Qatar’s beIN caught offside in Turkish football viewing row

Akhisar’s players celebrate as they pose with the Turkish Ziraat trophy after the the Ziraat Turkish Cup final football match between Fenerbahce and Akhisar in Diyarbakir on May 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 07 August 2018

Qatar’s beIN caught offside in Turkish football viewing row

  • 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

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.

Google fined $1.7bn for search ad blocks

Updated 20 March 2019

Google fined $1.7bn for search ad blocks

  • Google received three fines in the past two years
  • EU Commission says Google has been blocking competitors for the past ten years

BRUSSELS: Google was fined $1.7 billion on Wednesday for blocking rival online search advertisers, the third large European Union antitrust penalty for the Alphabet business in two only years.

The European Commission, which said the fine accounted for 1.29 percent of Google’s turnover in 2018, said in a statement that the anti-competitive practices had lasted a decade.

“Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

The case concerned websites, such as of newspaper or travel sites, with a search function that produces search results and search adverts. Google’s AdSense for Search provided such search adverts.

The misconduct included stopping publishers from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages, forcing them to reserve the most profitable space on their search results pages for Google’s adverts and a requirement to seek written approval from Google before making changes to the way in which any rival adverts were displayed.

The AdSense advertising case was triggered by a complaint from Microsoft in 2010. Both companies subsequently dropped complaints against each other in 2016.

Last year, Vestager imposed a record $4.92 billion fine on Google for using its popular Android mobile operating system to block rivals. This followed a $2.74 billion fine in June 2017 for hindering rivals of shopping comparison websites.

Google is now trying to comply with the order to ensure a level playing field with proposals to boost price comparison rivals and prompt Android users to choose their preferred browsers and search apps. Critics however are still not happy.