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Media Landscapes

Israel

Written by Carlo Gentile

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Israel is located in the Middle East, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded on the north by Lebanon, on the north-east by Syria, on the east and south-west by Jordan, on the south-west by Egypt and on the west by the Mediterranean Sea. The state of Israel came into existence on 14 May, 1948 on parts of the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine, as a homeland for the Jewish people. Its borders were determined by cease fire treaties in 1949. Until the 1967 war (“Six Day War”) they defined the state of Israel. During the “Six Day War” additional territories such as the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip came under Israeli control.

Israel’s pre-1967 war territory comprehended approximately 20,700 square kilometers. The territories occupied in 1967 amount to about 7,500 square kilometers including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which Israel has de facto annexed. Israel is a parliamentary democracy and its capital is Jerusalem. The largest cities are Jerusalem (747,600), Tel Aviv-Yafo (390,100), Haifa (264,900), Rishon LeZiyyon (224,300), and Ashdod (207,000). On July 31 2009, its population numbered about 7.44 million inhabitants, of which 5.93 million were classified as “Jews and Others” (basically population not classified by religion and non-Arab Christians) and 1.50 million Arabs. The Israeli population comprises the following groups: Jews 80.0 percent Arabs 20.0 percent (Moslems 83.2 percent, Arab-Christians 8.4 percent, and Druze 8.3 percent).

The official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. Nearly half of all Israeli Jews are descendants of Jews who immigrated from Europe (Ashkenazim), while around the same number are descended from Jews who immigrated from Arab countries, Iran, Turkey and Central Asia (Mizrahi). Over 200.000 are, or descend from, Ethiopian and Indian Jews. The arrival of over one million Jews from the former Soviet Union within a ten years span during the 1990s has profoundly modified the character of the Israeli society.

Modern Israel is a multicultural society characterized by a permanent state of conflict with several of its neighboring states and with large segments of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories (Intifada, Gaza-Conflict). Economically Israel has undergone substantial change in recent years, moving from a State-dominated, centralised, protectionist, economy to liberal free-market policies. During the past two decades, Israel’s economy has recovered from the crisis and soaring inflation of the 1980s and is today highly developed and industrialised, especially in the advanced technology sector and in the fields of electronics and software development. Over half of Israel’s exports are in the Hi-Tech sector. According to the 2007 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook Israel has the highest ratio worldwide of skilled engineers in the workforce, while the quality of its own scientific research institutions is ranked 3rd in the world by the WEF.

The Israeli newspaper market has a long standing tradition going back to the second half of the 19th century when Hebrew and Arab papers began to appear in the main cities of Palestine. The Hebrew press in Palestine was inaugurated with the publication of the weekly paper Halevanon in 1863. While early Hebrew papers were either aimed at reaching a religious readership or were used as a vehicle to spread knowledge and usage of Hebrew as a modern spoken language, at the turn of the 19th century several Jewish political groups and parties began to publish papers.

In 1907 Zionist activists of the non Marxist socialist Zionist Hapoel Hatza'ir movement established a weekly paper which bore the name of their movement. Three years later, the Marxist socialist Zionist movement Poalei Tzion began publishing another paper, Ha'ahdut. These publications numbered among their contributors many leaders of the Zionist Movement in Palestine. Herut, a weekly which began publishing in 1909 was considered the mouthpiece of Jerusalem’s Sephardic community. In 1910, the first daily newspaper in Palestine, Ha'or was founded by Eliezer Ben Jehuda, the father of Modern Hebrew. At the beginning of the 20th century, Arab nationalist papers also began to appear, fiercely opposing the Zionist colonization (al-Karmil, Filastin, later al-Ittihad). The establishment of the British Mandate over Palestine in 1917 marked out the growth of both political and independent, privately owned papers.

Despite censorship by the mandatory authorities, the Jewish press blossomed in Palestine during this period. In addition to the politically owned papers like Davar, which was established in 1925 by the Histadrut labour organisation, the liberal-democratic Ha’aretz was founded in 1918/1919 while Yedi’ot Ahronot began to appear at the end of the 1930s as an evening paper. A third independent daily paper, Ma’ariv, was established in 1948.

During the first three decades after the founding of the state, the Israeli press landscape has been relatively stable. Major changes, not unlike similar processes in other parts of the world, began in the 1980s leading to media consolidation and to the gradual disappearing of the political and foreign language papers. Three main media conglomerates emerged in the 1980s owned by three powerful families: Mozes (Yedi’ot Ahronot), Nimrodi (Ma’ariv) and Schocken (Ha’aretz).

Newspapers are still widespread in Israel. According to the Central Bureau of Statistic 18.4 percent of the Israeli population regularly read a daily newspaper in 2007, while 13.9 held a subscription. At the same time, 4.4 read regularly magazines and 13.5 books. Today there are about 20 newspapers in Israel, of which 11 are published in Hebrew, four in Arabic, four in Russian, the others in English, German or Yiddish. All daily newspapers include special sections and supplements devoted to cultural issues and cover cultural events on a regular basis. In addition, three financial papers are available, as well as a number of magazines and weekly papers on a wide array of subjects, partly aimed at particular social and religious groups.

For many years the largest and more popular papers were Yedio’ot Ahronot, with a circulation of 300,000 - 600,000, followed by Ma’ariv (160,000 – 300,000). The liberal Ha’aretz distinguishes itself for its in-depth political and business reporting and for a strong dedication to Israeli cultural, literary and artistic life, albeit with a smaller circulation (65,000 - 75,000). Since the 1990s Yedi’ot Ahronot accounted for over half of all Hebrew dailies’ sales, while Ma’ariv and Ha’aretz together represented almost all the rest of the market with market shares of about 25 percent and 15 percent respectively.

In recent years the Israeli press landscape has dramatically changed. The appearance on the newspapers market of free daily papers (Israel ha-yom, Israel Post, formerly Metro) has had a strong impact on the daily print media. While Yedi’ot Ahronot is still Israel's most widely read paper, the free sheet Israel ha-yom has proved to be a very strong competitor, and is now the second paper in the country in terms of circulation and exposure.

Although smaller by comparison with the other papers, the English-language daily Jerusalem Post has a large sphere of influence because it is usually read by diplomats and foreign journalists based in Israel.

For decades Israel’s broadcasting system has been an instrument of social and cultural integration for a multi-cultural society in a war-torn area. Broadcasting service began in Palestine in 1936 by the British Mandate administration, serving both the Jewish and the Arab population. It operated in Hebrew as Kol Yerushalyim. In 1948, the British radio station was turned over to the Israeli government and renamed Kol Israel. At first it was operated by a department of the Ministry of the Interior. Responsibility was later transferred to the Office of Posts and Telegraphs and then to the Prime Minister's Office until 1965. In 1965, the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), modeled after the BBC, was established with an independent status under the general supervision of the ministry of Education and Culture. The IBA operates autonomously under a self-governing board of seven directors.

Today Kol Israel operates the IBA network of eight radio stations which offer programming in 14 languages aimed at different audiences, ranging from light entertainment and popular music to classical music, news, culture and children programs. While Reshet Aleph offers a cultural program, Reshet Bet concentrates on news, current events and talk radio station. In 1977 Reshet Gimel started to broadcast light Israeli music. Reshet Dalet targets the Arabic minority, while Reka or Reshet Klitat Aliya, which broadcast in Russian an Amharic, are radio services for recent immigrants to Israel. A short-wave network known as Kol Zion La-Golah, primarily intended for oversea Jewish communities (Reshet Heh), ended its operations in 2008 due to budgets shortages except for transmissions in Persian. 88 FM plays what is defined as “quality music”, generally jazz, and Kol Ha-Musika classical music.

The army station Galei Tzahal started in 1950 to serve the military. It broadcasts twenty-four hours a day with news, music, traffic reports and educational programs to the general public as well as some entertainment and informational programs to soldiers on two channels (Galei Tzahal and Galagalatz).

After 1973, several pirate radio stations began to broadcast offshore in international waters and were generally tolerated by the Israeli Government. A number of pirate radio stations operated within Israel in the mid 1990s. In 1999, the Israeli Parliament has legalised a number of pirate radio stations, many of them run by Jewish settlers and religious activists in the occupied territories. Arutz Sheva notably gives voice to religious Zionism and to the Israeli settlement movement.

Regional Radio Stations operate under the supervision of the Second Authority for Television and Radio created in 1990 that regulates also commercial television.

Currently, there are roughly 23 AM, 15 FM, and 2 shortwave licensed stations operating in Israel. They broadcast to 3.07 million radios thus being able to reach over ninety percent of the population.

IBA’s Reshet Bet was the most widely listened to radio station in 2009 with an average weekly exposure rate of 28.5 percent while army’s station Galgalatz was closing in with an average weekly exposure rate of 27.9 percent.

Television is Israel’s principal and most influential channel of media communications. It was introduced quite late during the 1960s. Although educational programs started already in March 1966, strong political opposition delayed the introduction of general programming. The first regular channel began to operate only in May 1968, on Israel’s 20th anniversary. Despite its difficult start Channel 1 developed in the course of the years to a full-service television channel, broadcasting not only news and educational programs, but also entertainment, original productions, children’s programs and films.

Channel 1, Israel’s public service television is organized by the Israel Broadcasting Authority and is divided in two departments: the News Department and the Program Department, which creates fictional, non-fictional, and educational programs. A film-purchasing department provides foreign movies and TV series.

Currently the IBA programs are:

  • Channel 1 (Haarutz Ha-Rishon) is the IBA’s main channel
  • Channel 23 (Ha-Hinuhit, the “Educational Channel”)
  • Channel 33 is the IBA's Arabic language channel.
  • Channel 99 (Arutz Ha-Knesset, the “Knesset Channel”) broadcasting from the Israeli parliament.

 The television fee is the IBA’s primary source of income, which however, is also allowed to a limited amount of advertising.

During the first decade, transmissions were in black and white, gradually switching to full colour between 1980 and 1983 in the wake of heated debates in the Parliament. Just a few years later, in 1986, a second TV channel started experimental broadcasts.

Privately owned television channels financed by advertising were introduced in the early 1990s following the liberalisation of the Israeli TV market. Cable television began to operate in 1991, and terrestrial commercial television soon after that.

Commercial television operates under the supervision of the Second Authority for Television and Radio created in 1990. It currently regulates Channel 2, Channel 10, as well as the Regional Radio Stations. Arutz 2 (Channel 2) made its appearance in the fall of 1993 and soon became Israel’s most popular TV channel. Two broadcast firms, Keshet and Reshet, share the concession for Channel 2. Each of the two companies broadcasts three or four days a week and switch every two years.

Arutz 10 (Channel 10), the second commercial broadcasting television channel licensed in Israel, began broadcasting in January 2002. In 2008 and 2009, as advertising budgets crumbled in the wake of the global financial crisis, commercial television companies had to make significant budget cutbacks. However, financial losses have affected Channel 10 to a much larger extent then Channel 2.

Direct broadcast satellite television (Yes is currently the sole satellite TV provider) began to operate in the summer of 2000. It has proved to be a strong competitor for cable television. It services more than an estimated half a million customers with two Israeli satellites, AMOS-2 and AMOS-3. Since late 2007 Yes is broadcasting in High Definition. Strong competition from DBS television has led the formerly three national cable companies to merge in 2003, giving birth to “Hot telecommunications Systems Ltd”. According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, 65 percent of Israeli households own subscriptions to cable television or satellite service providers.

The Second Television and Radio Broadcasting Authority currently holds authority over the new digital terrestrial television (DTT) programs that began airing in August 2009. Actually DTT broadcasts include five stations: Israel Broadcasting Authority's Channel 1 and 33, commercial stations Channel 2 and 10, and the Knesset Channel 99. The nationwide multiplex is running the European DVB-T system with MPEG-4 compression.

In February 1995 the Israel Audience Research Board (IARB) was founded in order to establish and operate a modern television-viewing audience measurement system, which services the Israel broadcasting and advertising industry.

Filmmaking began in British Mandatory Palestine during the 1920s and 1930s years. The early period was characterized by ideological and documental films celebrating the success of the Zionist settlement enterprise and that were generally aimed at an audience of Jews living in the Diaspora. Although the first local production of a feature film dates from 1932, between the early 1930s and 1948 filmmaking was limited to newsreel and propaganda films. Despite these pioneering efforts, the birth of an indigenous film industry had to wait until after statehood.

During the 1950s and early 1960s years modern Israeli film slowly took shape and developed its typical genres: the heroic-nationalist films of the early years, of which the film “Hill 24 Does Not Answer” is a good example, or the “bourekas” films in the 60s and early 70s, low-budget melodramas or comedies that featured Mizrahi, Jews from Arab countries, Iran, Turkey and Central Asia as characters. Alongside with the “bourekas” films, a whole different kind of films began to be made by a new generation of film professionals under the influence of European and American cinema.

Thanks to a widely supportive audience and government funding, in the 1980s and 1990s this new Israeli auteur cinema produced successful films of a remarkable quality, including “Life According to Agfa” by director Yossi Dayan, which was nominated for a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1992. Much of the groundwork for establishing a modern film industry was laid during the 1990s, film schools were founded and funds established. In 2000, the New Cinema Law granted generous public funding for the film industry, thus laying the path for further development after the turn of the century.

In the last decade Israeli cinema continued gaining international status and prestige. Quite many Israeli films, like Ari Folman’s “Waltz with Bashir” and Samuel Maoz’s “Lebanon”, have won major international awards.

Today film and television industry is a fast-growing segment, which generates annual exports of approximately 40 million US dollars. Nearly 20 feature films and 85 documentaries are produced in Israel each year. 120 production companies are active in Israel, 10 production studios and 30 post production facilities. Public funding and subsidizing has proved pivotal. Government’s funds awarded to the Israeli’s film industry total around 18 million dollars per year. The Israel Film Fund alone finances the development of about 30 Israeli scripts a year, and heavily subsidizes their marketing and distribution worldwide. A Law for the Encouragement of Production of Film was enacted in October 2008, designed to encourage production of foreign films and television series in Israel, creating incentives in the form of tax benefits.

Israel’s telecommunications network is one of the most advanced in the world. The country has a highly developed telephone system based on coaxial cable and microwave radio relay. Nearly 9 million mobile telephones are in use. All systems are digital. Bezeq Israel Telecom is the country’s largest telecommunication services provider. The company was founded in 1984 as a government company and was privatized in 2005, when it was sold to group of investors headed by Haim Saban.

Four privately-owned companies provide mobile-cellular communication service with countrywide coverage: Pelephone, Cellcom, Partner Communications (Orange) and Mirs, which also provide SMS Text messaging, Videoconferencing and Broadband Internet access. Paltel services the areas administered by the Palestinian National Authority.

 

Over the past decade new media has also largely expanded. Israel has today one of the highest household broadband penetration rates in the world. Nearly three quarters of the Jewish population have access to the Internet and use it regularly. However, a digital gap still persists between different groups. While approximately 74 percent on the Jewish population have access to Internet, only 50 percent of the Arab population has. Difficulties are also to be found among the country’s ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community because of the rabbinical ban on Internet use, based on morality grounds. 

According to WEF data, in 2007 the ratio of Internet users per 100 population was 28.9. New data by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (Globes, February 10, 2010) show that 83.5 percent of households with children own a computer, and 69.8 percent have Internet access. 60.4 percent of households without children have a computer and 55 percent have Internet access. 96.6 percent of households with children have mobile telephones, compared with 85.7 percent of households without children.

 A peculiarity of the Israeli system is the separation between infrastructure and service providers. A positive aspect of this arrangement is that it insures a strong competition and low fees for consumers. Two companies are on the market providing the infrastructure: Bezeq (ADSL) and Hot (cable modem access).

The main service providers are Bezeq International, 012 Smile, and 013 NetVision. Several local providers are also available. Market competition is fierce both between infrastructure providers and service providers.

Israel’s traditional media have quickly reacted to the challenge of the Internet. Several Israeli papers are active in the web and have launched digital versions, among them the Globes financial daily and Ha’aretz, who since 2006 is strongly present in the Internet with a Hebrew and an English homepage.

Yedi’ot Ahronot, Israel’s leading daily newspaper, and Ma’ariv both launched online papers separated from the printed versions (YNet and nrg), while also independent online newspapers like News First Class have appeared.

Walla! owned by a consortium in which Bezeq and the Ha’aretz group are the main owners, is the country’s largest and most popular news and content website, followed by Ynet, owned and operated by Yedi’ot Ahronot.

Keshet established its own news and entertainment portal which is called Mako.

Arutz Sheva, the voice of the religious Zionist settlement movement in the West Bank, offers online news in Hebrew English, French and Russian in three formats: written, Internet radio, and Internet television.

The English-language daily Jerusalem Post reaches a wide international readership with its English-language online version. A French language version of the newspaper is also published online at fr.jpost.com.

Successful Israeli online outlets are also Ynet’s map portal ymap, and the second-hand goods site Winwin.

Digital terrestrial television went on the air in August 2009 but has met quite a few problems: Reception has been since then disrupted and the Second Broadcasting Authority, which has supervised its start, has been trying to improve reception by deploying more antennas.

ITIM (Itonut Israel Meugedet), Israel’s news agency, was founded in 1950 by the main Israeli papers and by Kol Israel. Their aim was to establish an agency that could provide them with news releases in case they could not or didn’t want to send a reporter to cover a specific event, similar to the existing news agencies worldwide. For over fifty years it has been Israel’s only news agency based in Tel Aviv. In the later years however, it proved unable to match the challenges of the new media age. In December 2006 it definitely closed down its operations.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), founded in 1917, is an international news agency serving Jewish community newspapers and media around the world. It holds an office in Jerusalem but has its headquarters in New York.

Israeli journalists and media operators are organized in several Associations which are part of the 800-member strong National Federation of Israeli Journalists (NFIJ). The aims of the federation are to protect and strengthen the rights and freedoms of journalists.

While the Jerusalem Association of Journalists mainly gathers TV professionals, the groups in Tel Aviv and Haifa represent print-media journalists. Russian speaking professionals are represented by the Israel Russian-Speaking Journalists and Artists Congress. An Association of young journalists was founded in 2005 in Tel Aviv under the umbrella of the NFIJ. Its aim is to help young journalists, train them and offer support. Members hold regular meetings and talks with media professionals and veteran journalists.

A further organisation, the Israel Press Council, founded in 1963, is composed of journalists, publishers and public representatives concerned with issues of professional ethics as well protecting the freedom of the press.

Israel has no formal written constitution but a series of Basic Laws governing the formation and role of state institutions as well as their relations and the civil rights of its citizens. Neither has it an explicit commitment to press freedom in its Basic Laws, although the Supreme Court of Justice in its rulings has repeatedly affirmed freedom of speech as a fundamental principle of the state. In Israel the Right of Free Speech is regulated by a number of British mandatory statutes, which were incorporated into Israeli law in 1948, as well as legislation promulgated by the Knesset (parliament) after the establishment of the state.

British norms regulating the licensing and the closure of publications as well as the approval of the credentials of journalists have been maintained and censorship based on the 1945 British Defence Regulations (Emergency) is also still in force (§§ 87, 96). After the Independence War of 1948 an agreement signed between the government, the army, and the press, determined that censorship would be based on mutual agreement in order to prevent breaches of state security. Censorship is enacted under a chief censor but essentially limited to topics pertaining mostly to military and security-related issues, but not to political ones. A censorship tribunal resolves disputes between the chief censor and the Israeli press. A Supreme Court of Justice ruling states that news is to be censored if there is “a near certainty of tangible harm to the state’s security”.

A freedom of information law was introduced in 1998 allowing any citizen or resident to access records held by government offices, local councils, and government-owned corporations.

A censorship of Internet content law proposed by ultra-Orthodox Shas Party in 2008 has been rejected by the government’s legislation committee in the summer of 2009. However, a law prohibiting the denial of the Holocaust has been enacted in 1986 and applies to all the media.

According to Paris-based NGO Reporters without Borders “the Israeli authorities are capable of both best and worst practice when it comes to respect for press freedom”. Despite the existence of military censorship, Israeli press “still enjoys total freedom that is unequalled in the region”. As they traditionally reflect a wide range of political opinions, Israeli media are to be considered an independent and reliable source of information.

A tripartite Press Council, involving journalists, publishers, and the public, was established in Israel as a voluntary body in 1963, largely following the lines of the British Press Complaints Commission. The council’s goals include protecting the freedom of the press from threats of legislation, maintaining professional ethics, and ensuring free access to information.

In its Plenary Session of May 16th 1996, the Israel Press Council has enacted Rules of Professional Ethics of Journalism, deemed binding for the Israeli press. The ethical code and professional deontology of the Israeli press includes such issues as freedom of the press and professional responsibility, integrity and fairness, loyalty to the truth, examination of the facts, objectivity, and privacy. Closely related to the particular situation of the country are more specific rules defining how journalists should deal with casualties of war and terrorism and their families, as well as with ethical response in times of conflict.

The council is also the body to which complaints on matters of ethics are referred. It maintains ethics tribunals, which can try newspapers and journalists suspected of practices which violate the code of ethics.

A similar document providing ethical guidelines for use in Israel's broadcasting industry is the so-called “Nakdi-Report” that was introduced in 1972 by Israel’s Broadcasting Authority (IBA), which also applies to commercial television.

Israel’s telecommunications, broadcasting, and press, are regulated by several basic laws and by the diverse agencies supervising the media field. Newspapers need licensing, as requested by a 1933 British Mandate Press Ordinance, as well as by the British Defence Regulations (Emergency), which – as stated above - are still in power today. They yield administrative suspension powers.

The main laws regulating Telecommunications and broadcasting are the following:

  • The Wireless Telegraph Ordinance of 1924 dates also from the British Mandate and was the basic legal framework until its reform in 1972 (Wireless Telegraph Ordinance New Version).
  • The Israeli Broadcasting Authority Law of 1965
  • The Bezeq (Telecommunications) Law of 1982
  • The Law of the Second Authority for Television and Radio of 1990

The main regulatory agencies are the Israel Broadcast Authority (IBA), the Second Authority for Television and Radio, and the Council for Satellite and Cable TV Broadcasting.

The IBA was created as an independent body with the Broadcasting Authority Law of 1965, and intended to be a national authority for public TV and radio channels. It is composed of 31 members – the plenum – and operates under a director general. The plenum has various advisory committees. Its members are appointed by the President of the state for a three-year term. An Ombudsperson appointed for a five-year period by the chairman of the Authority with plenum approval, assists tha IBA in resolving complaints from the public.

The Second Authority for Television and Radio is responsible for the commercial TV Channel 2, and for regional radio stations.

The Ministry of Communications, who has overseen an almost two decade–long process of liberalisation and privatisation of the telecommunications market in Israel, hosts the Council for Satellite and Cable TV Broadcasting. It is a public council established in accordance to the requirement of the Telecommunications Law of 1982, and it is in charge of protecting the interest of multi-channel TV public.

Among the tasks of the three regulatory agencies is to promote local, original content productions, to guarantee the quality of the services supplied, to ensure the broadening of diversity and pluralism in the contest of cultural variety of Israeli society in content and channels, to promote community TV, to ensure the improvement of technologies, to protect the interest of minority sectors of the population, and more. Among of the authority is the provision of suitable expression to the, of Israeli minorities and of the different international cultures. In order to further promote Hebrew and Israeli works, Channel 2 franchise-holders, Reshet and Keshet, are required to broadcast local productions (eg productions made in Israel in Hebrew language), for at least one third of the air time. The franchise-holders are also required to invest in Israeli cinema productions.

Until the mid 1990s there was little formal training for journalists in Israel. Aspiring journalists were expected to learn their craft on the job. After 1996 more formal courses began, usually initiated by the larger papers or media outlets. Soon journalism and communications studies were initiated at all Israelis universities. BA, MA and doctoral programs are offered by the Hebrew University, the Tel Aviv University, the Bar Ilan University, the University of Haifa and the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

The Open University of Israel also offers courses on journalism, while the Sammy Ofer school of Communication offers an undergraduate degree in communication.

Koteret School of Journalism & Communications in Tel Aviv trains journalists for the written and electronic media, in a two-to-three year program.

In the rapidly developing Israeli press and communications landscape, most information obtainable in the web is quickly outdated. The best sources for detailed information are newspapers, particularly Ha’arez and the financial daily Globes, both available in English.

TNS Teleseker conducts since 2000 periodic TIM (Teleseker Internet Monitor) surveys of Internet usage and site ranking among a representative sample of Internet users aged 13 and over, which are regularly published in the media.

Further on, reliable information sources about the Israeli media would include the Chaim Herzog Institute for Media, Politics and Society, University of Tel Aviv. Useful information, albeit quite outdated, can be gathered at Chaim Herzog Institute and also at Institute for the Study of the Jewish Press and Communications, Tel Aviv University.

Despite the enduring conflict situation and the challenges of internal economic, religious, cultural and linguistic diversities, Israel is a stable democracy. A small country in a partly hostile neighbourhood, Israel has grown to become a hub for high-tech industries, its GDP grew at the average of 5 percent a year in 2004-2008 and it has been relatively left unscathed by the global economic crisis.

The transition from state-controlled economy to liberal free market economy has had undoubtedly positive consequences. Regulatory policies have produced intense competition and favored the emergence of strong conglomerates operating in a very advanced and highly developed market. The recent emergence of free daily Israel ha-yom has dramatically modified the newspapers landscape, threatening Israel’s national tabloids, Yedi’ot Ahronot and Ma’ariv.

Recent developments in this field are not dissimilar to those which are to be found in many other countries of the world, media conglomeration, crisis-related decline in advertising revenues. However, a further problem has been identified in the tabloidization of the news, which is generally interpreted as a direct consequence of market-driven journalism.

Moreover, such developments are not confined to print media. As in many other countries of the world, Israel’s public broadcasting service faces stiff competition from commercial channels. During the last two decades commercial broadcasting, DBS and cable TV have established themselves as major players, and have conquered large segments of the younger viewing base with the offer of modern, more appealing entertainment programs. Similarly to the press sector, the appearance of commercial TV has also had a strong impact on news making.

All major Israeli media outlets have mastered the challenges of the Internet age, thus giving Israeli media worldwide circulation and exposure. IT-Market is thriving and attracting venture capital. With household broadband penetration at estimated around 70 percent and mobile penetration well over 100 percent, Israel is well prepared for further digital media developments.

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Carlo Gentile
Research associate
Martin-Buber-Institut für Judaistik
Universität Köln
Albertus-Magnus-Platz
50923 Köln
Tel. +49 221 470 4435
Email: carlo.gentile@uni-koeln.de