MKs and civic leaders on the right and left have signed onto an ad that will appear in the Tuesday edition of Makor Rishon, asking that the Anti-trust Authority to certify the sale of the paper and the NRG news website to the Israel Hayom group. The signers include MK Zahava Gal-on, head of Meretz, as well as former Knesset speaker Avram Burg, former Israel Broadcast Association director Moti Kirschenbaum, Professor Asa Kasher of Tel Aviv University, and others.
The ad appeals to the Authority to remove the cloud of doubt from workers at the newspaper and approve the sale. “For weeks the Authority has been considering the sale of Makor Rishon and the NRG news site to the Israel Hayom group, owned by Sheldon Adelson,” the ad says. “As is well-known, there is a sharp debate in Israeli society about Israel Hayom's editorial policy and marketing tactics. Nevertheless, we support the sale of the paper to the Israel Hayom group,” the ad says.
Despite the fact that Makor Rishon is considered the most rightwing newspaper in Israel, most of the signers of Tuesday's ads themselves are leftwing. Among the signers are several who are quite vocal in their political views, including Professor Moshe Negbi, Channel Ten journalist Yaron London, Reshet Bet program host Karen Noybach, and Professor Yedidya Stern. They joined with MKs on the right, including Yariv Levin, and entertainers and media personalities such as singer Yehoram Gaon and Channel One broadcaster Yaakov Achimeir, to support the paper.
Employees of the paper and of the web site met Sunday to discuss the refusal – so far - of the Authority to approve the sale of the paper. Israel Hayom was the highest bidder for the assets of the company that owned Makor Rishon and NRG, which had been purchased in 2012 by Shlomo Ben-Zvi, after the company was declared insolvent last year.
The sale of the paper to Israel Hayom was engineered by CPA Chen Berdichev, the receiver for Makor Rishon and NRG. However, the deal expires Thursday – and if the sale is not approved by then, the paper will have to be shut down, with all employees fired, Berdichev said.
Supporters of Makor Rishon, which has a rightwing editorial line, suspect that politics is involved in the refusal of the Authority to approve the sale until now. Drawing on the experience of television's Channel 10, which faced closure several years ago under similar circumstances, MK Orit Struk (Jewish Home) called on the Anti-Trust Authority Director to speed up his decision. “The newspaper's shutdown will be a serious blow to freedom of expression and could gravely hurt this quality newspaper's readers, and the special hue it adds to public discourse in Israel,” she warned. She expressed hope that senior journalists would join her call, as they did when Channel 10 faced closure.
However, supporters of the paper said, Channel 10 leans heavily to the political left, Unlike Makor Rishon. It has been repeatedly saved by state loans from shutting down.
Calling its examination professional, the Authority said that politics was not a factor in its decision, and that there had been no contact from a political entity to influence the commissioner's decision.