Netanyahu: Government Will Not Interfere in Eurovision

Israel's singer Netta Barzilai aka Netta performs with the trophy after winning the final of the 63rd edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 at the Altice Arena in Lisbon, on May 12, 2018. (Photo by Francisco LEONG / AFP) (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)
FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty

TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said his government would adhere to the Eurovision song contest guidelines, which may include nixing a plan to split public broadcaster Kan, in a bid to ensure the country would host the competition in 2019 as planned.

“The government will act according to European Broadcasting Union rules,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office.

His remarks seem to indicate that the government would renege on a plan to split Israel’s public broadcaster Kan into two different divisions — news and entertainment — that could see the EBU cancelling Israel’s hosting privileges as well as the country’s participation in future contests. The EBU demands that the broadcaster have an attached news division.

Netanyahu noted that “there are open legal issues regarding the Eurovision stemming from matters of pending legislation that are yet before the courts. The Prime Minister instructed that the legal aspects of the matter be examined with the relevant officials before a decision is made.”

The statement came after Netanyahu held a meeting with Culture Minister Miri Regev, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

According to the Marker, even if the split is approved the government would likely delay it by up to 18 months to allow Israel to host the song contest as planned.

After Monday’s meeting, Kara said on Twitter that the government would not interfere with the song contest.

Last week, Regev declared that if Israel can’t host the Eurovision song contest in Jerusalem next year, it should not host it at all.

Regev’s remarks came in response to reports that the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the contest, requested that 2019’s Eurovision be held in a “non-divisive location.”

“I will recommend to the government that the Eurovision — if it can’t be in Jerusalem — we shouldn’t host it,” Regev told Israel Radio.

“It costs Israel NIS 50 million. It is designed to market the country. It’s a beautiful music show that brings every country here,” she said.

“I think personally that if the Eurovision won’t be in Jerusalem, it would be wrong to invest NIS 50m. of public funds. The State of Israel’s capital is Jerusalem and we should not be ashamed of it.”

The EBU told the Jerusalem Post that no decision has been made on the host city, but added that it is important the local broadcaster “takes all necessary steps to safeguard the non-political character of the event throughout the organization of the competition.”

“No decisions have been made yet on the host city, venue, and dates,” an EBU spokesman said, adding that all host countries are required to offer “a minimum of two host city and venue options” before any final decisions are made.

The host city would likely to be announced “no earlier than July and no later than September.”

Having Jerusalem as the host city has critics fearing a boycott of the 2019 contest.

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