Sheldon Adelson’s pro-Netanyahu tabloid now the most widely read paper in Israel

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The rightwing free tabloid “Israel Hayom” (ישראל היום, Israel today) is now the most widely read daily paper in Israel, with, for the first time, a slight lead over Yedioth Ahronoth on weekdays.

Israel Hayon is known for his support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The paper’s publisher, gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is a close friend and political ally of Netanyahu, and according to reports, the papers editor, Amos Regev, was part of Netanyahu’s inner circle for some time.

Most papers in Israel don’t disclose the number of copies they distribute, so their share of the market is evaluated by the TGI poll, taken twice a year by TNS Tlgal surveying company. Advertising prices are also determined according to the TGI poll.

The Jan-June 2010 TGI survey, released yesterday, had Israel Hayom leading with 35.2 percent of daily papers readers, comparing to Yedioth’s 34.9%. Readers’ exposure Ma’ariv is at 12.5% (median 14.4% last year), exposure to Haaretz is 6.4%. The free paper Post has 7.9% exposure.

On weekend Yedioth has a share of 43.7, and Israel Hayom, who just began distributing a weekend edition, 25.7%.

Yedioth Ahronoth has been the most widely read paper in Israel since the 70′s. At times, it controlled more than 50 percent of the market.

Since its first appearance, the paper has taken an extreme pro-Netanyahu line. Mr. Adelson has rejected claims of his paper’s political bias.

The introduction of Israel Hayom sparked a war between Israel’s daily papers. Yedioth and Maariv, who were rivals for half a century, are now joining hands in fighting Adelson’s paper (with little success so far). The two papers were said to be behind the unsuccessful attempt to introduce an anti-dumping law that would have forced Israel Hayom to start charging money for its copies. PM Netanyahu had the Likud party oppose the bill, which failed to pass in the Knesset.

Ironically, Israel Hayom is printed and distributed by Haaretz. Estimates are that the high prices Haaretz’s publisher, Mr. Amos Shoken, is charging for these services, are part of the reason for his paper’s ability to survive these days.

Needless to say, Haaretz opposed the dumping bil

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