Justice Ministry wants Yedioth Ahronoth, Ma'ariv to sell Channel 2 franchisee stakes

Knesset Finance Committee on Monday continued discussing issues relating to cross-ownership in the media. The Justice Ministry, representing the position of the state, is steadfast in its view that the two leading newspapers Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma'ariv should sell their holdings in the Channel 2 franchisees once the franchise ends in November 2003. Alternatively, the ministry suggests the dailies sell interests in the cable television companies.

Committee Chair MK Avraham Poraz objects to changing the existing legislation. He claims that once the Channel 2 franchisees merge, the newspapers' holdings in the television channel will be diluted anyway. Reporters, not newspaper publishers, are the people conducting crusades against politicians and businessmen, he told TheMarker.

Poraz said that there is no reason not to allow newspaper publishers to own up to 8% in Channel 2, as well as stakes in the cable companies. He added that the publishers don't intervene in the franchisee broadcasts in Channel 2.

The meeting was attended by the chief executives of the Channel 2 franchisees, as well as by Mordechai (Motti) Kirschenbaum, CEO of Eden Broadcasting, franchisee of the recently launched Channel 10.

The executives backed Poraz and said that that paper owners have never been actively involved in the content of broadcasts.

Communications Minister Reuven Rivlin at the meeting suggested that the law allow a two-year period for selling the holdings of the big publishers in excess of the permitted limit, to be calculated as of the new franchise after November 2003.

Rivlin said that unless the proposed restrictions be changed, the franchisees Reshet and Telad (where Yedioth Ahronoth and Ma'ariv are partners), will not be able to bid for the new franchise in Channel 2.

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