A newly formed Israel-based television network has begun transmitting programs around the clock to expatriates in the United States and Canada and to anyone else who want to stay in touch with news, education, music, sports and sitcoms in the Jewish State.
The Israeli Network will feature three eight-hour segments every day -- except Yom Kippur -- drawing its programs from Israel's Channel 1, Channel 2, Sports Channel and Educational Television, as well as movies and documentaries from Israel's Broadcasting Authority.
The primary target audience consists of Israelis in North America, which Shlomo Wolfhart, the new company's founder and CEO, pegs at around 600,000.
"We also hope to reach American Jews through daily English-language newscasts, children's programs geared toward teaching Hebrew, general cultural events and some Hebrew programs with English subtitles," Wolfhart said, speaking by phone from his studio in Kfar Saba.
If American tourists are worried about traveling to Israel, the new network can bring Israel into their living rooms, Wolfhart suggested.
"We'll bring you the Israeli perspective, so you don't have to rely on CNN," he said. The service is available through the Dish Network, a digital broadcasting satellite company (www.dishnetwork.com).
Subscribers can sign up for the Israeli package alone at $19.99 per month, or combine it, at a higher fee, with a selection of American channels. (Homes with cable television alone cannot receive the programs.)
The Israel Network's U.S. office is in New York and can be contacted by phone at (212) 925-9907, or through the Web site at www.theisraelinetwork.com. Commercials will advertise both Israeli and American products, with sales representatives in New York and Los Angeles.
Wolfhart lived in Los Angeles from 1984 to 1993, first as a college student majoring in film and video, then as head of his own company, Ivory Video Productions, specializing in promotional videos.
Because of the time difference between the United States and Israel, most programs will be by delayed transmission, except for soccer games and breaking news, which will air live.
The Israeli Network was officially launched Sept. 14 with full-page ads in Hebrew-language newspapers in North America, three days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. As a result of the disaster, phone calls were erratic, and the New York office had to close down for its first four days. It is now up and running, said manager Anat Weinstock.
During its first full year, the network expects to sign up between 20,000 and 25,000 subscribers. Future plans include expanding the satellite feed to Europe (including Russia) and South America, and originating some programs from the Israeli enclaves in Los Angeles, New York and Miami.
Financial backers of the new venture include New Regency Productions in Hollywood, headed by Israeli-American producer Arnon Milchan, as well as a number of Israeli investors.
Wolfhart declined to give an exact figure for his company's total assets, but said that they ran into the millions of dollars.