The Israeli government will vote today (Sunday 26 June) on whether to establish a free to air Arabic and English language satellite TV channel for both domestic and international audiences.
The bill before the Ministerial Committee on Legislation has been submitted by Nachman Shai, a former chairman of Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) and now a Member of Knesset (MK) for the Kadima political party. It has cross party support and been signed by 25 lawmakers.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has previously expressed support of such a move – which has been on the cards since 2001 - although it is unclear how he will instruct loyal Ministers to vote today, reports The Jerusalem Post.
The IBA has already published its intent to recruit a head for a new international TV station, a role which the broadcaster’s head of English News Steve Leibowitz has already put himself forward for.
The IBA’s efforts to establish a free to air English language news channel would, however, be expedited if Shai’s bill proves successful as, should it be passed into law, the bill requires such a channel to be on air within six months.
“Part of the vision of the IBA has to be presenting Israel to the world,” Leibowitz told the Jerusalem Post. “I hope Nachman succeeds. I wish him well.”
Mr Shai explained the thinking behind his bill. “Israel is the only country in the region that does not have an Arabic television station, while our residents are exposed to what is broadcast from the countries around us,” he said.
“Not speaking to the countries in the region in Arabic and English encourages the isolation of Israel and hostility toward the country.”