Prime Minister Netanyahu, who also serves as communications minister, instructed Communications Ministry to examine all means to prevent the station’s launch on Friday.
By Nati Tucker and Jack Khoury
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is acting to ban the Palestinian Authority’s new TV channel, Palestine 48, from going on air. The channel, based in Nazareth, is due to start broadcasting on Friday.
The prime minister, who also acts as communications minister, instructed Communications Ministry director general Shlomo Filber to immediately check whether the new channel was legal, with the intention of closing it down.
“We’ll examine all the criminal and administrative means at our disposal to prevent the station’s broadcasts. We’ll examine the legality of the broadcasts’ funding by the Palestinian Authority, among other things,” a ministry official said Wednesday following Netanyahu’s instructions.
The channel’s management and senior PA officials held a news conference in Nazereth on Wednesday announcing the channel’s launch.
“Of course the main coverage will be on the conflict,” Palestinian Communications Minister Riad Hassan told Channel 2 News. “That’s a matter of importance. But we don’t intend to make a political party out of it.”
Palestine 48 is one of several PA channels that can be received by satellite in many Arab households. But this is the first channel that intends to deal directly with Israeli Arabs.
The Communications Ministry supervises the activities of Yes and Hot, which operate under a state permit. However, satellite or internet broadcasts are unsupervised and the ministry cannot interfere with its broadcasts.
Palestine 48 said in response that Netanyahu had tried to close down Channel 10, harass Yedioth Aharonot and Al Midan Theater. “Now he’s trying to close the Palestinian channel, which is supposed to go on the air tomorrow. The Bibi-Regev government’s military administration will collapse in the face of freedom of expression and creativity. The new channel’s crews are preparing for direct broadcast from Nazereth tomorrow and for going to court to prevent the harassment.”
“So far the Palestinian television in Ramallah has received no notice of this. Hezbollah and Iran broadcast every day and haven’t been closed down. Instead of closing down channels Bibi should invest in developing Arab television industry in Israel,” the statement said.
Officials in Palestine 48 told Haaretz the direct broadcast and all other activities will be from Ramallah, so Netanyahu will have to close down Palestinian TV altogether.