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Ted Turner and Israel

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Israelis threaten to drop CNN after Turner comment

Ewen MacAskill and Oliver Burkeman in New York
Guardian

Friday June 21, 2002

Israelis yesterday began to take punitive action against the US global television network CNN, whose founder, Ted Turner, accused the country of engaging in terrorism.

One of Israel's biggest satellite companies, Yes, bowed to the furore Mr Turner's remarks created by allowing in CNN's biggest rival, Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch. Some Yes board members also threatened to pull the plug on CNN for 24 hours or even longer.

But a spokewoman for CNN, Susanna Flood, said that at a meeting between CNN and Yes in London yesterday Yes "gave us an assurance that it has no intention of taking CNN off".

In a further protest, the Yesha council, which represents Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, banned CNN reporters from entering settlements. The council accused CNN of being "unfair and unbalanced".

CNN has faced criticism from Israelis for its coverage of the Middle East crisis. Accusations of bias were fuelled by Mr Turner's interview in the Guardian on Tuesday in which he said Israel was engaged in terrorism against the Palestinians: "Aren't the Israelis and Palestinians both terrorising each other?"

Mr Turner later put out a statement seeking to cool the row: "I regret any implication that I believe the actions taken by Israel to protect its people are equal to terrorism."

But the Israeli communications minister, Reuven Rivlin, said that if Mr Turner had made his comments in Israel, he would have been declared persona non grata.

Celebrating Fox's success in making inroads into Israel, Doug Murphy, vice-president for international distribution, said: "We've been in negotiations since about October 2001, and we're thrilled to be up and running now."

He added: "It's a necessary channel there. Our mantra is 'fair and balanced', and that has sunk in with Israelis who have been spending time here in the United States. Then they've gone back to Israel and said that's the type of viewpoint that they want."

But Fox has been the target of much criticism in the US from those who accuse it of a rightwing and pro-Israeli bias. A report last year from the pressure group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, said that "Fox's entire editorial policy revolves around the idea that the mainstream media have a liberal bias that Fox is obligated to rectify".

The channel recently adopted a policy of referring to Palestinian suicide bombers as "homicide bombers".

In Israel, a Yes broadcaster and a source close to the head of Israel's three cable providers, now engaged in a merger, told Reuters the companies will consider whether to take CNN off the air. At least two board members had demanded that Yes take CNN off the air for at least 24 hours.

A source close to Ram Belinkov, who will be chief executive of a merged company of the three cable providers, Matav Cable Systems Media, Tevel and Golden Channels, said: "Turner's comments were the latest in a long line of biased coverage" against Israel.

Yes, 45% of which is held by state-controlled phone company Bezeq Israel Telecom, competes with the cable companies in providing television services. It has about 300,000 subscribers in Israel.

     

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