Israel cancels Evangelical Christian channel of ‘God TV’

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The Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting threatened to suspend Shelanu TV’s license, pending a review by the council.

Senior man watching tv (photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Senior man watching tv

(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The license of Shelanu TV, the Hebrew-language Christian evangelical TV channel which has been accused of seeking to proselytise in Israel, has been suspended.

Shelanu TV, owned by parent company God TV, began broadcasting in Israel on the Hot cable network at the end of April after it received a license from the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting earlier this year.

But when exposure of the kind of content broadcast on God TV, including comments by channel CEO Ward Simpson about the importance of bringing people to embrace Christianity as well as a strong reaction by then communications minister David Amsallem, the council threatened to suspend Shelanu TV’s license, pending a review by the council into Hot’s contract with the channel.

God TV, which reaches some 300 million homes around the world, is dedicated to preaching the Christian gospel and the task of the “Great Commission,” a doctrine in Christian theology to gain disciples for Christianity and to preach the religion.

Proselytising, seeking to convert people to another religion, is not illegal in Israel, although the law prevents proselytising to minors without their parents presence or consent, and promising any monetary or material compensation for converting to another religion.

Council chairman Asher Biton wrote to the Hot company on Thursday informing it that the license had been suspended since, he argued, Shelanu TV was appealing to Jews as its target audience and not to Christians in Israel, as he said had been written in the original license request.

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Biton said that the license request had “written explicitly that the channel is intended for the Christian population,” although noting that the channel would “integrate several programs with content designated for Israel,” adding that “the designated content will include programs for the Christian population in Israel.”

The Council said that after its oversight department examined the issue “it was apparent that the channel is not appealing to the Christian population in Israel but rather specifically to Jews,” and that therefore “the characterization of the channel that was submitted does not reflect its broadcasts.”

Biton continued saying that after the review into Shelanu TV’s license was announced “the channel continued to appeal to Jews through efforts to teach them about the principles of Christian/Jewish messianic faith and to convince them of its validity.”

It said that this attitude was commensurate with the message put out by Simpson in his video announcing the new channel.

Biton said that when he had granted the license he had not intended to approve a channel that seeks Jews as its target audience and that if he had known the nature of Shelanu TV he would have directed the approval process down a different path including a hearing in front of the full council.

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“A channel which seeks to address the Jewish people which dwells in Israel [and present it with] the gospels of Jesus will never be broadcast on Hot and this was known to the senior officials of the channel, as was stated in the hearing,” wrote Biton.

In his decision, Biton acknowledged however that proselytising in Israel not illegal, and that if a request was presented to authorize a proselytising channel further examination of the issue would be required given that proselytising to minors is illegal and since children often have free access to TV.

Hot has seven days to stop the Shelanu TV broadcasts, but is able to appeal the decision if it so wishes.

If it does, Biton said that if a new license request is made which accurately depicts the nature of the channel and its broadcasting, the issues of “freedom of expression against the injury to religious sensitivities would be examined.”

He added that religious channels of different faiths designed for their own religious communities have been broadcasting in Israel for many years “in accordance with the religious policies of the Council.”

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