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Gallant reportedly to keep Army Radio running, won’t privatize station

Bucking long-held plans to shutter station, defense minister will instead reduce number of soldiers covering politics, increase number covering social and military matters

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant reportedly won’t shut down or privatize Army Radio despite several years of announcements by successive governments and the military that they intend to do so.

Gallant accepted the recommendations of an advisory panel established to investigate the matter — and rejected those of former Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff, and current military head Herzi Halevi, to remove the station from the purview of the military and the Defense Ministry, the Kan public broadcaster reported Monday.

The defense minister was also said to accept other proposals by the panel, including reducing the number of soldiers involved in political coverage for the station while increasing the number of those involved in covering military and social matters.

Furthermore, the station’s oversight mechanism will be revamped, the report said, without giving further details.

The decision comes over two years after then-defense minister Benny Gantz announced a plan to separate Army Radio from the IDF, a move that had long been expected but was repeatedly delayed so as to avoid shuttering the station for good.

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The Attorney General’s Office at the time said Gantz and the IDF lacked the authority to shutter Army Radio on their own, and that instead, a Knesset bill would be the best method for approving such a move.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks at an award ceremony for outstanding officers, at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, September 3, 2023. (Shahar Yorman/ Defense Ministry

In January, Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said Army Radio was superfluous and that he aimed to shutter it along with the Kan public broadcaster.

The military’s operating and funding of a radio station with journalists responsible for investigating the IDF itself as well as politicians has long been considered anachronistic, expensive, and an ethical minefield.

The station’s position as a media outlet has therefore always been an uneasy one, functioning simultaneously, and sometimes discordantly, as an independent news organization that seeks to critique the government as well as an arm of the Israeli military dedicated to covering the troops and furthering the narrative of the military as an area of national consensus.

Army Radio — one of the most listened-to news stations in the country — is staffed by a mix of young soldiers and seasoned journalists.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.