By Hadar Horesh
Newly-appointed Finance Minister Silvan Shalom has asked to the prime minister's office to handle regulation of the communications market, in order to avoid avoid any perceived conflict of interest because his wife's family has business links with the media sector.
Judy Nir Mozes Shalom's family owns the mass-market daily
. The Yedioth group owns the controlling interest in Reshet, which produces programming broadcast on Channel Two television. Yedioth also owns an interest in the Golden Channels cable TV company.
As Finance Minister, Silvan Shalom's brief includes responsibility for the privatization of the communications market and for opening the sector to competition, in conjunction with the communications minister. Shalom's role includes ruling on the price of licensing the cable TV companies to provide communications services.
Other communications matters which fall under the purview of the treasury and present a clear potential for conflict of interest include regulation of the satellite television market, the privatization of the Bezeq phone company, and franchises for a new commercial television channel. (Israel currently has only one commercial television channel, but plans are afoot to launch another.)
Finance Ministry officials have also been involved in compiling a tender for next-generation broadcasting frequencies.