their ballots, “ as was reported by the Jewish Press.

 

 

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