The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be aired live and for free on the state-run Tele Liban, caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi announced Tuesday after an agreement was reached with Sama Group, the sole provider of BeIN Sports in Lebanon. Riachi made the statement after a meeting for the ministerial committee assigned to follow up on the airing rights of the World Cup with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.
Director of Sama Group Mohammad Mansour attended the meeting, where discussions focused on the progress made in the negotiations.
Riachi declined to reveal the amount of money paid to Sama in return for the rights, but a source close to the committee said the deal was estimated to be worth several million dollars. According to this source, the country’s two mobile network operators Alfa and touch will cover the cost on behalf of the Lebanese government.
Tele Liban will be the only Lebanese channel to broadcast the World Cup games once the competition kicks off on June 14.
“We agreed with the company that there will be low prices for restaurants and any institution that provide coverage outside the household, [so that] the company secures its rights,” Riachi said.
He added further negotiations are taking place in the next 48 hours to finalize the deal.
Besides Riachi, the ministerial committee includes caretaker Telecommunications Minister Jamal Jarrah and caretaker Sports and Youth Minister Mohammad Fneish.
According to Riachi, the move is important because it makes the games accessible and prevents piracy.
“It is the right of all Lebanese and those present in the country to watch football,” Riachi said.
“We need to halt any [plan] for piracy and infringements on the rights of others. We will protect people’s rights and all the companies that offer services to the Lebanese and those in the country.”
Before his meeting with Hariri, Riachi told The Daily Star he was “positive and keen to find the best way to air the World Cup to the Lebanese for free, so long as the German team does not lose.”
“Otherwise we will cut the broadcast,” he added, tongue-in-cheek.
Since the 2014 World Cup, Sama has been the only channel with the rights to air the tournament in Lebanon. Sama will charge viewers LL150,000 ($100) for the 2018 World Cup package, while Tele Liban intends to broadcast it for free.
Riachi said he hopes to receive official permission from BeIN this year after a legal battle between the Qatari channel and Tele Liban was taken to court in 2014.
Talal Makdessi, Tele Liban director at the time, said Qatari officials had promised to grant him the right to broadcast. When the promise did not come to fruition, Makdessi said he decided to air the matches anyway.
Copyright © 2019, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.