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Muting Israeli Democracy

Muting Israeli Democracy: How Media and Cultural Policy Undermine Free Expression

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Muting Israeli Democracy
    Book Description:

    Analyzing a wide range of legal documents recorded in Israel from 1961 to 2007, this book argues that the laws governing Israeli electronic media are structured to limit the boundaries of public discourse. Amit M. Schejter posits the theory of a "muted democracy," one in which electronic media are designed to provide a platform for some voices to be heard over others. While Israel's institutions may be democratic, and while the effect of these policies may be limited, Muting Israeli Democracy demonstrates in scrupulous detail how free speech in Israel is institutionally muted through the constraints and obligations set on electronic media to ensure the continued cultural domination of the Jewish majority and its preferred hegemonic interpretation of what Israel means as a Jewish-democratic state.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09235-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xx)

    Democracy became the descriptor of the political system of dozens of countries in the final quarter of the twentieth century (Schrader 2002) and at an unprecedented pace (Huntington 1991). The term “democracy” means different things to different people, however, and as democracies proliferated so did their typologies. Smooha (1997) has identified four types: liberal,Herrenvolk,consociational, and ethnic, based on the relationship between the ethnic groups composing these societies. Another typology identifies the disparities or tries to reconcile the differences between democracy as social choice theory and deliberative democracy (Dryzek and List 2003), basing the analysis on the political decision-making...

    (pp. 1-7)

    In order to identify the dominant elements of Israeli culture in the legal landscape in which the electronic media operate, I describe my understanding of the meaning of the term “culture” in this chapter. I discuss how myth and ritual, the building blocks of culture, are subordinated to serve a dominant group in society as they are transformed into their rational and institutional format in the form of ideology and ceremony, which help establish collective memory and identity. The infusion of ideology and ceremony into the legally prescribed media fare is one of the mechanisms by which dominance of a...

  6. 2 The Building Blocks of Official Israeli Culture
    (pp. 8-23)

    The process by which imagined (Anderson 1983) or mediated (Poster 1999) communities are created is linked to the development of communications (Thompson 1995, 62). National television has been identified as a powerful force that pushes a society toward the creation of a national identity (Schudson 1994, 40). The creation of Israel’s “imagined community,” as Anderson notes (1983), has transpired in two separate phases in which two “imagined” entities were created: an imagined “nation” and an imagined “state.” This took place (first) through the creation of the Zionist movement that established the Jewish people as a nation and (second) through the...

  7. 3 Media Space and Political Culture in Israel
    (pp. 24-44)

    Television has naturally played an important role in Israel’s social and cultural history. According to Katz, Haas, and Gurevitch (1997), during the first twenty-five years of Israeli television, when only one channel existed, television became the central medium for news and information, taking on the role held by newspapers in 1970. It was a central force in promoting national unity, and the national “electronic campfire” around the nightly 9 P.M. news magazine “became a sort of civic ritual during which the society communed with itself” (5). As the most popular of modern technologies, ¹ it has also played a dominantrole...

  8. 4 Israeli Electronic Media as a System of Control
    (pp. 45-62)

    Legislators’ fear of the presumed powerful effect of the electronic media and their general indifference to the public interest have given rise to two formal structural systems of control of Israeli electronic media. One, described in this chapter as a system of control, ensures a government presence in the decision-making process of electronic news organizations. The second, described in chapters 5, 6, and 7, dictates the government’s cultural agenda to broadcasters. The result is a closed media system with minimal requirements for transparency over which the government and corporate interests that aim to please the government exert tremendous control.


  9. 5 Broadcasting
    (pp. 63-86)

    Both developing and developed countries impose cultural obligations on broadcasters. Katz and Wedell (1977) have observed that the goals of introducing electronic media in developing countries include promoting national integration—that is, creating a sense of belonging to the new nation-state (171)—and cultural continuity and change (191). Shaughnessy and Fuente Cobo (1990) have compiled a list of what they refer to as the “cultural obligations of broadcasters” in all European countries, Machet and Robillard (1998) have identified the cultural obligations of broadcasters in Europe and Canada, Blumler (1992) has compiled a series of studies demonstrating how policymakers in Western...

  10. 6 Cable and Satellite
    (pp. 87-105)

    While the regulation of the cultural obligations of broadcasting focuses on direct content obligations, the regulation of the cultural obligations of cable television can be further achieved by innovative structural design of the cable service. As Turow (1992, 28) and Napoli (2001, 15) explain, the impact of technical and structural regulations on content can be as important as specific content regulations. In the case of regulating the Israeli cable industry, the development of policy and the transition it has made took place on both the content-specific and structural levels. Policymakers used a bi-level approach and made many changes in policy...

  11. 7 Transborder Broadcasting
    (pp. 106-114)

    Transborder broadcasting may weaken control of electronic media in meticulously planned systems that are rooted in strong ideological convictions by introducing unplanned messages (Thomas 1999). Israel is a case in point, as the traditional motives influencing Israeli media policy—a fear of external propaganda and a desire for social uniformity—are very relevant to the issue of transborder broadcasts. Israeli law and policymakers have identified three arenas in which transborder broadcasting may interfere with national planning. Two—news and culture— are specifically based on content, and control of these arenas has been described throughout this book. The third arena, which...

  12. 8 The Palestinian Minority
    (pp. 115-134)

    This chapter demonstrates how Israeli society has effectively denied the collective cultural rights of its Palestinian minority, especially the right of this minority to express its identity through the mass media and be an equal participant in the process of building a national culture. Media law denies Palestinian Israelis the right to express themselves collectively as a cultural minority by branding them a linguistic minority and it portrays them as the “enemy within,” expressing a widely held view among Israelis in general and policymakers in particular. These policies rule out the participation of Palestinian Israelis in the development of mainstream...

    (pp. 135-148)

    According to news reports in 2005, as part of their bid for a renewed license, two commercial television license holders promised to include in their program offering for the coming decade two new versions of the IBA’s seminal seriesThe Pillar of Fire:an ultra-orthodox version and a Mizrahi version.¹ In March 2007, the Democratic Mizrahi Rainbow, a public advocacy group bent on promoting multiculturalism in Israeli society, filed a complaint with the Second Authority, claiming that the franchisees had not yet met their obligation and were not planning to broadcast these programs anytime in the foreseeable future. The Second...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 149-160)
    (pp. 161-178)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 179-192)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-197)