The World Cup has arrived, one of the most highly anticipated sports events worldwide, the most anticipated football event. Thousands of people around the world are tuned in on their tvs to the countless channels that are broadcasting the games live from South Africa.
Thousands that is, except for the many football fans in Egypt. Fans here have fallen victim, through no fault of their own, to the never-ending war of words between global media conglomerates.
Egyptian fans were promised the ability to watch at least 18 of the World Cup matches on al-Jazeera sports, a free channel that virtually every house with a satellite in Egypt receives. When on Thursday the opening ceremonies began, many viewers in Egypt were frustrated with the unreliable signal, with the opening ceremony black out a number of times. Similarly, the opening match of the World Cup between South Africa and Mexico, which FIFA itself designated as a free-watch match, was interrupted repeatedly for Egyptian viewers. This goes without saying that matches following the opening match were also subjected to intermittent signal losses, with the match between Nigeria and Argentina loosing signal in the first half, causing viewers to miss the one and only goal scored.
Al-Jazeera Sports has claimed that their signal has been sabotaged by the Egypt Radio and TV Union (ERTU), and that their primary host satellite, NileSat, had its connection interrupted by the Egyptian media conglomerates who were piffed that the proper "licensing fees" were not duely paid. In response, the ERTU today announced that they would be suing al-Jazeera for interrupting the match and playing with the signal in an effort to stir up trouble with Egypt itself. Specifically, that al-Jazeera breached three articles in the agreement originally signed between the Qatari based broadcasting station and the ERTU. Such a "he said she said" situation it makes you laugh.
Viewers of the World Cup in Egypt now have one choice, to watch the matches on paid channels only. Pending investigations into the cause behind the signal interruption, NileSat will not broadcast any free World Cup matches. It's gotten to the point where the International Communication Association, based in Switzerland, has launched an investigation into the allegations made on both sides, to dicover the "truth" behind the problem. Their results are scheduled to be released today, but with how things here run, who knows how long it will take. I'm sure a few pockets will need stuffing with cash before the matches are again played on the sattelite for free.
Although this entire situation makes me giggle, it also really pisses me off that as a football fan I cannot watch the matches for free, because of problems in the upper echelons of media broadcasting. Fortunately, in an attempt to find out more about the situation, I learned a nifty trick. For viewers that have satellite boxes, there is a simple solution to the problem. Switch your satellite from NileSat, to either Hotbird or ArabSat, two satellites that the ERTU has no say over.
I can now sit back and happily watch the matches from the comfort of my home. And yes, it works, and I am now watching the match between Serbia and Ghana, having switched my satellite. :D
Here's the ERTU's response, posted today in Al-Masri al-Yawm.