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Repositioned news channel 14 aims for mainstream while keeping pro-Netanyahu script

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On a recent evening news broadcast, Channel 14 anchor Shimon Riklin and his team of commentators empathized with indicted Shas MK Aryeh Deri on his recent plea deal, called Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit a “bad seed” for putting former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on trial, and questioned the seriousness of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

For Israeli broadcast news, this is far from common fare. But for Channel 14, a conservative channel sometimes likened to Fox News and officially known as Now 14, that’s kind of the point. This is a 24-hour news station that’s always on, except on Shabbat. The channel inhabits a milieu in which Jewish Orthodox garb and mores are standard — few anchors, presenters or reporters appear without a head covering — and in which Netanyahu remains a political hero.

Netanyahu was famously focused on his portrayal in the media and sought to control the narrative — two of the cases he is on trial for revolve around attempts to sway press coverage. In print, Israel Hayom is seen by many as a mouthpiece for Netanyahu, but there had been no broadcast equivalent, until Now 14.

Backed by an influx of money from Russian businessman Yitzchak Mirilashvili — son of Georgian-born billionaire Mikhael Mirilashvili, who paid for a new studio and on-air talent — and moved into a slot on the dial alongside other news channels, Now 14 is making a move for legitimacy as a true conservative alternative to Israel’s mainstream news channels.

But critics say that so long as the channel continues to parrot the former prime minister, it will never be taken seriously in the Israeli media landscape.

“It doesn’t offer good journalism, it has no talent and it has ethical problems,” said Eytan Gilboa, professor and founding director of the School of Communication at Bar Ilan University. “It has just one position, which is that it’s Netanyahu’s channel.”

Others, however, maintain that........

© The Times of Israel

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