Women on the Air in Israel

You’d think that having radio and television producers calling Israeli women’s organizations for resources would be unalloyedly good news. Not so, according to Leslie Sacks, spokeswoman for the Israel Women’s Network, the umbrella group for women’s organizations in Israel, interviewed recently in Jerusalem. “The media in Israel is becoming increasingly tabloid-like. New local radio stations and the new second television network (which is the first one to carry advertising, no boon to the image of women) do lots of talk shows because they are cheap to do,” notes Sacks. And that’s where the problem lies; women as victims—whether of spousal abuse, unjust divorce laws or employment discrimination— are hot subjects for these shows. “The media wants only personal testimony,” says Sacks, referring to the lurid details of women’s unhappiness that the talk show hosts and audiences seem to feed upon. “They only want a woman who was raped, beaten or ran away from home.” Sacks adds that when she tells producers that she can provide women judges, sociologists, and others who are working to analyze women’s rights in Israel, these offers are turned down in favor of the suffering victim.

The good news is that Channel One (more like Public Television in the United States) has convened a Committee on the Status of Women. Sacks, who serves on the Committee, notes that its victories include creating regulations for how women are to be addressed on the air. In the past, a male guest would be “Professor So-and-So. A woman on the same program would be referred to by her first name,” no matter what her stature or title. Sacks’s title and job are, in fact, unique in Israel. She says she is the “only full-time feminist spokesperson in the country.”