BEIRUT: State television channel Tele Liban will air Monday night’s World Cup matches, defying the exclusive broadcast rights obtained by Lebanese cable-providers.
“His excellency the minister of information considered this event [the World Cup] a ‘force majeure’,” said Talal Makdessi, chairman of Tele Liban, justifying his decision. He told The Daily Star that it was the right of every Lebanese citizen, in every village, to be able to watch the World Cup, and the only way to do that was through broadcasting on Tele Liban.
Makdessi said he had not received any permission to broadcast the matches.
“I did not ask [permission]," he said.
“I take full responsibility,” he said. “If there is any [blowback] I don’t care. I will present my resignation.”
Earlier on Monday, the ministers of information, telecom, and youth and sports announced that the World Cup would be aired for free by cable providers.
"I have been keen on providing the Lebanese with their right to watch this championship, but we cannot be oblivious to 'Sama' company's exclusive rights," Information Minister Ramzi Joreige told Voice of Lebanon radio. Cable-provider Sama initially had xclusive rights to broadcast the global football tournament but the Telecom Ministry paid the company $3,000,000 out of a $4,000,000 contract to attain the rights.
“The Minister of Telecom, assisted by Alfa and touch, provided this company with $3,000,000 compensation,” said Makdessi, adding that Sama has received “much more than $1,000,000” in World Cup package purchases meaning the company had not suffered a loss.
Makdessi said that Tele Liban’s broadcast of the World Cup is “for the people.”
“I cannot be more clear,” he added.
The World Cup is the world’s largest sporting event taking place every four years. While Lebanon’s national team has never qualified for the tournament, the Lebanese take part in the festivities by hanging flags on their balconies or getting their cars decaled with their favorite team’s colors.