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Establishment of Channel 2
Establishment of Channel 10
Establishing Regional Radio

Establishing Regional Radio

In December 1994, seven tenders were issued for regional radio franchises in seven of eleven areas designated by law. In March 1995, the Authority's Council selected the winning bids, and on September 1st, 1995 -the eve of the Jewish New Year, regional radio began broadcasting in Israel. Four stations went on air at the same time (in a joint transmission) in Jerusalem, Haifa, the Sharon and Eilat. And the catchphrase "the station by my house" suddenly became a dynamic new communications reality.

That same year, two additional stations began broadcasting, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Beersheba, and additional tenders were published for eight more regions. In March 1996, franchise holders for Tel Aviv and the Sharon were chosen (besides those that had begun transmitting the year before), as well as for the Judean Plateau, the Hefer Valley, the Valleys region and the religious and Arabic language sectors. In addition, an additional tender was offered for the Haifa region, but no proposals were made. That same year, four stations began broadcasting, and in 1997, three additional stations began operating in the Sharon, the Judean Plateau and the Arabic sector.

Regional radio stations have been established under the Law for the Second Authority for Television and Radio, 1990, which determines that the stations-publicly supervised by the Second Authority-are to be operated by private franchise holders and financed through commercial advertising. Furthermore, the law stipulates that the first franchise period is for a four-year period, and that the Second Authority Council may extend the franchise for two additional four-year periods without a new tender, at its own discretion and based upon the franchise holder's performance.

In 1998, within the framework of preparations for the second franchise period, the Authority's rules were amended (an amendment that came into force in March, 1999), enabling each station to characterize its broadcasts. Out of 14 stations operating at the time, twelve decided to position themselves as regional community stations, and two became sectorial-an Arabic language station in the country's center and the other-also in the central region-programming in accordance with Jewish themes.

As part of the positioning process, radio stations began to broadcast news that was supplied by different sources-Channel 10 and Channel 2. Before that, the stations had been required to broadcast news produced by the Israel Broadcasting Authority-a requirement that resulted in a conflict of interests. As a result, each station was given the freedom to choose its own news provider or-indeed-to produce its own news independently, and to decide whether to broadcast news every hour on the hour or not.

The success of regional stations may be ascribed to their ability to create an empathetic audience while offering an alternative style of radio, rather than one that emulates existing media. Gradually but consistently, these stations began to conquer audiences and establish regular listener habits. Over the years, regional radio has maintained growing trends in audience data, generally commanding high levels of audience satisfaction-often unexpectedly so.

In spite of the competition from numerous other sources-television, internet, print media and cellular content-radio continues to be seen as the most important and influential medium effecting the Israeli public agenda. It is available 24 hours a day, at home, in the car and at work; and it is the means by which we are updated on daily affairs: current affairs, news, entertainment, advice and community information. Radio connects between people and the experience of daily Israeli reality. And, regional radio has an added value that guides its activities: it is a primary intersection for a geographical area, one that creates a wide common denominator for the local community. It enables listeners living in the franchise area to receive information regarding events in their immediate surroundings; and it fosters a high level of civic awareness, while strengthening democratic values and promoting participation in the public discourse. The schedule of each station is characterized in accordance with the target audience defined for a region; and thus, regional radio offers alternatives and variety, compared to other nation-wide media outlets. Regional radio determines the regional agenda, deals with topics and questions that concern its listening audience and thus maintains its strength and uniqueness as a defining medium whose aim is-among others-to strengthen and assist socio-civic activities, by the community and for it.

Because regional radio stations are financed through the sale of air-time-the broadcasting of commercial advertising, listener satisfaction can also be measured in economic terms of advertising share. From the very start, regional radio immediately commanded about one third of radio advertising. This success proves that a market that had hitherto seemed satiated was, in fact, thirsty for this medium. At present, radio accounts for about 6% of all advertising revenue and regional radio for about 40% of this total share (based on Advertisers Union data for 2006).

Over the years, stations have requested extensions of their franchise, and these have been extended three times-in accordance with the amended Law for the Second Authority, which allows the Council to extent a franchise up to three times.

Radio 2000, which used to broadcast to the Arabic sector, encountered financial difficulties in 1998 and was appointed a trustee. In 2000, the station ended its first franchise period and decided not to request an extension. As a result, in December 2000, a new tender was published for an Arabic language radio station, but no offers were made. In 2002, a new tender was issued and won by the Radio A-Shams Group, which began broadcasting in 2003.

In 2002, following the identification of a need amongst the religious public that had not been satisfied by the limited scope of the existing dedicated religious station, an additional region was created (bringing the total up to twelve) and a tender for that area published. Radio Kol Hai Broadcasting in Faith won the tender and began broadcasting in January 2004 to an extended regional area.

2008 was the year of regional radio tenders. The first wave of tender offerings (for Haifa, Jerusalem, the Sharon, the Dan Region, the South and Eilat) was at its peak, and most of the stations belonging to that group were renewing their broadcasts with updated and new timetables, which had been adapted to the needs of the target audiences living within their broadcast regions.

Besides Jerusalem, all of the groups that were selected for this first wave were the same as those who had operated the stations before the renewal process had begun. In Jerusalem, a new group-Radio Ha-Bira (Capital Radio)-was selected, and it began broadcasting on September 1st, 2009.

In addition, in 2008, the Authority's Council decided upon two new tender winners-one for the AYOSH region (Region 14-Judea and Samaria excepting areas A & B, which are under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction) that was won by the Radyosh Group (the only one who had made an offer for the tender), and which began broadcasting on December 20th, 2009; and the other for a Sephardic Rabbinical station in the central region (Region 13, including parts of the Judean Plateau, the wider Jerusalem area and the Negev), for which two groups competed-Kol Mevaser and Kol Barama. The latter won and began broadcasting on March 10th, 2009.

During 2008, the second wave of tenders was published for the Galilee and Golan Heights, the Valleys region, the Hefer Region, the Dan Region, the Judean Plateau and the Sharon. The winning tenders were selected in 2009, and-as in the first wave-all the groups selected were those that had operated the radio stations before the tenders were published. Except for the Sharon region, where two groups competed-Radio Ahshav (Now) and Radio 99, in all other areas only one group made offers; and even in the Sharon, the winning bid was that of the previous franchisee-Radio 99.

During the tenders' process, the offering parties upgraded their proposals from the content and operational aspects. These improvements involved efficiency, innovation and other aspects of communal and regional activities, while maintaining internal oversight and the rules and regulations of the Second Authority, The new schedules included extended slots devoted to communal and regional topics, advice and listener call-ins, promotion for local culture and talents, local and national current events, sports, leisure, religion, tradition and more.

Currently, the Radio Department is responsible for 15 radio stations-12 regional stations broadcasting to audiences defined upon geographical parameters and three broadcasting to sectorial audiences (one religious, one ultra-orthodox and another in the Arabic language). In addition, the Department assists the Second Authority for Television and Radio in the Judea & Samaria Region by order of the commander of the army's Central Command, which offered the tender for and supervises the broadcasts of the regional radio station that broadcasts in the Judea and Samaria region.

Besides the internal oversight mechanisms that each station is required to maintain, the Radio Department supervises the stations, their broadcasts and their performance in accordance with the Second Authority Law and regulations.

A major portion of the supervision is executed through public complaints. Each of these is dealt with individually based upon its nature. In most cases, an inquiry includes monitoring of the program under review, studying the station's response to the matter, analysis of the event and its examination vis-a-vis the regulations to which broadcasters are obligated. Sometimes, additional entities are consulted with (the Authority's legal adviser, the author of the complaint, the station officials or others) in order to collate all the relevant facts and supplementary information. At the end of the inquiry, the Department formulates its professional opinion and offers recommendations or guidelines for the continued treatment of the matter. This can include discussions with the station to correct a fault and/or prevent future re-occurrence, provision of guidelines and instructions to the station, and often to the entire network, or referral of the matter to a violations procedure.

Alongside its supervisory function, the Radio Department is also responsible for the advancement of regional radio. It strives to promote the goals of regional radio and maintain the interests of the public. The Department represents the field vis-a-vis government ministries and the Knesset, and cooperates with the stations through consultation-both written and verbal.

Without doubt, the technological challenges facing the Second Authority require us to adopt constantly innovating modes of regulation. The infiltration of digital technology into radio is unavoidable, and it opens new vistas. Here, too, radio will continue to be a central and important player-a source for knowledge, culture, news and music. Regional radio stations will continue to fulfill their task against a background of innovation in broadcast technology: addressing an area's inhabitants or a sectorial audience, providing answers to their needs by broadcasting local news, sport and talent, providing consumer reports and reporting on current affairs that are ignored by national media, facilitating communications between an area's functionaries and their constituents, and much, much more. This is what makes regional radio unique and therein lies its strength-one that needs to be constantly reaffirmed and maintained, especially in this age of constantly changing characteristics of media consumption and technology.