Israeli Cable Companies Drop CNN

JERUSALEM—Israel’s cable TV companies announced Thursday that they would quit carrying CNN news broadcasts in November, saying they could not longer afford it.

The decision, which comes amid criticism by some in Israel of CNN coverage of the Mideast conflict, means Israelis won’t receive CNN news broadcasts via the cable companies starting in November.

The companies applied to the Council for Cable TV and Satellite Broadcasting, a government body, for permission to let their contracts with CNN lapse. The council agreed, said Efrat Shimoni, head of channel licensing. There was still the possibility that the dispute could be settled before November.

Ron Ciccone, CNN’s managing director for the Middle East, said the company would study the council’s decision, but said it appeared to be continued “scapegoating of CNN.” In a statement, Ciccone said, “We have every concern that the Israeli public be properly served with responsible and objective reporting. If in fact they lose CNN, it will be a sad loss for their freedom of choice.”

Israeli officials and pro-Israeli groups have said CNN’s coverage of the violence in the region sometimes favors the Palestinians, a charge the cable network has always denied.

In October, 2000, Gideon Meir, a foreign ministry official, told Jerusalem Post Radio that Israel had complained to CNN about the way it was reporting the violence. And the Yesha council, which represents Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, said earlier this year that CNN’s reporting was unbalanced and barred its reporters from the settlements.

In June, CNN founder Ted Turner added to the dispute by equating Palestinian bombing and Israeli military retaliation. “I would make the case that both sides are engaged in terrorism,” Turner said in an interview with British newspaper The Guardian.

The network was deluged with complaints and dispatched chief news executive Eason Jordan to Israel to smooth things over.

“Certainly, his comments aggravated matters,” Jordan said, but added that “any suggestion that CNN is anti-Israel is absolutely ridiculous and baseless.” Jordan said CNN receives criticism from both sides.

Viewers will still be able to watch CNN on YES. About 1.1 million Israelis are hooked up to cable, while the satellite company has about 310,000 subscribers.