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Odelia TV (3)

There was, however, one major difference between this proposed law and other anti-offshore broadcasting legislation passed in Europe. The Israeli Government was to be given powers to grant special permission to individual offshore broadcasters to continue with their activities. This clause was specifically aimed at offering Abie Nathan's Voice of Peace the opportunity to continue broadcasting even after the new law had been passed.

The proposals contained in the new draft law were supported by the Israeli Association of Newspaper Publishers, worried about the possible loss of advertising revenue to the new television station, and by film distributors who were concerned about the use of their copyright material by the offshore television station.

Test transmissions from the Odelia were started again in early August, but reception was poor even in Tel Aviv - which was within sight of the ship's anchorage position and close to the MV Peace. It is thought that transmitter power at the time was only about 5Kw, but the station continued to broadcast. Crew on board the Peace ship at this time reported watching the offshore television station's output - reception was tolerable due to the proximity of the two ships, although it is doubtful whether the station had much, if any,  of an audience on land.

Programmes by this time consisted of pirated video tapes of British television stations (BBC and ITV) including all commercials and continuity announcements, but sometimes one or two  Israeli commercials were inserted as well, indicating perhaps that the station was selling some airtime.

In September 1981 the Israeli Communications Minister, Mordechai Zipori, finally presented the proposed new law to the Economics Committee. The law was eventually passed by the Committee on 3rd November 1981 and approved by the Knesset some three weeks later.

Paul Greenwald said that the law could only come into force when it had been officially published and the conditions for the Government to grant individual offshore stations the right to broadcast had become known. In the meantime, he stated, Odelia TV would continue to broadcast. Then, in an attempt to silence the station at the end of September 1981, Greenwald was arrested on charges of desertion and ordered to appear before a Military Court in Jaffa on 10th December

However, action against the offshore television station came not from the Government but from the Marine Officers Union who announced a boycott of the Odelia because the crew were not being paid in accordance with trade union agreements. At about the same time the Chief Engineer of the Odelia, Efrat Doron, complained that Paul Greenwald had paid him $2000 per month, out of which he had to pay all other technicians. He had distributed their pay at the beginning of each month until October 1981 when Greenwald failed to make the money available until the middle of the month. After that payment Greenwald had made no further money available for him to pay the crew's wages. As a result of these complaints the Israeli authorities placed a travel ban on Greenwald, preventing him leaving the country.

The new law came into effect on 30th November 1981, one week after being passed by the Knesset. The day before, 29th November, Odelia TV ceased transmissions, but after two days silence Paul Greenwald informed Communications Minister, Zipori that the Odelia would recommence broadcasting, not in Hebrew and not specifically directed towards Israel.

Broadcasts resumed again in English and Arabic, ostensibly for a Jordanian or pan-Middle East audience and a Communications Ministry spokesman commented:-

“Our investigations show that they are transmitting to Israel. The assertion that they are transmitting to Jordan is their interpretation. So long as the broadcasts can be received here they are subject to our laws.”

Meanwhile, the Government started to exercise some of their new powers. On 7th December the Communications Ministry sent reports on the Captain and owner of the Odelia to the police for violations of the new legislation, all ship-to-shore communications with the Odelia were discontinued (except for emergencies) and harbour authorities in Israel were instructed to refuse entry to the offshore television ship.

On the same day the Odelia discontinued broadcasts, according to Greenwald's wife Miri, "Until an arrangement with the Communications Ministry has been achieved." Police and Communications Ministry officials sailed around the Odelia in international waters on 9th December, photographing the vessel and any people on board. Some reports state that the authorities in fact boarded the Odelia, sealing the transmitters and removing all broadcasting crew.

This intensive action by the authorities proved too much for the Odelia and on 27th December 1981 the ship raised her anchor and sailed to Cyprus to take on fuel supplies. Paul Greenwald boldly announced that the vessel would return in June 1982, broadcasting to the whole of the Middle East, without advertising from Israel to avoid contravening the provision in the new law relating to Hebrew language broadcasts. There was also some speculation that the Odelia would return with a radio station on board as well as the television service.

A Communications Ministry spokesman said that if transmissions did resume from the Odelia, and were received in Israel, then they would be subject to the new law and  be jammed by the authorities. Any individual or company in Israel who assisted the station would also face prosecution he confirmed. However, nothing more was heard of the ship or the Odelia TV project for some time. It is probable that the vessel was detained by authorities in Cyprus in connection with unpaid harbour fees.

Then, in October 1982, rumours began to circulate in Israel about the return of the MV Odelia - with a radio station on board this time as well as the television station which had broadcast the previous year. The rumoured return of the Odelia raised worries about the introduction of  further legislation, with an Israeli version of European style anti-offshore laws, but in the event Odelia didn’t re-appear off the coast of Israel and nothing more was heard of the project.

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30th September 1981