ModeratorGuy RolnikFounder and Editor-in-Chief, “TheMarker
PanelistHagai GolanEditor-in-Chief, "GLOBES"
PanelistAvi WeissCEO, “Channel 2 News Company
PanelistDan Margalit"Israel Hayom", "Erev Hadash"
PanelistJustice (EMERITA) Dalia DornerPresident of the Israeli Press Council
Is the Media in Israel Really Free?
The media landscape in Israel today bears little resemblance to the way it looked in the past. For decades, newspapers were controlled by political parties while radio and television programming were run exclusively by government-controlled agencies.Today, the party-owned newspapers have either closed or adapted to a fiercely competitive market in which news outlets vie with each other and news websites.
Guy Rolnik, editor-in-chief of The Marker, a leading financial newspaper, moderated the panel. He opened by remarking on big companies that have outsized power and influence. “Of all of the OECD countries Israel has the highest levels of the concentration of economic power,” he said.“This tremendous power, nowin the hands of just a few people, was once held by the government.” Freedom of the press, according to Rolnik, is no longer about the liberty to criticize the government, but the right to scrutinize the tycoons and interest groups which dominate the country.
The question Rolnik posed to the panelists was: “Can there truly be freedom of the press in this kind of economic and social environment, and if not, what must be changed?”
Former Supreme Court Justice Dalia Dorner, who now serves as the President of the Israeli Press Council, replied that there is no problem with media outlets with a political agenda as long as there is a robust and competitive market of ideas. “As long as that happens,” she said, “we’ll manage to keep our heads above the water.”
To underscore her point, Dorner posed a related question: “What is the job of our newspapers? Do they merely relay on information? I think that taking a position is a function the free press must play and I expect them to act as gatekeepers.”
Avi Weiss, CEO of Channel 2 news, spoke about his company’s journalistic mission. “We want to present as wide a variety of opinions as journalists can bring to the small screen.” But today’s newspapers, he said, leave much to be desired. “Readers open the paper and have no idea if they are reading an agenda, journalism or information. Today, there is an agenda without journalism. In many media outlets, the agenda has completely taken over.”
Dan Margalit, a veteran Israeli journalist from’ Israel Hayom‘ and former editor of ‘Maariv‘, addressed the media’s role in implementing change. “It’s like taking medicine”, Margalit said. “You can’t take a pill every other week and expect to get better. In public matters, true healing comes about as a result of media campaigns (on a specific topic or case).”
Hagai Golan, editor-in-chief of ‘Globes‘, a leading financial media outlet, agreed–with some reservations: “When does a journalist or an editor say enough is enough and move on?” Golan also stressed the monetary aspect of the media industry: “I think that most media outlets in Israel are for sale. Why do people invest in media? I don’t know. It is not for the return on investment, and I’m not sure that they gain anything as far as influence is concerned.”