Israeli Company Prevented From Pitching at TV Market in Istanbul

The Israeli formats being pitched included the reality show 'Are You For Real?'

An Israeli producer was told she could not pitch reality shows to a panel of judges from Arab countries at the event sponsored by a company controlled by Fox shareholder Saudi Prince Alwaleed.

One of Israeli's prominent production companies was prevented from pitching their new reality TV formats at a television market in Istanbul this week.

The pitching session at Discop Istanbul, a television industry market held in the Turkish city Feb. 24-26, was canceled after a panel of judges from mainly Arab nations in the Middle East, refused to hear a presentation from Israeli firm Gil Productions.

C21 originally broke the story of the ban, which occurred when Gil Productions executive Ilanit Hirsch turned up at the session to pitch two of her company's new reality series: Are You For Real? and Capturing the Moment. According to Discop attendees, Hirsch was prevented from giving her presentation, apparently for political reasons.

Rotana Holdings, the Arab World’s largest entertainment company, sponsored the pitching session and had two members on the five-member judging panel. The other judges came from independent TV companies in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, and one judge, , who did not take part in the boycott, was from Turkish distributor Global Agency.

Rotana is majority controlled by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal with Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox holding a 18.97 percent stake. Alwaleed is also a big shareholder in Fox. He recently cut his stake in News Corp, Murdoch's other company.

The exact source of the boycott is unclear, but under Lebanese law, it is illegal for a citizen of Lebanon to have any contact with an Israeli. When Doron Matalon, the new Miss Israel, took a selfie with Miss Lebanon Sally Greige at the Miss Universe contest in Miami last month, it caused an uproar, with many calling for Greige to be stripped of her title. Lebanon and Israel have remained technically at war with one another since 1982.

Speaking to C21, Discop’s general manager Patrick Jucaud-Zuchowicki, who himself is Jewish, said it “broke his heart” that the session was canceled, noting that nothing like this had ever happened before at one of his TV trade shows.

THR reached out to Rotana for a comment but did not immediately hear back.

Correction: March 2, 12:14 : An earlier version of this story mistakenly stated that Israeli company Armoza Formats also participated in the Discop pitch session. THR regrets the error.