Last updated: 21 December, 2012

Israel MPs in 11th-hour rescue of Channel 10 TV

Israel’s parliament passed a bill on Friday granting Channel 10 television financial help, just 10 days before the commercial channel had been due to close, the station said on its website.

Under terms of the bill, which passed its second and third readings early on Friday, the government will extend the beleaguered station’s licence by two years.

It will also loan Channel 10, one of only two commercial television stations in Israel, a sum of 65 million shekels ($17 million/13 million euros) to enable it to pay its debts.

At the weekend, the station said the management had decided to fire its 500 staff and close at the end of the year.

But the directors decided to wait 48 hours before sending out dismissal notices in the hope of prodding the Knesset into last-minute action.

Channel 10’s broadcast licence expires on December 31, but the station says its executives had previously hammered out an agreement with the treasury under which it would clear its debts and its licence would be extended for two years.

The rescue deal needed to be confirmed by an act of parliament, with the Knesset plenum, which is currently in recess ahead of January elections, gathering for a special session on the issue on Thursday.

Set up a decade ago, Channel 10 is heavily in debt to the state, with around 60 million shekels ($15.8 million/12 million euros) in unpaid bills.