Israeli Network Reshet Says It Is Canceling Merger With Channel Ten

Israeli television network Reshet has announced that it is canceling its planned merger with fellow network Channel Ten, saying that foot-dragging by the country’s broadcasting authority, whose final approval is required, had put it in an untenable position.

“The broadcast authority’s avoidance of a decision on the merger request has led to its cancellation,” Reshet said in a surprise statement Monday. “Despite the deal signed between Reshet and Channel Ten, and despite the understanding that a merger between the two channels is the best solution for the Israeli television market, the Reshet shareholders were forced to announce today the cancellation of the merger.”

Reshet said that its board would meet in the coming days to formally cancel the merger and that it would revert to its full programming schedule, undoing the preliminary work it had undertaken to integrate Channel Ten. The network said it could not continue indefinitely in the uncertainty brought about by the broadcasting authority’s foot-dragging.

Israel’s Antitrust Authority had already given its approval to the merger in August, after the two financially ailing networks said that joining forces was their only option for survival. Since Israel’s commercial Channel 2 split in two last year, forcing networks Keshet and Reshet to begin broadcasting on separate channels, the Israeli TV industry – and, in particular, Reshet and Channel Ten, the only other commercial Israeli network – has been suffering. Since the split, Reshet and Keshet have aired the same news broadcast simultaneously, while Channel Ten airs the only other commercial nightly news program.

The Antitrust Authority said in August that, while the merger would harm competition in the market, barring the move could lead to the collapse of Channel Ten entirely, leaving Israel with just a single commercial news station.

Reshet’s announcement Monday leaves the future of the two networks up in the air. Several analysts have speculated that Reshet, which has been behind hit shows such as “Harem,” is attempting a last-ditch effort to pressure the broadcast authority into approving the merger. But the authority would have just a brief window in which to make a decision on the merger before Reshet’s shareholders ratify the move to cancel it.

According to Israeli media reports, Channel Ten is in the most immediate financial danger. Some say that, instead of merging, Reshet could purchase Channel Ten’s news division outright, which would probably lead the network to shut down the rest of its operations.

Financial daily Globes reported Sunday that media mogul Eli Azur – who owns the Jerusalem Post, the Maariv daily and several radio stations – is in negotiations to invest NIS 10 million ($2.74 million) in Channel Ten, which could help it survive at least the coming months.

But industry insiders are in agreement on one point: The current situation in the Israeli TV market is unstable, and its future is uncertain.

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