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Radio-tv Strike May Bankrupt Israel Broadcast Authority

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The Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) has been brought to the verge of bankruptcy by the strike of radio and television journalists that began 28 days ago and appears to have no end in sight.

The IBA management was reported Tuesday to be considering severe austerity measures that would shut down virtually all of its services and facilities for the duration of the walk-out.

Since the strike began, the IBA’s revenues, largely from sponsorships and public service announcements, have dropped to zero from a monthly average of between $1 million and $1.3 million. The total loss to date is over $6 million.

The striking journalists say it would have cost the IBA far less to agree to their demand for equality of pay with print journalists, which is the main issue at stake in the strike.

While the IBA management may have been willing to comply with this demand, the Finance Ministry has ruled out any pay hikes for broadcast journalists on grounds that they are public employees.

The journalists themselves have suffered severe losses. Their salaries have not been paid since the strike began. The IBA continues to pay the salaries of managerial, secretarial and technical staff who have been locked out by the strike.

The austerity measures reportedly under consideration include an order to Bezek, the government corporation that handles postal and communications engineering services, to cut off its transmitters.

‘SECOND CHANNEL’ MAY BE BLACKED OUT

The IBA has been using Bezek’s facilities to air the experimental “second channel,” which is slated eventually to be Israel’s first commercial television outlet. If the transmitters are shut down, the “second channel” would be blacked out with the rest of television.

In addition, the IBA management may disconnect all but the most essential telephone lines, garage most of its vehicles, cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions, discontinue foreign news wire services and reduce its support for the Jerusalem-IBA symphony orchestra.

The public has complained bitterly that it is forced to pay radio and television license fees when it is getting no service. The government replies that “technically, at least” the license fees are paid for the privilege of owning radio and television sets, not for the broadcasts normally provided by the IBA.

But the prolonged strike may have indirectly saved lives. The Highway Safety Council is checking out reports that there has been a significant drop in traffic accident fatalities and injuries since the strike started.

According to some sources, drivers are more relaxed because of the lack of hourly news bulletins and the television evening newscasts, which invariably carry stories of unrest, terrorist attacks, natural disasters and, more recently, stock exchange crashes.

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