In the weeks leading up to the formation of the coalition government yesterday, one got the dire feeling that viewers were being fed one-sided and biased news on a daily basis. The reporting standards especially on Israeli television channels 12 & 13 resembled more of a smear campaign than any kind of responsible journalism. Both channels seemed to obsessively focus on the objective to delegitimize now former PM Benjamin Netanyahu and endorse the formation of the new coalition government at any cost. While the media has always maintained a hostile attitude towards right-wing governments, it has recently scaled heights as never before.
Frankly, this has been hard to swallow even for those who are not traditional right-wing supporters. It was quite embarrassing to see people like former PM’s Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert on prime time with the primary goal to verbally bash Netanyahu, and to build the case against him. Of course, neither channel seemed to have any moral issues bringing in Israel’s shortest tenure PM (Ehud Barak) and one who has served a prison sentence (Ehud Olmert), to preach and lash out against Netanyahu as long as they delivered their ‘speeches’ with spitting venom. That’s right, one rarely saw the news anchors cutting in or interrupting these gentlemen as they received a free pass to attack Netanyahu in all their hate-filled glory. And heaven forbid if anyone would coin that ‘incitement’ but rather the right to ‘freedom of speech’.
On the other hand, one only has to take a look at interviews conducted by channels 12 & 13 with right-wing representatives to note the double standards and glaring differences in the way the conversation is managed. You have the TV anchors cutting in every few seconds just after the representative has barely said a few words, not allowing the interviewee to complete a sentence and basically turning the conversation into an ugly interrogation and cross-examination. An overwhelming majority of the news anchors and correspondents openly profess their anti-Netanyahu orientations, with very few on the panel representing and voicing the opposite side of the political spectrum. Can such channels then be responsible enough to deliver objective, unbiased reporting?
It comes as no surprise people who have voted for Likud and the right-wing parties feel underprivileged and unrepresented on TV news channels, specifically channels 12 &13. These channels preach about bridging gaps and finding common ground within different sections of Israeli society, but in fact, they are equally responsible for enhancing this social division. This kind of biased reporting, in my opinion, also feeds foreign news channels and encourages them to blatantly defame the State of Israel and take advantage of our social divisions especially in times of crises.
Balanced reporting especially on issues that could very well define our future is desperately required today, as is the need for it to appeal to all segments of society and not just the right or left. It would be wise for the TV channels to remember they are a critical source of information for most households and they’re not exempt from scrutiny & criticism. That is more important than the rating levels they so aspire for at the expense of responsible journalism.