Billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Ronald Lauder play an ever-greater role in Israel’s media. Does their growing muscle threaten press freedom and journalistic ethics?
Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson has long been seen as a powerful force in Israel’s body politic. He’s the owner of Israel’s largest daily newspaper and so close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he sat in the front row of the Knesset’s VIP section for Netanyahu’s 2009 electoral victory appearance.
Adelson is also close to another American billionaire: Ronald Lauder, who co-owns Channel 10, one of Israel’s major TV outlets. Now, due to a humiliating apology that Channel 10 was forced to broadcast for an investigative piece on Adelson, his influence and connections are being decried as a threat to Israeli press freedoms.
The station’s news chief, one of its senior editors and a station anchorman have all resigned to protest the apology – the anchorman doing so in a dramatic statement he gave on the popular news magazine program This Week, right after a junior staff member read the formal apology to Adelson on camera.
“This is one of the biggest crises in the Israeli media,” said Tal Schneider, journalist with the financial newspaper Globes and a former media lawyer. “What will happen next week if Channel 10 has a big story about Bibi [Netanyahu]? Will Sheldon pick up the phone and call Lauder?”