Biased Israeli Media? Expert Says Objectivity is Impossible, Here’s Why

The purpose of mass media is not to be objective, says an Israeli expert, who has been monitoring local news outlets for years. Rather, it should bring balance and care to scrutinise the actions of the government and present their audience with a wide spectrum of political opinions.

Recent weeks have seen a surge of tweeps taking to social media networks to express their frustration with Israel’s media and the biased line it pursues.

For some, Israel’s main three channels (11, 12 and 13) are a tool in the hands of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to continue and spread his propaganda.

The channels of lies continue to work for the dictator from Caesarea (i.e. Netanyahu).

How is it that all the media stands behind Netanyahu? And they say the media is leftist.

For others, these outlets are after the PM, determined to oust him from an office he has occupied for more than a decade.

​Caption: Our media represents the left wing only. Balance and media cannot go together.

​”Our media is leftist and rotten. It is the root of all evil in Israel. It causes hatred and divisions. Our younger generation that’s now in their 30s hasn’t heard one good word about Netanyahu for their entire lives…”

Sinking Reputation 

Their attitude is part of a general trend. In 2016, for example, a poll found that only 35 percent of Israelis believed mass media, as compared to other countries where the approval rating stood at more than 40 percent. 

And last year another survey revealed that the number of those who trusted the media had dropped to merely 30 percent.

But Dr. Sagi Elbaz, an expert who has been researching Israeli media for decades, says the news outlets’ current status has actually improved. 

“In the past, we even had a survey that showed that only 24 percent of Israelis trusted the media. So in recent years we actually see an improvement in the way the public views the mass media.”

Changing Landscape

The main reason for that change, believes the expert, was the shift in the media’s landscape that has taken place in the past three decades.

Initially Israelis absorbed their information from channel 1 (currently 11) that has been funded by the state. But the appearance of cable TV in the 90s as well as a number of commercial channels led to the drop in the network’s ratings.

The appearance of satellite channels coupled with news websites and social media platforms only contributed to that decline, but what it also created was a plurality of opinions; this spectrum has been presented by the media.

Today, Israel boasts a number of news channels, including one that tilts towards the right and that expresses open support for Netanyahu (channel 20). It also has an abundance of newspapers and websites that feature various political views.

“There is a misconception that the media in Israel is left-wing and that it constantly slams the establishment. But this is simply not true. Although the main stream reporters might tilt towards centre-left, when you analyse their coverage, especially during crises, you see that they always rally round the flag,” said Elbaz.

Such was the case with Israel’s multiple operations in Gaza, during which local media recited the stance of the government on why those missions were necessary, and such was the case with terror attacks, where news outlets stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the IDF.

“Media is not meant to be objective,” said Elbaz. “Those, who believe in objectivity lie to themselves. But journalism should be balanced and it should scrutinise the government and criticise it, because politicians know very well to glorify themselves.”

Netanyahu is one of those politicians who knows how to squeeze the most out of mass media. Every diplomatic breakthrough gets a press conference, vaccination shots get live coverage, and foreign visits are often accompanied by an entourage of Israeli journalists. 

Israeli media takes every step and every statement of the PM with a grain of salt, often slamming him for his domestic and foreign policies, giving much coverage to his legal battles and the ongoing demonstrations against him.

And this is the reason, why for many Israelis who share Netanyahu’s conservative views, the media will always remain biased.

Elbaz says that that distrust could be repaired if reporters cared to refrain from mentioning their political views on air, or if the media became more balanced, providing their audiences with more facts and information.

But in a country where the majority tilts towards the right and where the main stream media is looking in the opposite direction, the chances that the two will ever meet are slim, as are the chances that the public’s trust in news outlets will reach new heights.

The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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