Israel’s new English news channel seeks to capture young generation on social media
Israel is the startup nation, but on the issue of public diplomacy it is failing again and again, Moshe Klughaft and Miri Michaeli, co-founders of ACT News, tells Jewish Insider
Moshe Klughaft is a strategic communications advisor known to millions of Israelis as a political commentator on the country’s most-watched news show. He has also worked behind the scenes in the political world for years, counting among his clients Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and a host of other leaders from Germany to Romania to Austria.
Miri Michaeli has been in the news business for 17 years, working as a foreign correspondent for an array of Israeli news channels and interviewing such global leaders as former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Germany’s former Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hollywood stars including Meryl Streep, Woody Allen and Helen Mirren.
Now the two, who have grown increasingly frustrated with the way Israel is depicted in both mainstream media and online worldwide, believe they have enough collective experience and the know-how to change the narrative surrounding the Jewish state: a fresh media concept designed to bypass cable news networks like CNN and conquer powerful opinion-shaping social media platforms such as TikTok.
In less than one month, they say, their collection of short and snappy video clips, which are broadcasting under the brand ACT News – an acronym for Action, Consciousness, Truth – already have a growing following. And their news items aren’t necessarily only about Israel, Klughaft and Michaeli emphasize.
“We’re not trying to hide the fact that we are Israeli,” Michaeli, who is the main face of the broadcasts, told Jewish Insider. “Anyone can Google us and see who we are, but we are just not putting that front and center.”
“Our content is not hasbara,” she emphasized, using the Hebrew term that means public diplomacy. “Before anything else, we are a news channel and we will report on everything – if a Hollywood star comes here, or if an Israeli delegation goes to Turkey to help with the earthquake, of course, we will report on it but, for example, one of the most popular items we did so far was about Elon Musk.”
Klughaft breaks in, explaining that “a good campaign strategy is when you don’t even know that there is a campaign going on.”
While both recognize that there are already multiple initiatives both in Israel and abroad that aim to boost the Israeli narrative, the two insist that ACT News offers something new that has never been attempted before – social media news that tells the truth about Israel.
“We are the startup nation but, on this issue, we are just failing over and over,” commented Klughaft, who has managed several campaigns dealing with Israeli advocacy and the fight against antisemitism.
“The war is no longer being fought in military terms,” he continued. “It has moved to our heads and people here do not understand that. The government does not seem to realize that explaining things correctly can save more lives than the Iron Dome or military jets.”
More than six months after taking power, the government has yet to appoint a head of public diplomacy, and the Prime Minister’s Office still has no international press spokesperson. Klughaft pointed out that international media outreach, or explaining Israel’s positions or actions, is just not a priority for the government, regardless of who is in power.
“It does not matter which government is in power, they believe that ideas and innovation will come from the private sector,” Klughaft noted, recalling how several years ago he was approached by one of the government offices to prepare an international English-language campaign.
“The project was approved, I got paid. But right before it went live, they decided to pull it, preferring to run a Hebrew campaign instead explaining to Israelis that they were doing work abroad,” Klughaft explained.
With ACT News, Michaeli said the goal is firmly to reach people beyond Israel’s borders, especially those who know nothing about the country or its conflict with the Palestinians and do not already have an agenda or a firm opinion on the matter.
“We already know that we can’t change the minds of those who are actively anti-Israel or antisemitic,” said Michaeli, who speaks fluent English with a twangy American accent. “We are looking to reach the mainstream – the average European or the average American.”
“Those who do not even know how to find Israel on a map,” added Klughaft. “We want to share with them positive news about Israel, about its innovation, its technology, its culture.”
Both Klughaft and Michaeli emphasized that ACT is not competing against existing large news networks but aiming for those who primarily utilize social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and others to broadcast their content.
“That is where the world is headed, the younger generation gets its news from social media platforms,” observed Klughaft. “They no longer watch CNN, the television set in their parents’ home is outdated. But the screen they have in their hand is much more powerful.”
“We want to become a source of news on the internet, a source for young people, that will bring the truth about Israel. That is central to our agenda,” stated Michaeli. “We are the only channel that films our broadcast vertically in advance, especially for social media.”
Highlighting reports of skyrocketing antisemitism in the U.S. and Europe, with many incidents directly related to events in Israel, Klughaft said the project would also give those who want to help Israel but don’t have the “tools to do so.”
The two have already secured seed funding of some $7.5 million – though they are keeping the name of the investor under wraps – and they are planning to visit the U.S. next month in search of additional funding.
In the meantime, they have big plans.
Among the projects the two are planning for ACT News is the creation of a network of “reporters” worldwide, fans of the channel who will report on location in real time, and in some cases ordinary people using their phones to document newsy events happening near them.
The duo also plan to incorporate some advanced Israeli technology, including Artificial Intelligence, into their programs, though they would not share details on the specifics.
Initially, Klughaft and Michaeli said they had been talking about a slow rollout of the new channel, but a flare-up in violence over Passover that included rockets being fired into Israel from Lebanon and from Gaza, as well as the horrific terrorist attack that killed an Israeli woman and two of her daughters, prompted them into action.
“We both observe the holiday and were on vacation with our families,” recalled Michaeli. “I was in Safed and Moshe was in Jerusalem, but when the rockets started falling, we both left what we were doing and met up.”
“We sat together all night,” Moshe continued. “Then we decided to go to the studio at 3 a.m. to make our first video. We had no idea if it would catch [on], but we pulled in users on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.”
Thanks to Klughaft and Michaeli’s celebrity status in Israel, and their place among the country’s political elite, the video caught the attention of Netanyahu, who shared it on his social media networks with his millions of followers. Other Israeli political leaders, including Bennett and former Prime Minister Yair Lapid, as well as Israeli movers and shakers, also shared the clip.
“That was our first broadcast, everyone watched it,” said Klughaft.
And Michaeli remains hopeful, even though she is aware that similar ventures have failed in the past, that ACT News will succeed.
“I believe that this will change the way the media operates here and in the world,” said Michaeli, adding that giving up on explaining Israel to the world just wasn’t an option.
“In two years from now, when we are successful, ACT News will only help the country,” said Klughaft confidently.