[Marxism] FIFA Ownership!!
ykleftis at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 9 14:10:03 MDT 2006
Keep cool! Outside the US and Europe we cant get the match easily even
though everyone watches it. You have to pay a lot or go to bar. They change
the codes for every match. It appears that it is not available easily from
Of course, there are some weak links. They control the broadcast adequately
in nearly all the EU state channels, but one or two state channels on the
European periphery still broadcast the match for free. I wont say which one
online for the hardcore fans but for those interested just ThIink abouT sOme
of your favorite European ex-socialist states and their leaders, then look
at their stations.
Not everyone gets some social democracy, however... read below for the World
Cup situation in the Middle East.
The World Cup: controlling the flow of images
MEDIA | Watching the World Cup on TV has been made expensive for many
people. Ahmad Humeid surveys the signs of a consumer backlash and the
appearance alternative forms of media around the event
Football is not round. The ball that the 22 men kick around on the field
might be spherical, but the global industry of football has the shape of a
gigantic pyramid. At the base of this pyramid are kids playing with
punctured balls on dirt streets and schoolyards. At the top of the pyramid
sits a god-like governing body, the FIFA, a non-profit, but very rich
I wont go into the massive dollar figures associated with the FIFA and the
World Cup. Its enough to say that the numbers related to organization,
sponsoring and media are dizzying.
The 2006 World Cup in Germany was the first time people in the Arab world
felt the overwhelming power of the FIFA and its absolute control of the flow
of TV images of the worlds greatest sporting event. Despite the shouts of
protest against the overt commercialization of the broadcast rights, the
reality soon hit everyone. The Arab Radio and TV Network (ART) had acquired
the right to broadcast the World Cup in the Middle East for the foreseeable
future. Want to watch the World Cup? Then youd better pay up something like
300$ to get a satellite dish and receiver from ART. And No, you cant just
buy a months access to watch the games. Youll have a full year access to
ARTs bouquet of channels whether you want them or not. For someone who
usually watches a few hours of TV every month (I am not kidding) paying a
few hundred dollars to watch the World Cup seems absurd.
In a country like Jordan, where many people are barely able to make ends
meet, charging them to watch their favorite global sporting event has
created a lot of bitterness. Thats why King Abdullah ordered the setting up
of 30 public viewing screens across the country for people who cannot afford
PayTV to watch the games.
Public viewing screens were not the only solution. Many Jordanian have
become experts in satellite receiver hacking. Everyone, including the
countrys top cartoonist Hajjaj are talking about breaking the codes for
certain European satellite channels. Even with the codes changing daily,
people are flocking to the internet where they find satellite hacker forums
that provide the latest codes.
In Palestine, local TV channels are re-broadcasting the games on terrestrial
waves. ART has assured these broadcasters that they will not be sued.
Amongst all the negativity directed at ART, the companys tolerance of the
Palestinian TV stations piracy of their broadcasts was a good PR move.
The aggressive licensing of the World Cups TV images is manifesting itself
in jarring ways. The two German state-owned broadcasters ARD and ZDF have
switched to broadcasting documentaries on their Hotbird satellite feeds. In
their news bulletins broadcast on Hotbird, they blank out their picture when
showing game highlights!
On the popular Arab news channel Al Arabiyah only freeze frames of the games
are being shown during sports news bulletins. No wonder there is widespread
criticism of the the licensing practices of FIFA. Some critics are going as
far as saying that the monopolistic practices of FIFA, is undermining the
very foundations of the pyramid theyre sitting on top.
A people driven backlash?
A live sporting event is the perfect moment for the traditional TV business.
While hollywood movies can be pirated on DVD or even downloaded from the
net, a football game is something that everyone wants to watch live. Thats
where the mainstream TV business can still excel.
One cant underestimate the technical cost and sophistication of the
infrastructure of the massive media machinery deployed to capture and
broadcast the games on a global scale. Dozens of high definition cameras
capture the action in brilliant colors. TV directors, engineers, broadcast
equipment, satellite feeds and all the other cogs in the media machine do
have a massive cost. Whether that justifies the aggressive management of
broadcast rights or not can be debated.
But other, new media forces are at play too. Normal people using the net to
hack satellite feeds is the only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to
what people can do to circumvent the monopolistic powers of mainstream
media. User generated content in the form of pictures and videos shared on
the web is starting to become a more visible media byproduct of the
Traditional media types view devices like mobile phones and laptops as just
another channel they can distribute their media properties to and make
more money. Indeed, this World Cup has been characterized by the rise of
mobile TV services, pushed by major mobile providers. UMTS technology is
being used in Europe to offer a live mobile TV experience. The Beijing 2008
Olympics are expected to be venue where such services really take off.
But such services only look at the down stream: from content owner to
content consumer. What this ignores is the rising upstream trend of people
shooting their own videos and photos with their mobiles and sharing them via
the web or Bluetooth. The video capabilities of still image cameras, as well
as mobile phone are getting better all the time and their connectivity to
the web, via WiFi or other technologies, is becoming stronger.
Today, you can find tens of thousands of images shot and shared on the web
by people celebrating the World Cup. Videos are making their way to the web
too. iFilm, an online distributor of short form video content (which is now
owned by MTV) has dedicated a special section on its site to publish user
generated video content.
Flickr, the popular photo sharing site has a growing number of user groups
dedicated to publishing World Cup related photos. The irony is that Flickr
is owned by Yahoo, a major World Cup sponsor. The user generated content of
Flickr (but also from peoples blogs) is making its way to the Yahoo
produced World Cup home page. Yahoo obviously sees value in featuring such
content. Do they have to be reminded that theyre getting this content for
free from passionate users?
I can easily imagine a situation in the near future where people in the
stadium would be shooting the live event with their camera phones and
webcasting them to friends, family or even a wider audience. Of course
such video stream would be no match to the official professional,
multi-angle, professionally directed video. But in an age where the
organizers of major, popular, global events are so aggressive in protecting
their broadcasts, this form of citizen media might become a viable
Such webcasting might be deemed illegal by the organizers, but there is
little that they can do (unless they want to force all people to leave their
phones and cameras at the door!).
Traditional media companies will not disappear overnight because of the
power of people to generate content. But user-generated content is a factor
that no one can afford to ignore anymore.
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