After a long wait, the Lebanese will be able and starting Monday to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup, that kicked off last week, without paying any additional fees.
Telecommunications Minister Butros Harb stated in a joint press conference on Monday after talks with SAMA, the sole agent responsible for broadcasting the tournament, that the Lebanese people will be allowed to watch the World Cup matches on television for free starting Monday evening.
Harb stated that the problem was solved with SAMA and that “the agreement was reached with the agent which ensured that the rights of all sides are preserved,” adding that SAMA agreed to allow the Lebanese people to watch the World Cup through television cable companies.
The state-run TV Tele Liban will not be granted the right to broadcast the games, said the Minister.
“The government will compensate SAMA with USD3 million in funds for the company’s losses. The telecom companies Alfa and MTC will take part in this compensation,” the Telecom Minister added.
For his part, Information Minister Ramzi Jreij stressed that the Lebanese people’s rights to watch the World Cup should take precedence over the interests of a commercial company.
SAMA is the sole agent of beIN Sports in Lebanon.
beIN Sports is a global network of sports channels jointly owned and operated by Qatari Sports Investments, an affiliate of Al-Jazeera Media Networks. It has purchased the rights to broadcast the World Cup in the Middle East.
Many people have not been able to afford the fee imposed by SAMA to purchase receiver cards that allow them access to the World Cup matches, leaving several households unable to watch the games.
Television cable providers in Lebanon criticized on Friday the state for failing to address the issue of broadcasting the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
General coordinator of the network of cable providers in Lebanon Mahmoud Khaled said during a press conference: “The state shied away from its responsibilities regarding this issue.”
In the absence of laws regulating the telecommunications sector, most Lebanese get their subscriptions from mostly illegal cable companies that operate through piracy and charge about LBP 20,000 ($13) a month.