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The Pause That Depresses: Television Commercials in Israel

The financially hard-pressed Israel Broadcasting Authority is trying to get the government to agree to television commercials, a “blessing” denied Israelis since television was introduced in the country some 10 years ago. Yitzhak Livni, director general of the quasi-government agency has urged its board of directors to set the machinery in motion. Commerciality would be subject to approval by the Cabinet and Knesset before it became a fact of life for Israelis:

Livni’s assurances that commercials don’t sell products is a line of reasoning that would flabbergast tv hucksters in other countries. But it is a vital matter in Israel which is trying to hold the line on private consumption to fight inflation.

According to Livni, the European experience has shown that tv commercials do not increase the public’s consumption of goods. He would surround commercial tv with strict controls. Advertisements would be limited to 6-7 minutes per hour and, in line with the practice in several European countries, would be concentrated at the beginning and end of programs. There would be no commercial interruptions in the middle of a show.

The introduction of commercials would be linked to the establishment of a second broadcast channel, almost certainly in color. Israelis would thereby have one commercial color channel and one black-and-white non-commercial channel. Color tv would doubtlessly increase the purchase of color sets, an expensive import item, contributing to inflation. But many Israelis feel it is essential. All of the Arab states broadcast in color as do most tv stations around the world. (By Tuvia Mendelson)

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