Rogel Alper is a guest on "Talk Bag" / Reuven Castro, Walla System!
"Things are starting to repeat themselves. There will come a moment of burnout, there will come a moment of breakage. By the way, usually it comes all at once, suddenly. And then everything collapses, like suddenly they stopped seeing Dudu Topaz or suddenly stopped seeing Dan Shilon. All of a sudden, viewers say, 'Enough, I deserve this far,'" Haaretz TV critic Rogel Alper predicts what is still true for the Israeli public vis-à-vis Israeli television in the coming weeks.
Alper's explanation – along with claims of a continued assault on liberal values – embodies many hundreds of hours of news coverage since the start of the war.
Alper came to the Walla studio for the Israel Press Institute's TikTok podcast. On the agenda: the prisoner return format that has become a monstrous variation of reality TV ("In terms of the spectrum, the format has been completely cracked"), coverage of the war on commercial channels ("There is very little news, there is a preoccupation with emotion that distracts"), whether it is necessary to tell what is happening in Gaza ("Tell me you, why not? Isn't that a professional duty, the most basic journalist?"); And, of course, the mechanism of Channel 14 ("The tragedy of Israeli society is its effectiveness"). Not on the agenda: The institution of television criticism and how its newspaper responds to Communications Minister Shlomo Krei.
A small part of the conversation is presented here in the article. Listen or watch the full conversation.
In the first month of the war, it seemed that the Israeli media was revealing itself in all its glory, and now the question marks are beginning to arise.
"Wait, what do you mean in all its glory?"
In the first hours of the massacre, the media replaced the dysfunctional security forces. People turned to TV reporters because the police and the IDF did not come to help.Even after that, most channels criticized the government's poor performance, and acted – sometimes actively – to help the public.
"Okay. But let's make a distinction here. The first day, October 7, beyond the catastrophe and massacre, it was a historic broadcast day. I mean, we watched a media event, a television event the likes of which we've never seen before. And that's where television really played a vital role in giving you some kind of feeling that you share both concern and solidarity, and also being there in real time with the people in the safe rooms that are closed there, afraid for their lives, whispering.
"It was authentic, it was real and it was televised, partly because of the reactions of people like Kushmaru or all the emcees in one way or another, which reflected the worry, the shock, the feeling that we were abandoned, the anxiety.
"From the moment the Big Bang happened, television has been obsessed with picking up the fragments of each and every event and trying to somehow create a narrative out of it. Like taking some shattered urn and gluing it back, I mean, you see that the whole show, whether it's the regular news programs or whether it's because a drop of magazines is produced more like fact or like the original, constantly going to the people who were there and documenting what was there. I mean the personal stories, the soul candles, the kidnapped, you have a script that writes itself, you hardly need television qualities here."
Still, what did you recognize happening?
"One of the things that happened is that you see the return of the talk show. It returns in a way that no one could have predicted. I don't know if you remember, around 2005 all of Israeli prime time was affected by it. If you talk to people my children's age, they won't know that people used to sit down for hours to watch people talk, whether they were politicians or entertainers."
That the first trolls were Tommy Lapid and Amnon Dankner!
"Exactly. Tuk show. It's a show where you invite the families of the abductees and 'Come tell us what Grandma said.' These are exactly the super-dramatic materials, the mosaic of Israeli society, the campfire of the tribe, you know, the canonical Israeli experience, it's back, it's back. If you see for a long time during the day and switch between channels, you feel the swank machine in action. There's not much to innovate, there's a lot to excite."
I'm not sure I agree with you. There is a real need here. Mental. Process the events. What would you do differently?
"Let me be clear that I'm not talking about money at all now. I'm talking about staying on the air, holding the broadcast, being a 'tribal bonfire', being this center that unites all, the whole experience and just like that, gaining power. To hold that with you, people acquire their knowledge of what is happening. And what do they do with her? They are busy with emotion, they are mainly busy with emotion, it diverts and distracts attention from the really important things on the agenda, such as telling the Israeli public - look, you can't do both. It is impossible to both have all the abductees and topple Hamas, because Hamas will not allow it. He will hold these hostages and demand in return a cessation of hostilities, a complete withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza, the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip."
"Begging for voyeuristic information"
"The massacre is being used here to try to steer, to steer Israeli society in this direction. That's another thing that television clearly does."
If so, you probably have a good word about Channel 14, which took a position on the issue of the abductees. Not an unreasoned position. He comes and says: Coverage of the abductees is a festival in which we are not willing to take part.
"One of the tragedies of Israeli society is that Channel 14 is effective in what it does. He makes much less produced television in terms of production values, you see he has a lot less money than Channel 12, even Channel 13 or even all the means at his disposal 11. But what it has is that they don't, and it's the clear ideological line that distinguishes and differentiates it. You know you'll actually hear other things there. You know, let's say that the Haaretz supplement that sends the song of Reuven to the audience of the patriots, so that we will understand who these people are? Because we don't see them on other channels and we don't hear them. One of the things that has happened not only to Israeli society but to all global media consumers since there are Facebook and Twitter feeds is that people don't want to hear an opinion they don't agree with."
To Channel 14's credit, they recognized the comeback of The Talk Show even before the war. After all, what is "the patriots" if not a right-wing incarnation of the mythological "populism." And here I wanted to ask you how come the imitations "on the left," like say, "The Gatekeepers," didn't work.
"Look, it's in the DNA of a journalist like Yinon Magal, who is actually a campaigner. He's a campaigner in the name of a certain ideology that he's trying to promote, zealously, and you see fanaticism on Channel 14, it's also Erel Segal who can go to slightly scary places with rage and hatred. They are very goal-oriented and they know in this respect what they want to achieve. Channel 12, on the other hand, currently enjoys good viewing figures, but its segment is the segment that says come and excite me, come lie to me a little, come distract me, let me go to sleep at night, relatively quietly. Channel 14 isn't looking to do that, they're looking to inflame the discussion. Even in war, you see there the attack on liberalism. And in general, one of the things that we see television doing now is playing the role of spreading anti-liberal ideology. It's happening not only on Channel 14, but on Channel 14 it's happening in the most refined way."
And what is its main message?
"Television basically tells viewers that liberalism equals extinction, equals existential danger. We need as a society to uproot humanistic and liberal values, because that weakens us. Sinwar is taking advantage of that, okay? So let's be Arabs, that is, Arabs according to the stereotype of Arab, which means barbarians who understand only power. In Rome, he behaved like a Roman, in the Middle East, he behaved like this kind of Arab."
As a liberal leftist, I tell you that my experience of the October 7 massacre is that they are barbarians and understand only power.
"Understand something, the massacre must have been the most immoral act imaginable, and we have the right to defend ourselves, the obligation to defend ourselves against it. But this is a whole worldview, it's not just about how you deal with this specific threat of tens of thousands of Hamas terrorists. It's about how you conduct yourself in terms of your values and priorities as a society, as a country. There is a use of massacre here to try to steer, to steer Israeli society in this direction. This is another thing that television does distinctly.
"In recent weeks, you've actually seen something interesting, and probably not intentional, but you see that the format of returning prisoners is a reality format. Society is steeped in this thing and you see that the habit of watching reality that already existed is now getting a new kind of reality. The dystopian reality show we've already seen in Black Mirror or Squid Game.
"I mean, now it's not just about impeachment and metaphorical death when the tribe puts out the fire of your life in survival and you go to the ghost city, or you're kicked out of the Big Brother house and so on, but now it's about life and death really. It's a fascinating thing that I think no one who concocted this deal took into account."
And then there's the ratings, of course.
"That's right. Basically without To say stay with us, trying to keep the viewers through voyeuristic instincts. When presenters interview a relative of abductees and say to her, well, 'And how does Grandma feel?', then she says, 'I'd rather not get into private conversations,' and they continue: 'Maybe you'll say a little something after all.' They're begging for voyeuristic information."
More in Walla!
"I want the viewers of Channel 14 here on Channel 13 News, unequivocally."
See full article >
A campaigner called ideology. Yinon Magal/Screenshot, Channel 14
Gravitational force for arc
"A viewer of the rainbow doesn't get the feeling that we've reached the wall and we have to decide: abductees or Hamas. Keshet didn't come to argue with you, they came to cry with you."
I want a moment to return to Keshet, she recently made a change that seems minor and cosmetic on the face of it, but very significant in her perception of herself vis-à-vis the Israeli audience. Instead of the slogan "Israel TV" that accompanied it for many years, it now calls itself "Israelis' TV." What do you think of this change?
"This change came against the backdrop of the attempted regime coup, and I think they have an interest in distinguishing between Israel and its official Israeli policy, and the Israelis who can protest against it and resist it."
And what is your explanation for the fact that the mass of viewers who returned to television because of the war came mainly to Keshet?
"On the 12th, you just see that they do better than others, this concoction, the combination of the elements of net entertainment and elements of excitement and super-sad drama. The combination of news and patriotism, but without extreme nationalism. They know how to navigate this thing called mainstream.
"There's some gravitational force there that draws you to them. They were also the first to realize that they had to find a way to at least try to combine the regular reality TV schedule with this thing. So far unsuccessfully. But in the end they will succeed, that is, they will find the way. There is a man named Avi Nir, who is an expert, I think at a very, very high level, in identifying sentiment and in this delicate tailoring of all kinds of campaigns..."
He really knows how to make successful television.
"Not necessarily successful, successful. There is a difference. But you see that he understands that he now has to find a way to harness, to harness what happened on October 7th, to create some kind of new reality show. They also have a wonderful country, which also fulfills for them this role that says - a little sanity, it's okay to laugh. I'm not going into the question of whether they're engaged in satire or if they've ever really engaged in satire."
Why not? It's interesting.
"Wait, put that aside. What I mean is that they've managed to turn this into another campfire, meaning you want to see these well-known comedians perform these characters and that gives you something even if it's not terribly funny and not terribly successful. The message is basically that they broadcast it. The message is, 'Here we are not extinct, we can relax a little, we are protected, we can sit now and laugh.'
"Avi Nir understands that if he is the first to do this, he will shape something in the Israeli consciousness that says, OK, we got a permit. Obviously, on October 10th there couldn't have been an episode of Great Country, right?
"And it's not just Avi Nir, it's also Molly Segev, who is a master at navigating this thing of navigating between a critical path and maintaining a sense of patriotism. Ultimately, Keshet is not a media outlet looking to create a relationship with its viewers in which it annoys them. He's looking to tell them what they want to hear, not what they have to hear.
"A viewer of the rainbow doesn't get the feeling that we've reached the wall and we have to decide: abductees or Hamas. Sagittarius didn't come to argue with you, they came to cry with you, they came to move you, to laugh with you at your own pace. What's different about Channel 14 is that they say something new – 'I don't care what you want, I'll tell you what I think you need to hear.' It's a channel that says, if you came to us by chance and you're not a bibist, I'm not going to appease you. The tragedy, for me, is that it comes from the wrong direction of the political map."
True, this is not a fawning TV.
"Absolutely not. You can also fly out of here, or stay, according to their rules."
חודש למלחמה: 12 בשליטה מוחלטת וערוץ 14 משתלט על המקום השני
"צופה בקשת לא מקבל את התחושה שהגענו לקיר וחייבים להחליט". מולי שגב/צילום מסך, קשת 12
המקום הטבעי של אבישי בן חיים
"כל התיאוריות של אב"ח נשמעות קצת פחות מתאימות כרגע. למשל להגיד שישראל ההגמונית שאיננה מודעת להגמוניותה חטפה מכה רצינית בטבח"
What do you say on screen here 11 during the war?
"There's something gray sometimes about Kan 11 and that's really for the best. Let's say the program, Sagi Zohar is now doing more intellectually at Kan 11 every day. It's a little more interesting, the interviews are more interesting, the critical angles he examines are more interesting, and you see that he understands that television here is not only reporting, but also a major player. He has this reflection, which 12 will never do. They won't draw your attention to the fact that they, too, play a role in what they report and so on.
"This thing, that Kushmaru knows when to cry and knows when to sound belligerent and threatens Hamas and knows when to sound sad and knows when to sound optimistic and this - it will not take place on screen Kan 11."
So we talked about the corporation and Sagittarius and also about 14. News 13 is a bigger mystery in my opinion than the three competing bodies, because News 13 tried during the coup attempt to make television center-left. What do they want today?
"On Channel 13 News, you see a trend that the massacre and the war are narrowing the boundaries of legitimate freedom of expression in Israel. For example, you see that they brought in as a central presenter Natalee Shem Tov, who is clearly a very patriotic, right-lite. Next to her sits Moriah Asraf Wahlberg with the pendant of Greater Israel. Shlomo includes Gaza, from the river to the sea, and you also know from her background, from her biography, that she comes from the realms of the religious right.
"And you see that there is fear again now. So it's true that the protest gave some courage and breathed some wind into those sails, but then came the war and the massacre and they brought fear. You don't want to be perceived now as not loyal enough, not patriotic enough, not 'supportive of the people' enough. Network 13 continues to go to the Mi-To vs. 12 districts, and they will always lose there. Why? Because always 12 do it better. Yonit Levy will always be better than Udi Segal or Hila Korach."
But there is also a mirror image of this. Channel 12 News released Danielle Roth-Avnery, a sixth studio panelist, on Channel 13 News Avishai Ben Haim completely disappeared from the screen. There, too, they understand that public sentiment at the moment is not ready to contain circuses and propaganda.
"If Avishai Ben-Haim moves to Channel 14, he will be received there with great love by the audience, I think. He may just be in the wrong place right now. All his theories and the first Israel and the second Israel sound, so to speak, a little less appropriate at the moment. For example, to say that hegemonic Israel, unaware of its hegemony, suffered a serious blow in the massacre, because the kibbutzim and moshavim belong to it.
"You can be on a commercial, mainstream broadcast channel that aims for as many mainstream viewers as possible only if you're really not affiliated with some kind of political extremism. On the other hand, you can be on Channel 14 and be identified with political extremism of the Bibist kind. It could be that this is his natural place right now."
More in Walla!
Under the radar, under fire, is Karai's "media reform" underway?
See full article >
"The pendant of Greater Israel, including Gaza, from the river to the sea." Moria Asraf Wahlberg, News 13/Screenshot, Screenshot
Future? Continued confusion between national propaganda and journalistic work
"The editorial decision on 12, 13 and 11 says that showing some kind of empathy for Gazan civilians weakens us. One of the stars of the war is Elijah Yossian, yes?"
Do you think Israel should broadcast, as they did in previous operations or wars, from Gaza as well? Tell us what is happening there not only on the basis of what the IDF Spokesperson says (through military correspondents)?
"Tell me you, why not? Isn't that a professional duty, the most basic journalist? I'll tell you something. When you're an Israeli for 56 years like me, there are things you know are wrong, but you're also getting used to these norms. That is, for example, to this norm that if you want to see what is happening in Gaza, you cannot see certain channels. And it's a continuation of the same feed culture thing. Yes? Don't show me something I don't agree with, that feels bad, that makes me distressed, that makes me move badly on the chair.
"The editorial decision on 12, 13 and 11 essentially says that showing some kind of empathy for Gazan civilians weakens us. We are talking about a situation in which one of the new stars of the war is Eliyahu Yossian, yes? Which literally says what we have to do is indiscriminately murder, so 50,000 Gazans and so on is fine. This is morally perceived in Israel as reinforcing. On the face of it, images of Gazan babies can also strengthen because it reflects our strength. But they understand that it is better to leave it.
"Let's go back to the historic broadcast day, October 7. Israeli channels did not broadcast the WhatsApp and TikTok videos that already showed atrocities. You heard the residents of the envelope pleading for their lives, but they didn't broadcast the atrocities, and you might have thought that maybe it actually weakened the status of television, because in order to get this information that I want, I go to other sources. But you see again that television has managed to find balance. She lives with the networks and she knows that people see on the networks and she assumes it, and she uses it, but she frees herself from the need to make a more courageous moral decision: whether I broadcast it or not."
Risk making any prediction about the effect the war will have on Israeli television the day after. If there will be such a day at all.
"What is the day after? Right now you see a society mobilized entirely for war, and you'll notice what happened on TV. The whole advertising world is now mobilized as well, and that is the organizing principle. If you have some product, say, Gidi Gov sells Bezeq's Wi-Fi, it's against a Hamas cyberattack. Everything everything everything comes from this place. You see that the channels themselves, with their valuable prime-time broadcast time are completely recruited for this. I think you'll see a continuation of this trend of recruitment, and that way they'll also start solving the reality TV problems.
"You will see recruitment, and you will see a continuation of the confusion between national government propaganda and journalistic work. Later on, you'll see that they'll start pulling out the solutions that I'm sure they're starting to prepare now. What's happening right now is on their terms, that the format has already been completely cracked. Even before you begin the interview with the relative of the abductee who returned, you pretty much know what is going to be said. Things are starting to repeat themselves. There will come a moment of burnout, there will come a moment of breakage. By the way, usually it comes all at once, suddenly. And then everything collapses, like suddenly they stopped seeing Dudu Topaz or suddenly stopped seeing Dan Shilon. All of a sudden the viewers are like, 'Enough, I deserve this far.'
"You remember that during the second intifada, Keshet, of course, were the ones who came up with the format of 'We won't stop singing.' It preceded a star being born. And it was a kind of game show around a Hebrew singer, when they had the same problem, there were terrorist attacks in the background all the time. So they came to this solution of the most unifying thing, dating back to the days of Romema, the Israeli singer and that. Once again, this is the window through which they tried to enter with the 'next star'. Since then, Grandma's recipes (the cooking shows with their many D.W. variations) have been added, so they'll try to go there. Will work, will work. It won't work, they'll have to invent something else."
More in Walla!
"A secular liberal is an enemy of the state": a second before normalizing Eliyahu Yossian
See full article >
"Instead of through a regime coup – by convincing the public that it will kill them." Karai and Schocken/Image Processing, Reuven Castro
Rips and other trolls
"You're right that I'm less concerned with whether the program is good or not because we live in a time that is a bit of a bit of a mess."
It is impossible to end without talking about your platform, Haaretz newspaper and Shlomo Karai, who in recent days has sought to ban state payments, as well as government publications to the newspaper. He's trying to hurt you through his pocket.
"I can't speak for the newspaper, what is important for me to say is that now is the time to subscribe to Haaretz because you see that to a large extent at the moment, the values of freedom of the press and of a liberal and humanistic worldview, which also takes into account what is happening in Gaza, and also wants to know and does not want to remain in ignorance, and also wants to deal with the difficult questions, and also wants to live in a complicated world. In which the massacre is indeed a terrible and barbaric atrocity - but understands that we will have to continue living next door to Gaza and that it cannot be emptied of its inhabitants. This discourse is happening in Haaretz and we talked about it more than on mainstream channels, certainly more than on Channel 14. It's time. There is a renewed attack on liberal values in Israel, instead of through a regime coup – by convincing the public that it will kill them. We have to fight against this, because otherwise you will be left with a very serious violation of freedom of the press."
A question you've already answered in another conversation and in another newspaper, and still: TV criticism is a specialty, like restaurant criticism. Under the title TV review, you rarely write about television, but about its social or political contexts. Do you see in your mind a restaurant critic walking into a restaurant and then writing politics instead of about the service and how the food was? Some would see this as a disrespect to a profession called television.
"Then I'll reply again. The screen in this context is an anthropological tool for examining the values that guide Israeli society. You're right that I'm less concerned with the question of whether the program is good or not because we live in a time that is a bit of a trick. There is no law that says it has to be one way or another. Haaretz newspaper offers a very large and very diverse package of television criticism on a daily basis from a variety of writers, by the way of excellence. Yasmin Levy is excellent, Niv Hadas is excellent, Chen Hadad too. All this is not lacking. Within this is also the way I currently perceive the work. By the way, to me it is not very different, for example, from how Yasmin Levy writes as well. That is, although it relates more to questions of the quality of the program itself and so on, the bottom line is also the fuel that drives it is the fuel in principle, values, and that's a good thing. That's what makes it interesting."
- More on the subject:
- Here 11
- Avi Nir
- Molly Segev
- Iron Sword War
- Rogel Alper
- Shlomo Karai