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Israeli Media:
Reporting the News or Setting the Agenda?

Yisrael Medad and Eli Pollak
Israelís Media Watch
Policy Paper No. 50, 1998 


Israel's public electronic broadcasting agencies, both radio and television, are powerful and influential factors in the country's political, cultural, social and economic life.  Indeed, they exert a pervasive presence and succeed, more often than not, in establishing the agenda of the day and how media consumers will perceive and relate to that agenda.  Some would even claim that they can control the public figures themselves.

The central question addressed in this study is whether Israelís media have expanded their roles from reporting, observing and interpreting news to making the news and managing it.

The study indicates that electronic media journalists, in too many instances, have been operating in blatant violation of the normative codes of professional ethics as well as the law.  The news they bring into the living rooms of Israel's media consumers is more than occasionally slanted, biased and non-objective.  In fact, they have proclaimed that "objectivity" is no longer a realizable goal and that media consumers must settle for no more than "fairness".

This study outlines the reasons for the excessive impact the electronic media possesses and deals with several central issues which highlight, the failure to uphold the obligations of media ethics.  These include a review of balance in regular news programs; public affairs discussion shows; treatment of the Oslo peace process; the media's role during the aftermath of the Rabin assassination; coverage of the 1996 elections; and sundry other topics.

In addition, the authors marshal a significant body of material relating to the ideological identity and character of Israel's media, including first-person accounts and testimonies.

The study is based on over three years of monitoring and researching Israel's three television channels (Channel One, Channel Two and the Educational Television Network) as well as the two main radio stations (Kol Yisrael [The Voice of Israel] and IDF Army radio).

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