It’s an endless thriller and it has less than 24 hours to run. And tonight Israel’s Eurovision 2019 security deposit saga really is reaching its climax.
As we reported yesterday, Israeli broadcaster KAN has warned the Israeli government that without the state’s financial support they will have no choice but to notify the EBU that Israel waives its right to host the Eurovision Song Contest next year. The state responded that it has no intention to finance the contest because the independent broadcaster has enough resources in its budget — or, to be more precise, 750 million NIS per year. That’s 178 million euros.
On the eve of the deadline this bloody battle is only intensifying — and the repercussions extend far beyond Eurovision. According to Israel’s main news channels – Keshet and Reshet (Channels 12 and 13) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned KAN that if they execute their ultimatum, the Knesset, which is the Israeli parliament, will legislate a “speedy act” to permanently close KAN.
The crises between KAN and the Israeli government isn’t strictly a financial one. In fact, it’s mainly a political battle between the state, which aims to have more control over the contents of KAN as a public channel, and KAN, which demands complete freedom and independence.
Historically, Israel has only had one television and radio channel — aka, the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) — which was controlled by the state. One factor behind this was that Israel was in conflicts with its neighbours. This led to allegations of corruption.
In addition, the IBA became less “relevant” with the arrival of the commercial broadcasters Channel 12, Channel 13 and Channel 14. As a result, Netanyahu decided to close the IBA and establish a new public channel, now known as KAN, which began broadcasting in early 2017. KAN’s annual budget — as determined by law — hovers around 750M NIS per annum (175 million euros). In the eyes of the broadcaster, the unexpected responsibility to host an event such as Eurovision — which isn’t factored into that pre-existing annual budget — requires special resources. This can only be made by amendments to the current act. This is why KAN insists on receiving the funds from the state.
Erez Tal, 57, is one of Israel’s most respected TV and radio personalities. Tal is the leading candidate, as he was the commentator during Eurovision 2018 and received incredibly positive feedback. But according to Israel Hayom newspaper, Assi Azar is also a possible candidate, having reportedly had a secret meeting with KAN’s CEO earlier this week. Azar, 39, has been the co-host of The Next Star since 2015 (alongside Rotem Sella, whose candidacy has also been unofficially rumoured). #eurovisionsongcontest #eurovision #eurovision2019 @assiazar @ereztal
It is believed that Netanyahu’s main goal is to wait until the last minute before finding a solution. This will help him to be perceived more positively before the forthcoming elections. Other commentators in the Israeli media suggest that Netanyahu’s final goal is to usher in KAN’s complete collapse, which will result in a new TV channel that is more effectively controlled by the state.
We will have to wait until tomorrow to see how this farce ends. Will Eurovision in Israel be saved, as this is merely a battle of optics and politics? Or should an alternative host start getting ready? Stay tuned for more details on this endless drama.