Last updated: 16 December, 2012

Israeli premier steps in to rescue private TV from collapse

Israel’s parliament is to meet in special session despite a pre-election recess, in a last-ditch attempt to stave off the closure of a debt-ridden commercial TV station, the government said on Sunday. A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that he had agreed with Speaker Reuven Rivlin that the Knesset would reconvene “within the coming days to debate a proposed arrangement for the continued operation of Channel 10.”

The move came hours after the station, one of only two commercial television channels in Israel, said that its management had decided to fire its 500 staff and close at the end of the year.

Directors, however, voted at a meeting late on Saturday night to wait 48 hours before sending out dismissal notices, in the hope of prodding the Knesset into action at the last minute, the Channel 10 website said.

The station’s broadcast licence expires at the end of December but it says that its executives and treasury officials had previously hammered out an agreement under which it would clear its debts and its licence would be extended for two years.

Set up a decade ago, Channel 10, one of only two commercial television channels in Israel, is heavily in debt to the state, with around 60 million shekels ($15.8 million, 12 million euros) in unpaid bills.

The rescue deal needs to be confirmed by an act of parliament, but the Knesset dissolved itself in October after voting for a January general election and last month Netanyahu and Rivlin agreed that there should be no new legislation put forward in the interim except in cases of national “peril or urgent concern”.

“At Channel 10 there is hope for a swift legislative procedure that will confirm the agreement,” its website said after Sunday hevening’s announcement from Netanyahu.