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The Puzzle of The University on Air

A Story of Media and Academia in Israel, 1977–2013

Hagai Boas and Ayelet Baram-Tsabari

Keywords: academy; culture; Galei Zahal; Israeli society; privatization; radio; ratings; science communication


At the end of 2013, the Israeli army radio station Galei Zahal decided to revise the format of The University on Air, a radio program that had served as a unique forum for academia and the media in Israel for almost four decades. Launched in 1977, and with over 6,000 aired lectures, the program, with its long history, is a telling case of academia and media in Israel. We present a topical analysis of all courses aired from 1977 to 2013 and suggest that the program took a contrapuntal stance toward trends in both Israeli media and academia. We argue that processes of privatization during the 1990s created a more commercial-oriented atmosphere for science communication broadcasts. However, unlike the case with private media channels and private institutions of higher education, the shift to commercialism and ratings-oriented formats was slowed down by the protective shield of the army.

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