BeIN Sports loses out in Egypt for breach of competition rules

Nasser Al-Khelaifi is the chief executive of Qatar's BeIN Media Group and president of French soccer club Paris St Germain (PSG). BeIN was hit with a anti-trust fine by an Egyptian court this week. (Reuters)
Updated 13 March 2018
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BeIN Sports loses out in Egypt for breach of competition rules

LONDON: The outlook for Qatari-owned sports broadcaster BeIN in Egypt has worsened after it was hit by a fine of 400 million Egyptian pounds ($22.7 million) for breaching competition rules.
Qatar’s BeIN Sports chief executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who is also the president of Paris Saint-Germain, was fined by an Egyptian court on Monday, AFP reported.
The ruling — confirmed by a court on March 12 — comes after BeIN announced on Feb. 20 that it will be broadcasting this year’s Fifa World Cup held in Russia across six of its sports channels, broadcasting live for 14 hours every day of the tournament.
The World Cup is of particular interest in the Middle East this year with four Arab nations; Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, taking part in the competition for the first time in history.
The fine slapped on BeIN highlights the close scrutiny paid to the granting of lucrative sports media rights in many countries, particularly those with fairly new competition legislation, AFP reported.
According to local press, the Egyptian Competition Authority said BeIN had made Egyptian customers replace their existing satellites in order to access BeIN services during the last African Football Cup held in Gabon.
The authority also raised concerns about the way subscriptions were sold, saying it forced viewers to buy sports bundles which included programming they weren’t interested in watching.
Alex Haffner, partner, sports business group at Fladgate law firm, in London, said that sports media rights often face scrutiny as they can potentially generate huge advertising revenue from advertisers keen to catch the eye of millions of sports fans.
“Competition and other regulatory authorities have historically paid a close interest to sports media rights and, specifically, the way they are tendered, packaged and sold to consumers.
“This is borne of the fact that such rights are typically a powerful medium to reach certain viewers, notably those who are highly prized by advertisers but not always easy to engage with via the medium of broadcast, and therefore tend to have a significant impact on competition in the broadcast markets on which they are exploited,” he said.
It could be additionally challenging where competition law is still in its “infancy,” he said, including Egypt in this category. The North African country introduced its competition law in 2005, but only started fully implementing it in the last few years, said Haffner.
“They have less established precedent to rely on and are more prone to being influenced by external factors. It therefore becomes more difficult to forward plan and map out how those authorities are likely to view particular business practices.
“That said, such ‘newer’ authorities, if treated with due reverence and respect are more likely to be open to closer co-operation and engagement with those they regulate,” he said.
The ruling against BeIN also reflects the wider geopolitical environment, with relations between Qatar and Egypt are already deteriorating due to the continued boycott of Qatar by the Saudi-led coalition of states, which includes Egypt, which began in mid-2017.
The reasons behind the boycott are said to be due to Qatar’s alleged support of terror groups — a claim Qatar denies.
“Egypt-Qatar relations were already very tense,” said Jane Kinninmont, senior research fellow and deputy head, MENA program at Chatham House in London.
“Egypt’s grievances against Qatar include a variety of grievances with Qatari media, primarily Al-Jazeera, so Qatar is likely to see this court case as a politicized decision, whether it is or not.
“However, the boycott has never been absolute. A variety of economic relations have continued, including the presence of Egyptians working in Qatar. This decision may underline the pre-existing tensions but is unlikely to be a game-changer,” she said.
BeIN did not respond to Arab News requests for comment. The Egyptian Competition Authority also did not respond to requests for comment.


Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 22 March 2019
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Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.