The future of Israel's newest television broadcaster, Channel 10, hangs in the balance as controlling shareholder Yossi Maiman gives the station one week to avoid bankruptcy.
Maiman, who holds 51% of Channel 10's interests, has recently been injecting some $8m a month into the operation to keep it afloat.
Last weekend, however, he decided he had enough. He gathered his partners and told them that unless they started contributing their share to keep the ailing broadcaster afloat, he intended to pull the plug, or at best, reduce activities to a bare minimum. Maiman announced that he would wait for one week, before taking such drastic measures.
Maiman, who has been increasing his interest in the channel throughout the last year, has invested over $60m into the operation.
Plagued from the very beginning by low ratings, Channel 10's fortunes were not improved even after Maiman encouraged his new CEO, Mody Friedman, to go on a buying spree, poaching the hottest stars from the competition with exorbitant salaries which went, in one case, over $5m, and signing film and TV contracts with American studios like Paramount, Fox and Universal.
Further expenses came with the acquisition of sports programming, including a slice of the domestic Premier League and the Euroleague basketball championship games. The station's ratings, however, remained unresponsive and consequently advertising did not materialise.
Now, a year after its launch, the Channel is required by the terms of its franchise, to start investing in its own productions, which would means an additional annual expense of some $60m.
Local media reports claim that prime minister Ariel Sharon, who is also acting minister of communications, has arranged a meeting with Maiman.
At the same time, the governmental Knesset Economics Committee has scheduled an urgent meeting for today (April 2). Relaxing the franchise conditions for Channel 10 would require legislation, as current broadcasting law stipulates that if the broadcaster fails to meet its obligations for 2003, its license would be immediately revoked.
Maiman's wish, as expressed in numerous local interviews over the weekend, is to keep most of the present programming intact but on a reduced basis, with a much smaller staff, incurring for him an expense of no more than $1.5m a month.