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      MK Proposes: Ban Free Newspapers

      MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) has submitted a legislative proposal to ban the free distribution of newspapers for more than a year.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 1/31/2010, 3:52 PM / Last Update: 1/31/2010, 3:46 PM

      MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) has submitted a legislative proposal to ban the free distribution of newspapers for more than a year.

      The proposal must pass the review of the Knesset’s legal office in order to be approved for consideration.

      The bill would enable a newspaper to be distributed nationally for free for only one year, after which it must be sold.  Publications of government offices and other public institutions would be exempt from the law, Solodkin explained, as would be weeklies and local papers.

      The daily freebie newspaper Israel Today (Yisrael Hayom) is clearly the target of Solodkin’s proposal. The controversial paper, owned by Sheldon Adelson, is 2.5 years old, and has already grabbed a large share of Israel’s newspaper market.  It has been blamed - or credited - for the tumble of Israel’s #2 newspaper, Maariv, and even for endangering Maariv’s very existence.  The #1 paper, Yediot Acharonot, has also lost part of its market share, but still retains its leading position. 

      A market survey by TGI shows that Yediot was ahead of Yisrael Hayom by 12.7 percentage points in the second half of 2008 – and now leads by only 7.3 points, 33.9 to 26.6%.  Maariv trails far behind both, with a 13.6% readership share, just over half of that of Yisrael Hayom.

      Solodkin to INN: Maariv is Endangered
      Asked to explain why she submitted the bill, Solodkin told Israel National News, “I am in favor of freedom of expression and pluralism, but in the current situation, there is a danger of centralization – one paper for the lower classes that want a free newspaper, and one for the upper classes.”

      When reminded that at present, there are three leading daily newspapers, instead of only two, Solodkin said, “Yes, but Maariv is in danger of folding. There must be fair competition; it is unfair if a newspaper can cause another to close because it’s given out for free. This is what I am trying to prevent.”

      Solodkin, a member of the opposition Kadima party, did not acknowledge that her motives stem from a bias against Yisrael Hayom’s pro-Netanyahu bias: “I actually support Netanyahu in many things, and agree with many of the opinions expressed in Yisrael Hayom… I could have had many Kadima MKs join me in co-sponsoring this bill, but I didn’t want to make it an opposition-vs.-coalition affair.”

      Sunday’s front page of Yisrael Hayom featured articles on the Hamas terrorist’s assassination, the U.S. anti-missile missiles in the Persian Gulf, Israel’s response to the Goldstone Report, and the recall of Toyotas in Israel.