The politics of World Cup-watching

Posted by: Magpie

The politics of World Cup-watching - 15 Jun 06 04:32

By Peter Feuilherade
BBC Monitoring

A cumulative audience of more than 32 billion viewers around the world are expected to have watched the 64 World Cup matches on TV or other media by the time the final is played on Sunday 9 July.

In a few countries, people are looking forward to watching the contest on television for the first time.

The politics behind securing access to the broadcasts, and the difficulties people in some countries face in watching them, closely follow some of the world's current geopolitical fault lines.

In North Korea, state TV began broadcasting World Cup matches supplied by satellite free of charge by South Korea three days after the opening game.

The broadcasts screened in the North were reportedly pre-recorded and edited versions, broadcast terrestrially and were expected to include games involving South Korea, who played their opening game against Togo on 13 June.

In Afghanistan, television broadcasts were banned during Taleban rule from 1996-2001. But this year several Afghan TV stations were planning to screen World Cup matches live

"Now that North Koreans can watch the South Koreans in the tournament, we hope it will contribute to recovering our identity as one people," said a statement by the (South) Korean Central Broadcasting Commission.

The deal has the approval of FIFA and the Switzerland-based Infront Sport and Media, FIFA's business representative for the sales of broadcast rights.

Although the South and the North remain technically at war since the 1950-1953 conflict in the Korean peninsula, relations have improved since a summit their leaders held in 2000.

During the 2002 World Cup staged in South Korea and Japan, Seoul sent videotapes to North Korea a day or two after the games, and during the 2004 Athens Olympics it offered the North a live feed of major events.

'Political move'

In Indonesia, meanwhile, former President Suharto's daughter Titiek appeared on private television channel SCTV on World Cup opening night as a football pundit and presenter of the Germany-Costa Rica game, prompting complaints that the Suharto clan was hijacking the world's biggest sporting event to polish up its tarnished image.

"Technically speaking, she is not someone who knows a lot about football," said Ade Armando of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission, adding that the move was politically provocative.

Nor was Titiek's on-screen appearance likely to attract many viewers, he ventured.

A spokesman for SCTV defended Titiek's appearance, saying it was meant to expand the channel's audience.

"As for Titiek, she has to improve her skill as a presenter," he conceded.

Bleak prospects

In Afghanistan, television broadcasts were banned during Taleban rule from 1996-2001. But this year several Afghan TV stations were planning to screen World Cup matches live.

All corners of the world are focused on footballing events in Germany

The Taleban not only banned television but initially outlawed football.

Later they lifted the ban, but insisted that players' arms and legs were covered, ordered them to stop for prayers during matches, and banned supporters from cheering.

An official of Tolo TV, Afghanistan's leading private channel, told China's official news agency Xinhua that his station, as well as national Afghan TV and another commercial channel, would show some key matches live.

In the capital of Somalia, the advent to power of an Islamist militia early in June evoked echoes of the Taleban's arrival in Kabul in 1996. The prospects for football fans wanting to watch the World Cup in the capital looked bleak.

In Morocco, King Mohammed VI has intervened personally to make sure the games are made available on state television.

Residents in Mogadishu complained that the militia that seized control of most of the city from rival warlords earlier this month were preventing civilians from seeing television pictures of the World Cup.

The residents said Islamist militiamen had been forcing makeshift public cinemas planning to show satellite TV footage of the matches to close down.

The BBC's Africa editor David Bamford says the World Cup screenings were not necessarily the main target of the militia's wrath.

"It's not clear whether the new Islamist rulers in the city have a problem with people watching football.

"Their spokesman, Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar, indicated to the BBC that it's the cinemas that are being targeted because they also showed Western and Indian films that the Islamists say are corrupting the youth," Bamford said.

On 12 June, AFP news agency reported that two people had been killed as gunmen, reportedly allied to the Joint Islamic Courts, forced three cinemas to shut and warned football fans against watching the matches which were being relayed via satellite.

Priced out

On a lighter note, as South Korea and Togo took to the field in Frankfurt for their Group G opener on Tuesday afternoon, the debacle over Togo's coach Otto Pfister - who quit the team only to change his mind and appear on the bench for their opening game - was overtaken by a public relations faux pas.

Togo's national anthem was mistaken for South Korea's, and the South's anthem was played twice before embarrassed FIFA organisers belatedly found the right tune.

In several Middle East countries, this will be the first World Cup that most football fans will not be able to watch free on national television channels.

The pan-Arab pay-TV broadcaster Arab Radio and Television (ART) has bought the rights to the games in the Middle East and North Africa.

But its channels can only be accessed through a special decoder costing between US$130-400 - beyond the reach of the average viewer.

Many Arab governments have taken steps to ensure that their poorer citizens still have access to World Cup matches.

"Governments are scrambling as if it's an issue of national security," said a report from the Associated Press.

In Morocco, King Mohammed VI has intervened personally to make sure the games are made available on state television. In Egypt and Jordan, the authorities are arranging for large communal TV screens to be set up in public places.

In Africa's poorest countries, national budgets do not stretch far enough to pay for TV access, BBC correspondents note. But many fans will be able to watch the games on satellite TV in cafes and restaurants instead.

Another option for impoverished World Cup fans is to access the TV signals illegally - although many expert satellite pirates have reportedly been unable to decode the World Cup signal.

Should the hackers succeed, analysts say the total losses due to signal piracy in the developing world could run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
Posted by: Magpie

Re: The politics of World Cup-watching - 06 Jul 06 04:51

Somali World Cup viewers killed

Two people are reported dead after Islamist gunmen in central Somalia opened fire in a cinema where people were watching a banned World Cup match.
The cinema owner and a young girl were reportedly killed by militia loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts, who seized control of parts of Somalia last month.

The courts have introduced Sharia law in areas under their authority, including a World Cup broadcast ban.

Somalia has had no effective central government since 1992.

According to reports on a Somali news network, gunmen arrived to close down the cinema in the town of Dhuusa Marreeb in central Galgadud district, where a crowd had gathered to watch the Germany-Italy World Cup semi-final.

Some of the football fans began to protest and according to reports, the gunmen fired in the air in an attempt to disperse them.

When this failed, shots were fired at the demonstrators and two people were killed.

The Islamic courts have introduced Sharia, Islamic law based on an eye for eye system of justice, in areas under their authority.

This has included in some parts a ban on cinemas and on broadcasts of World Cup games because they have carried advertisements for alcohol.

The courts have taken control of large parts of Somalia, introducing a level of civil administration and justice which the country has not seen for the past 15 years.

The BBC's Hassan Barise says in more than a decade of Islamic justice in the capital, there have been more than 16 amputations - the punishment for theft - in that time.

One of the new Islamist leaders, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has called on the interim government to impose Sharia law but our correspondent says his colleagues have offered assurances they do not want a Taleban-style state.


Meanwhile, regional diplomats are meeting the interim government in Baidoa to discuss the possible deployment of a regional peacekeeping force to the fragmented country.

Headed by President Abdullahi Yusuf, the government is confined to the town and is unable to relocate to the capital, Mogadishu, now under control of the Islamic courts.

The diplomats are from the Arab League, African Union and the East African regional organisation, Igad, which last month said it intended to send a peacekeeping force of Ugandan and Sudanese troops.

But the Islamists say they are opposed to the deployment of any foreign forces.

After talks in Baidoa, the diplomats say they hope to go on to Mogadishu for direct talks with the Islamist leaders .

On Tuesday, a two-member United Nations security team met Mogadishu's new rulers in the capital: the UN's first contact with them since they took over from the warlords a month ago.

Most aid workers have pulled out of Mogadishu because it is too dangerous. A Swedish journalist was shot dead at a rally in the city last month.

Somalis, weary after 15 years without an effective national government, are worried about a possible new conflict between Islamist and secular forces in their country.