Monday, February 08, 2010

Adelson: Israel's Media are Dictatorial, Fox News was My Model

Arutz Sheva

Businessman Sheldon Adelson, the publisher of the Yisrael HaYom newspaper, fired a loud broadside over the decks of rival newspapers Sunday evening, accusing them of "dictatorial" practices. He also said that saw his newspaper as emulating the role that Fox News plays in the United States. Speaking at the Israel Media Watch media prize award ceremony, Adelson said that over the last 20 years, in which he has been visiting Israel very often, he noticed that “something seemed strange” about the political views of his friends in the Jewish state. While Adelson's own political views were “far to the right,” he said (“Attila the Hun was too liberal for me,” he humorously put it), the friends' political views “didn't seem to jibe with reality.”

He said that he came to realize that the friends' world view was based on a false picture of reality which they had been receiving from the newspapers – particularly Ma'ariv and Yediot. “I found out that not only are they off base … they clearly follow the carrot and the stick approach. You get something nice if you act nice, or you get beat up if you don't act nice. Now what does that 'act nice' mean? Give me what I want, do want I tell you – purely in a dictatorial way.”

He told the audience at the IMW event that he sees his mission as similar to that of Fox News in the US, and that he even went so far as to contact Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and to receive his permission to use the slogan “fair and balanced,” which Fox News uses to describe itself.

Fox News is widely perceived as offering an alternative to the liberal stream which dominates mainstream media.

Israel Media Watch awarded its annual media criticism prize to Amos Regev, editor-in-chief of Yisrael HaYom newspaper, and to the family of IDF Captain R., who successfully sued Channel 2's Ilana Dayan for defaming him.

Yisrael HaYom, which is handed out without charge on the streets and in bus and railway stations, is becoming increasingly popular, challenging the supremacy of Yediot Acharonot and Maariv – the two newspapers that have dominated Israel's print news media for decades. It has already surpassed the latter's readership.

'We will be #1'

Adelson said at the IMW event that “the success of Yisrael HaYom is an unprecedented phenomenon and the aim is to be the largest newspaper in Israel.” Adelson added that “as an entrepreneur, I always try to attack the existing business status quo. In line with the trends in the western democracies, I saw the possibility of establishing a daily newspaper in Israel, too, that would be handed out for free with the motto of telling the truth in a fair, direct and balanced way. We don't tell our writers what to write.”

"I am proud to say that our success is phenomenal,” Adelson said, adding that he is an ardent Zionist and that when he first began looking at existing Israeli newspapers, he felt that they were out of touch with reality so that a new, high level and well-written paper was needed. He countered claims that his paper is a mouthpiece for Netanyahu, as competing newspapers have said.

Adelson law 'ridiculous'

Amos Regev said in his acceptance speech that the Israeli news media had become dominated, over the years, by what he said was a left-wing ideological uniformity. All writers are in favor of the so-called "peace process," he explained, and he who dares question that process finds himself "outside the bubble." He noted that Yisrael HaYom's competitors were so threatened by it that they engineered a "ridiculous" attempt to pass a law that would prevent foreign residents from owning newspapers in Israel.

The law has been dubbed the "Adelson law" and is seen as aimed at closing down Yisrael HaYom, although the Haaretz newspaper group is also partly owned by German publishers.

The second recipient of the media criticism prize was the family of Captain R., who was acquitted in a military court of charges that he had 'executed' an Arab girl in Gaza. R. filed a lawsuit against journalist Ilana Dayan for an investigative report that portrayed him as maliciously murdering the girl, which was aired as his trial began. The court ruled in his favor and ordered Dayan and production company Telad to pay him NIS 300,000 in damages.

Steinitz: Respect the Truth

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz spoke at the event and said: “Sometimes there is a feeling that for the media, truth is less important than sensationalism, attractiveness and gossip.”

He added that “respect for truth, commitment to truth, to the extent that it can be found out, must be our guiding light. This involves a lot of skepticism, fact checking and verification – in this field, Israeli media still has a long way to go.”

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