Israel will loan its public broadcaster $18.8 million to help cover the production costs of the Eurovision Song Contest, despite objections by the broadcaster's CEO.
Israel's Public Broadcasting Corporation – known as Kan – agreed to accept a loan of 70 million shekels ($18.8 million) from the Israeli Treasury to underwrite the cost of producing the contest. The loan will cover only a fraction of the total budget, which is projected to reach 110 million shekels ($29.4 million), Haaretz reported.
Kan had previously argued that the cost should not fall solely on its shoulders, with the corporation's board saying that the "allocation of 110 million shekels from its own budget to finance just three evenings of broadcasts poses great difficulties, possibly harming local productions, creative artists and employees".
Yet despite the difficulties in self-funding the production of Eurovision, Kan was reluctant to accept a state loan to cover the costs. Citing concerns that the corporation would be unable to repay the huge sum, the station's CEO Eldad Koblenz voted against today's decision.
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Today's announcement will be seen as a defeat for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had previously told the Treasury that he would not allow the Eurovision to be financed using state funds. Haaretz added that Kan's operating budget – which itself comes from the Israeli state – already exceeds 700 million shekels ($187 million).
Israel will host the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in May after its contestant Netta Barzilai won this year's competition in Portugal. Shortly after winning, Israel announced that it would host the 2019 event in Jerusalem, provoking worldwide criticism and calls to boycott the contest.
However in September, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) announced the contest would be held not in Jerusalem but Tel Aviv. EBU's Executive Supervisor for the Eurovision Song Contest, Jon Ola Sand, claimed that while several Israeli cities had bid to host the event, "in the end we decided that Tel Aviv provides the best overall setup for the world's largest live music event".
Calls to boycott the Eurovision have persisted. In October, a group of Irish celebrities called on international artists to impose a boycott and urged Irish TV network RTE not to attend. Spokesperson for the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign Zoë Lawlor explained that:
Not only would performing in the Eurovision in Israel be a betrayal of the Palestinian people, but has the potential to be very damaging to an artist's career. Just as it was the right thing to do to respect the call to boycott apartheid South Africa, so it is with the Palestinian call.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has successfully persuaded a host of international artists to boycott music events in Israel in the past, including the Meteor Festival this September. As many as 15 bands and musicians pulled out of the festival, though Lana Del Ray refused to cancel her performance despite calls to do so.
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