ANKARA: Qatari-owned beIN has found itself in the middle of another major football broadcasting rights row — this time in Turkey.
The broadcaster, which recently came under fire from Egyptian fans for the high price of World Cup packages, has now also fallen foul of supporters in Turkey.
Some disgruntled fans unwilling to pay subscription fees had been watching games on Twitter’s Periscope live streaming service.
But now the service will be blocked countrywide during Super League football matches after beIN-owned Digiturk went to court in an effort to protect its exclusive rights.
Ihsan Inan, a football fan based in Istanbul, said the high costs of Digiturk football packages had discouraged people with low incomes from paying for packages.
“In the past, the broadcaster companies possessing the exclusive rights were airing one match per week without subscription. It was a fairer way to reach football fans and to avoid free riders,” he told Arab News.
The move has also come under fire from cyber rights campaigners who said it represents the first case of online censorship in the country.
Efe Kerem Sozeri, a researcher on cyber rights, said the case was another step in the wrong direction.
“First and foremost, it is Periscope (Twitter) who are responsible for any copyright violation. They do have a policy against this, even a form for copyright holders to report violations,” he said.
“From the court order, it is clear that beIN / Digiturk knows exactly which three accounts violated its rights, and its legal representatives could instead report these accounts directly to Periscope and get them suspended immediately. These accounts seem to be removed, making the court ban even more curious,” he added.
Sozeri noted that there are legal services that monitor online broadcasts against copyrighted content and help to get them taken down.
YouTube, for example, has an automated system that recognizes copyrighted material and removes it even before it goes online.
“So there are technologies to protect copyrights, proper channels to report and take down violations much faster and more effectively, but Turkey has a hammer and treats every problem as a nail,” he said.
Sozeri added that such decisions only encouraged the public to look for more ways to bypass government-imposed viewing restrictions.
“Use of counter-censorship technologies, such as using proxy services, VPNs and the Tor network in Turkey has historically climbed after every such milestone decision that restricted the country’s online freedoms more.
Certainly this decision will have the same effect on Turkish users,” he said.
Ozgehan Senyuva, a social scientist working on sport politics from Ankara’s Middle East Technical University, said the Periscope match ban reflected the financial pressures facing the broadcaster.
“We have the lowest rate of attendance in stadiums compared to other European countries. The football teams, including the biggest ones, are on the verge of financial bankruptcy.”
He said that many fans were not willing to pay to watch poorer quality football, leading them to free alternatives such as Periscope.
Digiturk was not immediately available for comment.