Does political polarization affect news consumption in Israel? The wide range of population groups in Israel results in different political opinions and parties. It is reasonable to expect that it would be reflected in the consumption of news as well. For example, in the U.S., "FOX news" has become the main news source for conservatives due to political polarization. However, the reality in Israel is different and there is no equivalent Israeli Fox News, at least not yet.
The question thus arises as to why people with strong and solid right-wing opinions choose channels that do not necessarily represent their political opinions and continue watching mainstream channels that they often criticize and even hate when the atmosphere becomes heated. Channel 12 provides a possible answer.
Channels 12 and 13 are the two mainstream commercial TV channels in Israel. Channel 12 has the highest rating every evening (an average of 14.7 as of 2021). Some segments of the Israeli public often view these channels as left-leaning channels and claim they are politically biased. For instance, the focus of Channel 12 on covering a lynching that a group of Jews waged against an Arab citizen during the last army operation intensified this claim. Nevertheless, Channel 12's rating was still very high even at the height of the last conflict.
Channel 20 (now renamed as Channel 14) is an alternative for people wishing to consume content with a right-wing agenda, which especially corresponds with the former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party which many Israeli support. However, their rating is the lowest as of 2021, with an average of 0.7-1.0% at the evening newscast. This poor performance may be due to poor journalistic products, lack of appropriate financial resources and marketing, and unprofessional journalists compared to the competing channels. As one senior manager of Israel's media companies put it, "they do not know how to lead topics of news value."
Although there are alternatives, channel 12 still has the highest rating. Several factors may explain this. First, Channel 12 is viewed as a reliable source and boasts some of the best and most professional reporters in the field. Many people also perceive the channel's reporters as celebrities they can directly connect with via social networks. Channel 12 was created from the mythical Channel 22, which was formed in the early 1990s and became the main TV outlet for news consumption in Israel since then. Therefore, for many Israelis, viewing this channel is a kind of an Israeli tradition or cultural habit.
Furthermore, watching Channel 12 is also a matter of a desire to assimilate into Israeli society, to feel belonging, and to unite in "living room" conversations. In addition, the most famous reality shows are viewed on Channel 12, after the news. Thus, Israelis are predisposed to watch this channel, but recently more citizens consume the news critically.
Channel 12 has strong economic bases which directly affect its journalistic qualities and abilities, as well as its variety of news content that often set the national public agenda. They are also very active on social media and by a convenient app, and their marketing and advertisements reach many Israelis. This may explain why Israel does not have a polarized television consumption as in the US, despite its polarized electorate.