State public notices will soon be appearing in free daily newspapers Israel Hayom and Israel Post, the Interior Ministry announced Wednesday. Those two newspapers will replace two others that are being taken off the list of advertising shekel recipients – the nearly-defunct Maariv and leftist daily Haaretz. Advertising in the daily Yediot Achronot will continue as before.
The decision means millions of shekels of advertising income for the two newcomers, and a commensurate loss for the papers taken off the list. The ads include tenders for new building projects, ads for new government programs, and public notices. For newspapers, the ads are almost a guaranteed source of advertising income, as the government is required by law to place ads for various purposes. The Ministry said that the ads were worth a total of NIS 10 million a year.
The decision to remove Maariv from the list could be attributed to financial issues, analysts said – the paper's appearance has been spotty, at best, and the paper is likely to be shut down altogether.
Saar said Wednesday that the reason for the decision was based strictly on circulation, with the government preferring to place ads in the most widely-read newspapers. At this point, he said, the government would get more publicity for its ads in the two free dailies, along with Yediot, than it would in Haaretz.
Many in the government and on the right have complained about the extreme leftist positions of Haaretz on security matters. In a Facebook posting in December, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett attacked Haaretz, saying that it published only negative reports about his Jewish Home party and Judaism in Israel in general. “In recent months Haaretz has been running an organized and precise campaign against the Jewish identity of Israel,” Bennett wrote. “Various groups, in conjunction with Haaretz, have been leading the battle. They have had articles that deny the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and others against visits by students to Jewish sites.”
The decision to advertise in Israel Hayom, meanwhile, was seen as a boost to the right-leaning newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson. While several MKs have recently talked about tabling legislation that would prevent the distribution of free newspapers in Israel, Saar said that as far as the Ministry was concerned there was no difference between newspapers that were sold or distributed for free.