Breaking news: BeIN Sports, formerly known Al Jazeera Sports, the Qatari TV station that has bought the rights for every single major sports tournament till kingdom come is suing Tele Liban over it broadcasting this year’s World Cup games.
Soon after the 2014 World Cup began, Lebanese people found themselves unable to watch the tournament. The government had failed to kiss up to Qatar enough to get the World Cup for free. Talks with Sama, the major Lebanese politician-owned company with exclusive rights for BeIN sports in Lebanon, failed to go through. We reverted to either buying the World Cup subscription, which did not work most of the time because the service was abysmal, or to managing with Turkish, French and, well, Israeli TV stations in some parts of the country.
But the Lebanese government wouldn’t have it, of course. How could Lebanese people have their God-given right of watching the World Cup taken away from them? So our government paid $3 million to Sama to make sure such a thing does not happen. The ramifications of that payment were as follows:
- Cable owners in Lebanon would be able to broadcast the World Cup to their subscribers using BeIN Sports, TF1 or any other station at their disposal,
- Tele Liban, the TV station the government is in charge of, gets screwed over as the government completely disregards it in favor of those cable owners,
- Sama nets in pure profit for their exclusive rights,
- The Lebanese politician in charge of Sama gets a whole lot of money while pretending to do the Lebanese people a favor.
Tele Liban, however, wouldn’t have it, so it decided to broadcast the games anyway outside of the $3 million deal. The first day of its defiance was literally Turkish before they had their very own commentator. In doing so, Tele Liban managed to fill the huge gap in World Cup viewing that the government’s deal made, especially in rural areas where cable owners have not set ship yet and where a World Cup deal would be the most beneficial.
As a result of its defiance, Tele Liban – with its minimal capacities and reach – is now finding itself in a lawsuit by BeIn sports because it broadcast the World Cup games over which BeIn has copyright in Lebanon. I guess we have our government to thank for failing to do the minimum and make sure its very own TV station is protected in this matter.
Instead of paying $3 million to make sure Tele Liban gets to broadcast the games, our government has effectively made sure Tele Liban is in the tough spot it is now. Those $3 million are definitely badly spent. Should we have paid it? My answer is a definite hell no. Those $3 million could have done the following:
- Equipped our security forces against the current rise of terrorism,
- Provided districts such as Akkar with much needed infrastructure to prevent its sons and daughters from dying on Indonesian rafts,
- Enhance the living standards of people in Bab el Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen,
- Contribute towards the fiber optics project to improve our internet,
- Go towards water-centric project to prevent the typical summer drought in Beirut,
- Go into public transport programs that could prevent people from being randomly attacked by taxi drivers,
- Tighten our grip over our border and therefore increasing our security,
- Work towards slightly fixing our electricity crisis,
- Improve the non-existent roads in my home district,
- About three hundred other thing that could come to mind.
Watching the World Cup is not the right our politicians want to fool you into believing it is, just so you can ignore their gross shortcomings in every other regard. That expenditure, however, could have been at least slightly conceivable hadn’t it gone to the benefit of cable owners, SAMA and BeIN, at the expense of Tele Liban, which spent a whole lot of resources in rebranding because it was promised it would broadcast the World Cup.
What will happen to Tele Liban now? Odds are it’ll get stuck in a mess of legal troubles, which it probably can’t handle against the Qatari onslaught coming its way. I doubt our government will take any measures to protect it. Do they want to upset Qatar? What a joke. Can they go against the politician running Sama’s influence in Lebanon? Let’s not be foolish. They threw Tele Liban under the bus once, watch them as they leave it to get squashed by a tank.
The entire problem when it comes to the World Cup and other tournaments is with Al Jazeera (now BeIn) having basically unlimited copyright over Lebanon. Have no doubt, such an ordeal is to be repeated every single football tournament. Watch as we forgot how difficult it was for us to watch this World Cup come Euro 2016 time. Then watch as we forgot that as Russia’s 2018 World Cup rolls by. FIFA is a greedy entity, sure. But there’s a definite slacking in securing our own broadcasting rights. Till when will our government sit by as that Qatari company sustains its hegemony over Lebanon’s broadcasting rights? Why is our country lumped under the auspices of BeIN sports – and subsequently at the mercy of a company like Sama – for every single major tournament? Why can’t we do as other countries do: just tune in to any of our TV stations and watch the World Cup game?
I forgot that this is Lebanon and it’s always, always complicated. Forza Azzurri! Oh wait.