Israel’s Channel 20 was launched in 2014 to provide an oasis of Yiddishkeit in a channel lineup thick with American sitcoms, British dramas, and other foreign content. With little budget, it focused on heartfelt original programming, like a singing competition to crown Israel’s top Chazan. And it became an unexpected hit: a survey this year ranked the channel as Israel’s third most popular television brand, way ahead of other, more established competitors. Now, however, the channel will have to spend a portion of its modest budget paying a hefty fine after a government regulator, responding to a torrent of complaints, found that it had kept non-Orthodox Jews off the air.
According to the channel’s charter, it is obliged to present a range of diverse viewpoints and opinions. This, many viewers felt, was not the case with Channel 20, which rarely if ever invited guests from the Reform or the Conservative movements in Israel to share their beliefs. Earlier this year, the Cable and Satellite Authority, which oversees the channel, launched an official investigation which concluded this week with a ruling against the channel and a fine of NIS 100,000, or approximately $27,000. In addition, the channel is now obligated to submit a monthly report to the Authority detailing which Reform and Conservative guests it had invited on-air to share their views.
Dr. Yifat Ben-Chai Segev, the Authority’s chairwoman, said a commitment to pluralism is inherent in the channel’s license and must be upheld. “Channel 20,” she said, “is the Israeli traditional channel, and as such it is appropriate that it reflect all the voices and shades of Israeli society.”