Tragedy marked by no ads on Israeli TV for three days

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JERUSALEM -- The death of 73 soldiers in the worst military tragedy in Israel's history is being commemorated by Channel 2, Israel's only commercial TV channel, by the suspension of all commercials for the next three days.

Two helicopters carrying troops to south Lebanon crashed over northern Israel on February 4, killing all aboard, plunging the small country into mourning. The government declared February 6 a day of national mourning. Channel 2 is doing its part by canceling all advertising till Sunday. Special programming is also being aired.

"As a broadcasting body we have a public responsibility that goes beyond just commerce," Yochanan Zangen, managing director of Reshet, one of the three Channel 2 operators, said in an interview with Advertising Age. "We decided to cancel advertising even though it's not a good business decision, because we believe we should set a tone," he explains. "Israel is a very small country (of 5.5 million people) and everyone here is one big family," he adds.

Zangen notes that all the affected advertisers were unanimous about Channel 2's decision. Those clients in mid-campaign would just postpone them for a while. Anyway, he observes, "Israeli consumers just aren't in the mood to buy right now."

For Channel 2, though, the cost is high. While Zangen can't say exactly how much this move will cost, he believes that not airing the ads slated to run in the next few days will mean a loss of "hundreds of thousands of dollars every day." Not all the air time can be made up at a later date, he adds.

Copyright February 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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