Galgalatz (Hebrew: גלגלצ) is a popular Israeli radio station operated by Israel Defense Forces Radio. This is the second of two Israel Defense Forces-operated stations, while the first one is Israel Defense Forces Radio/Galatz. The station was established in 1993 and broadcasts primarily nonstop pop music and traffic reports, and few content programs. The station was established with the aid of the Israeli Ministry of Transportation (the Israeli National Authority for Traffic Safety), and frequently broadcasts Traffic Safety messages. At the top of every hour the station broadcasts a news report.
The meaning of the name
The first station of the Israel Defense Forces, established in 1950 is called Israel Defense Forces Radio/Galatz which is an Acronym of Galei Tzahal (Hebrew: גלי צה”ל, Galei Tzahal, lit. IDF Waves). This second station was supposed to have traffic safety content in its broadcast, so the name had to express this uniqueness of the station. The word “Galgal” is Hebrew for wheel (Hebrew: גלגל) and symbolizes the connection to traffic. “Galgalatz” is a portmanteau of “Galgal” and “Israel Defense Forces Radio/Galatz”. This name was created by the Israeli presenter and Feminist activist Merav Michaeli.
Galgalatz was established on the basis of radio station Tzahal 2 (Hebrew: צה”ל 2, lit. IDF 2), which had been operating as a daughter-station of Galatz. Tzahal 2 was established in April 1990, during Nahman Shai‘s period as chief of Galatz, by Erez Tal, a renowned Israeli media celebrity. The station broadcast for eight hours each day. The broadcasts included mostly popular and local music.
Erez Tal, who was the head of Tzahal 2, was looking at the time for additional sources of funding. Tal eventually made an agreement with The Israeli National Authority For Traffic Safety. The Authority financed a radio program on Tzahal 2 called Ototo (Hebrew: אוטוטו, slang for in a sec), led by Meirav Michaeli, during which Michaeli conversed by cellphone with two celebrities in separate cars, along with traffic inspectors. The two celebrities raced to arrive first at a destination point, while still driving safely. This was the first use of cellphones in Israeli radio.
The Israeli National Authority for Traffic Safety and Pelephone
The funding the station received was only thirty thousand shekels. The station’s chiefs expressed strong criticism of the program’s staff and Tzahal 2 and claimed that the very idea of “selling” a show for funding was a disgrace to Galatz, especially for such a low sum.
Despite the opposition, this was the first act of cooperation between the station and the authority, and the beginning of a relationship that would eventually lead to the establishment of Galgalatz – in cooperation with the National Authority for Traffic Safety. Amongst the celebrities to race in the show were Haim Yavin and Ilana Dayan, as well as the music band Portrait, which caused a traffic accident broadcast live via a cellphone of the Pelephone company. This prompted the Pelephone company to embark on a “Pelephone helps fight Traffic Accidents” advertising campaign, which was to run for many years on Galgalatz.
Threats of closing the station
In 1992 Moshe Shlonski took over Israel Army Radio. The Israeli chief-of-staff at the time, Ehud Barak, had expressed a desire to close the radio station. Barak told Shlonski that if he found a way to fund the station without costing the military money, he would agree not to close it. The funding sources which Galgalatz (then called Tzahal 2) had found were now critical to the entire Galatz foundation, so it was decided to strengthen the daughter station.
At the time, Galatz was inclined towards news programs, while Tzahal 2 was inclined towards playing music. At the same time, local commercial radio stations were starting up, most of which were planning on focusing on playing music and entertainment shows, and in effect stealing much of Galatz’s audience. These were the main reasons Shlonski and the people of Tzahal 2 decided on establishing a new radio station, based on Tzahal 2, which would serve both as a financial ‘safety net’ for Galatz as well as an alternative for the existing listeners whose needs were not met by the programs on Galatz.
The establishing team, which included Moshe Shlonski himself, Erez Tal and Oded Nafchi, began working on the new radio station: “Galgalatz.”
Between the establishing team and the department heads in Galatz emerged a major argument over the new station’s main broadcasting concept. Erez Tal had envisioned a station which would play music as well as traffic-related magazines, and which would be traffic-inclined. In contrast to this, was the option of the station focusing almost entirely on music. The department heads strongly opposed this option and claimed this kind of radio station, a “programless” station, had no chance of succeeding. Many of them threatened to resign if such a station was to be opened. Many at Galei Tzahal feared the new channel would also take a bite out of the Galatz listeners, thereby causing a decline in the popularity of Galatz and eventually its closure. Nonetheless, Shlonski and the establishing team insisted the if the listeners wouldn’t turn over to Galatz, they would turn over to other stations.
Broadcasting and rising to fame
Galgalatz broadcasting began on October 31, 1993, at 7:00 a.m., in a show called Medina BaDerech (Hebrew: מדינה בדרך, Nation on the Road) with Amir Asher. The station broadcast for 17 hours a day, beginning at 7 in the morning and until midnight. From day one the programs included mostly music and traffic reports. The musical guidelines were to prefer popular songs, known and favored by the majority of listeners, in an attempt to target the largest possible audience.
Within a short time, Galgalatz had made a name for itself amongst the Israeli media – its ratings had escalated from 4 percent to 13 percent, and Galgalatz’s traffic reports were considered highly credible amongst the public, and were even recognized as legal evidence: A man sued for being late for a meeting used documentary of the station’s traffic reports to prove he had indeed been stuck in a traffic jam, which were eventually accepted by the court as legal evidence.
The broadcasting concept of Galgalatz was changed to target a specific audience, around the clock, with the intention and thought that such a theme of broadcasting would result in a larger, more loyal audience. At first Galgalatz turned to the 18 to 40 year old audience. In practice, Galgalatz would eventually create an audience consisting mostly of 15 to 35-year-olds, amongst which the station was immensely popular.
Despite the high ratings, there was harsh criticism of Galgalatz in the public towards the end of 1997 and the beginning of 1998. The critics claimed the station’s chief was only intent on raising ratings, and had lost interest of programming quality. It was claimed that the station limits itself to a very specific type of music, and in essence was broadcasting a very limited number of songs dictated from above, intending to “play it safe”. As an answer to the criticism, the station worked harder and harder to receive exclusive rights for new songs and albums, both local and foreign. Record companies gave new singles’ copies only to Galgalatz, thereby receiving heightened exposure on the station, for the period of exclusivity. In return, the new singles were included in Galgalatz’s playlist at primary spots. Thus began Galgalatz’s campaign of “Galgalatz – Before the Rest.”
Galgaltz airs every Thursday the Official Music Chart Of Israel (Formerly named “One by one” (in Hebrew: אחד אחד) ), the official Israeli top 15 chart. The chart is based on the audience’s choice on the station’s website. The last Friday of the year, Galgaltz also broadcasts the Israeli annual International song chart, in collaboration with the Israeli Internet portal “Walla!“.
- Chief of Galgalatz – Dalit Ofer
- Music Manager – Or Celkovnik
- Editorial Coordinator of Galgalatz – Noam Levinger