Ramallah: Palestinian football fans are tapping into free Israeli satellite feeds of the FIFA World Cup 2014 matches to avoid the high cost of subscription fees through officially licenced channels.
“I wish the day had more than 24 hours to give us a chance to work more and attend to the mounting orders to install satellite dishes in households all over the West Bank,” said Ussamah Mesleh, a satellite technician.
Mesleh praised the business opportunity presented to him through the Israeli public broadcaster’s decision to air the matches for free, adding that Palestinians were queueing to get dish antennas pointed to Israel’s Amos satellite that hosts the Israeli channels airing the matches.
“We are busy 24 hours a day and have already hired new staff to help install the Amos dishes,” he said.
Viewers incur a one-time cost of 40-80 Israeli Shekels (Dh40 to Dh80) in the West Bank to view the games on Israeli channels, and the price range is influenced by the cost of the low-noise block down converter (LNB), which is the receiving device mounted on the satellite dishes used for satellite TV reception.
The World Cup takes place this year as the Israeli regime conducts a massive manhunt for three colonists believed to have been kidnapped. The search has led to over 240 Palestinians being nabbed by the occupation, and hundreds of homes raided. Palestinians have described the operations as collective punishment.
Since the opening of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil last Thursday, an overwhelming number of orders for satellite dishes pointing to the Israeli satellite Amos have poured in with the result that technicians have been giving their clients appointments for four to five days ahead. Mesleh said that the Amos satellite, located at 4 degrees West, has spared Palestinian families the high subscription fees imposed by the provider licenced to carry the matches, beIN Sports, which he said was approximately 1,300 Israeli Shekels.
World cup matches are broadcast on Israeli channels 1, 2, 10 and 33 and West Bank and Gaza residents are happy to view them there since a large number of Palestinians are fluent in Hebrew and can understand the commentary.
Saber Abu Saad, another technician, said that Israel falls under the European market and was therefore given broadcasting rights accordingly. Unlike in Arab countries, Israelis are not obliged to subscribe to Qatar-based beIN Sports, and Israeli authorities have decided to broadcast the matches for free.
BeIN sports, a global network of sports channels jointly owned and operated by a Qatari affiliate of Al Jazeera Media Networks, holds the exclusive media rights licence for Middle East and Northern Africa. “The beIN sports channels subscription has been negatively affected by the free Israeli broadcasting of the World Cup matches and there have almost been no subscriptions at all especially once the public was sure there was free broadcasting of the matches,” Abu Saad said.
He stressed that cafes which have official subscriptions from beIN, expecting that they would have a prosperous season in hopes to attract clients, have also suffered and have been frustrated as the number of visitors has been lower than normal due to hot weather and people’s preference to watch the football matches at their homes for free.
Ahmad Abu Salah, a Palestinian who got Amos installed in his home to watch the matches, said that because he does not speak Hebrew, he mutes the TV set and puts on radio commentary of the matches. As a result, he ends up with the matches live and almost for free with Arabic commentary. He said that he paid a one-time fee of 50 Shekels to watch the matches at home and that was almost “nothing” compared to the beIN subscription.
“I would be paying this money in a café watching a single match of the tournament,” he said, adding that despite the publicity the Israeli satellite channels gained through this, it was still the best possible choice for those who desperately wanted to see the World Cup matches and could not afford to pay the subscription fees.
Technicians said that they have provided their friends, relatives and even the social media forums with the technical details of installing the Amos satellite in other Middle Eastern countries. The technicians said that the Amos had even “invaded” other Arab countries, especially Jordan and Iraq.
BeIN Sport did not respond to a Gulf News request for a comment by the time of going to print.