An international news network focused solely on the Jewish world and bankrolled by two astonishingly wealthy Ukrainian oligarchs has been suddenly shuttered this week, replaced by a Ukrainian network with a propaganda slant.
Jewish News One (JN1) was founded in 2011 by Vadim Rabinovich and multibillionaire Igor Kolomoisky, both Ukrainian Jewish businessmen who touted the channel as the “Jewish answer to Al Jazeera.” Padded by its funders’ deep pockets and staffed by an Israeli bureau and a team of global stringers, JN1 was a 24/7 news network reporting international news around the clock, all with a slant geared toward the Jewish world.
The station claims to have reached an average of 70 million viewers during its three years on the airwaves, with satellite coverage beaming it into households on five continents. In the U.S., it was broadcast for eight hours daily as JLTV on both cable and DirecTV. But with unrest stirring in Ukraine and Rabinovich, who is Jewish, said to be gearing up for a presidential bid, staffers over the past month began hearing murmurs of a potential closure. Last week, in a strange bit of timing that corresponded with the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover, all employees were informed of their termination and the station was renamed UN1, or Ukraine News 1.
Little additional information was offered.
“No one has confirmed anything, but Rabinovich wanted to turn this channel into his own propaganda channel for his presidency,” said Ron Jacobsohn, JN1’s chief correspondent, who along with correspondent Sivan Raviv staffed the station’s Israel bureau. “Financially there was no indication of trouble because the station was a non-profit … but we all knew that as soon as they got tired of this toy, they could just shut it down any minute they wanted to. And that’s what they did.”
Rabinovich and Kolomoisky could not be reached for comment.
Last year, the Israeli 24/7 news station i24news, which broadcasts in English, Arabic and French, entered the market, but Jacobsohn says that i24 never served as a true competitor for JN1, because while it does most of its reporting inhouse from a flashy set of offices south of Tel Aviv, JN1 was heavily reliant on first-hand reports from global stringers. And while the print market for Jewish publications remains saturated, Jacobsohn says he is concerned that with the shuttering of JN1, there is now a troubling gap in the market.
“We’re journalists. One day we’re here and one day we’re there. I’ll find another job,” he says. “But having one channel broadcasting news to Jews all over the world, for a people that 70 years ago didn’t have news that the Holocaust was happening — that was major.”