Friday October 9, 2015
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Don't tinker with freedom of the press
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Gonen Ginat

Noni Mozes the puppeteer

Last Friday, a friend sent me a photograph taken at an Israel Hayom distribution point in Ramat Gan. Several hundred Israelis were waiting in line to receive a copy of the newspaper. It was not the first such photo I have seen; I often receive photos like this from friends. It turns out that Israelis very much love what we are doing here at Israel Hayom.

And these Israelis, who are growing in number, apparently very much annoy those who have not recovered from losing control of the state. Arnon (Noni) Mozes, the head of Israel Hayom's competitor Yedioth Ahronoth, is having trouble dealing with this. Such scenes are difficult for him.

When Israel Hayom was just starting out, Yedioth's people also tried to create a free newspaper, 24 Minutes. This was quite an in-depth product: Its top headlines dealt with fateful matters like how many silicone injections a certain model received and who had been seen with whom at various parties. Unfortunately, Israelis did not appreciate the investment that went into this intellectual masterpiece, and it collapsed.

It was precisely then -- what a coincidence -- that Yedioth suddenly discovered that distributing free newspapers is wrong (except for the thousands of free copies of Yedioth that are handed out, but, of course, Yedioth is allowed to do what it wants).

Now, Yedioth has enlisted Knesset members to submit a bill designed to silence voices. This is unbelievable. Today, there is not a single Western nation, including all the states in the U.S., where there are not at least two newspapers that cost the customer nothing. You want to call these "freebies"? Go ahead. There are other countries, not just Israel, where free newspapers are the most widely read and compete against others. In all these countries, the papers that cost money have understood the challenge and have tried to contend with it. Only in Israel could a newspaper owner, in this case Mozes, turn legislators into puppets on strings to help silence the competition.

And for what? To pay instead of getting for free. To be suckers. Noni Mozes' suckers.

So-called journalists who mindlessly repeat messages received from Mozes tell us that Israel Hayom has no business model. Sorry? Do these journalists even know what a business model looks like? Are they capable of understanding one?

The business plan is a problem? Since its founding, Channel 10 has lost more than 1.3 billion shekels ($374 million) of its owners' money and another billion shekels of public funds (non-payment of franchise and royalty fees that were part of the tender and the reduction of obligations that were part of its conditions). This black hole was created despite the so-called "business plan" that the heads of Channel 10 presented every time they ran to the Knesset to demand a bailout, again and again. These are the geniuses who speak of a "business model"?

At one point in their war against Israel Hayom, Yedioth's people and their puppets tried to convince the public that Israel Hayom may be widely distributed, but it has no influence. If they themselves believed this, they would not enlist Knesset members to work for them and would not try -- for the third time already -- to pass a silencing bill that has no equivalent anywhere else in the world.

They know that Israel Hayom has influence. The lines at the distribution points in the pictures that are sent to us are clear evidence of this. This influence -- which is manifested in reality by the fact that advertisers choose Israel Hayom -- worries them greatly.

The proposed Knesset bill to silence Israel Hayom is a dirty game. Knesset members who were elected to work for the good of the public have been enlisted into the service of a business interest against a competitor. The public would gain no benefit from having to pay in the future for something it now gets for free.

But every day on his way to work, the puppeteer who controls these Knesset members sees the lines of people waiting to receive a copy of Israel Hayom and his heart sinks. He knows that he has already lost the ability to dictate to them what and how to think. So he is now trying to silence his irksome competitor. A Knesset member being honest with himself would call Yedioth "Pravda."

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