Knesset Defeats Motion to Discuss Politicization of Broadcasting Body

The coalition exercised its majority in the Knesset today to defeat a Labor Alignment motion to debate the politicization of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA). The vote was 45-35. The immediate issue is the IBA Board’s decision yesterday not to reappoint Mordechai Kirschenbaum, director of Hebrew programming. A petition signed by more than 100 television and production staff members, circulated before today’s Knesset session, called the decision a “witch-hunt” directed against Kirschenboum because of his alleged “leftist” views.

Labor Aligment MK Chaika Grossman of Mapam charged that a “political guillotine” has been employed by the IBA, a quasi-governmental agency, ever since the new Likud management took over in March 1978. She said that the new director general, Yosef Lapid, who has been on the job only a month, was making far-reaching decisions that had no relationship to the extent of his experience.

Replying for the government, Education Minister Zevulun Hammer, of the National Religious Party, who holds jurisdiction over the IBA, said he saw no signs of politicization. He said the IBA acted in accordance with the law as it concerns the hiring and firing of employes and expressed full confidence in Lapid.

The Board’s decision was strongly criticized by Labor MKs in the Knesset’s Education Committee yesterday. Kirschenbaum had been the producer of a popular satirical program that Likud politicians and religious elements frequently found offensive.

Reuvon Yaron, chairman of the IBA’s management committee, defended the dismissal. He said that the replacement of Kirschenbaum had been under discussion during the tenure of the previous director general and claimed it was untenable that employes who had known political views should enjoy professional immunity. But many IBA staffers charge that the new administration is penalizing employes for their ideas.

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