Channel 20 can continue broadcasting, after a law passed a final vote in the Knesset that loosens regulations for broadcast television channels dedicated to specific topics or languages.
The channel, which was meant to air content related to Jewish tradition but is best-known for its right-wing news content, ran into regulatory issues when it violated its license.
The law approved on Monday night, however, moves regulation of dedicated broadcast channels – such as Channel 9, which airs programming in Russian, the music channel and the Arabic channel – to the Second Authority for Television and Radio, allowing them to air advertisements and reducing their regulation under previously stringent licenses.
Likud MK Sharren Haskel, who proposed the bill following the Channel 20 crisis, said: “For 30 years, ministers are trying to open the media market. I was warned against fighting the media. I got phone calls and threats. I was accused that this is only meant to save Channel 20.”
“I’m glad the law passed and that I succeeded in helping the Arabic, Russian and music channels. It’s important to have news on them in order to expand freedom of expression,” she said. “A free media is not only a privilege and a tool for entertainment, but one for freedom of expression... The government has no place intervening in television content. The public will vote with its remote controls.”
Communications Minister Ayoub Kara called the vote “a celebration for free speech.”
“I won’t let a right-wing or left-wing channel be shut down on my watch,” he said. “Two months ago, everyone said we can’t save the channels, and with Sharren’s bill, we finished the job. Our goal was to prevent the channels from closing, to prevent the workers from being fired.”
Kara said the bill works toward his goal of shutting down public broadcasting.
“We are freeing the market. For 28 years no one changed the media market,” he said. “We don’t have any ill intentions and spoke to everyone involved... We want what’s in the public interest.”
Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel said he supports the legislation, but that it does not solve all the problems in the television market.
“It’s still clear that one of the bigger channels will close,” he said, referring to Channel 10, along with Keshet and Reshet, which were split from Channel 2.
Kulanu MK Roy Folkman said: “Even when we open the market to competition, there are a lot of dangers. We have to be careful about the connection between wealthy owners and news media. The free market is not a magic word.”