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Israel mulls early Channel 2 split

Israeli regulators are preparing plans to prevent the country ending up with just one commercial broadcaster in the wake of the possible closure of Channel 10.

Shai Babad, director of the Second Television and Radio Authority, and communications minister Gilad Erdan want Reshet and Keshet to each broadcast seven days a week on their own channels from as early as the start of 2015.

The duo also said they want the franchisees to break up their Channel 2 joint venture, according to reports in local media.

Channel 10 is currently looking for an investor to replace US billionaire Ronald Lauder and is still determined to keep the channel afloat despite its financial woes. The channel is also seeking an extension of its licence, which expires at the end of the year.

As it stands, Reshet and Keshet control 75% to 80% of all TV advertising revenues in Israel.

The two Channel 2 operators are supposed to move to separate broadcasting in 2017 and this new proposal would give them only a few months to prepare new programming and promotions.

Their present broadcast licences run until November 2015, and groundwork is now underway to expand to seven-day broadcasting, subject to a green light from the authorities.

But the franchisees have said they will need to spend enormous sums on marketing and developing new programming in preparation for an earlier-than-expected split.

Last week, Babad and Erdan got backing for their proposal from Israel’s finance ministry, which offered to release ILS35m (US$10.1m) of the nearly ILS200m that Reshet and Keshet paid for the licences in 2005.

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