[Marxism] FIFA Ownership!!

Y. K. ykleftis at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 9 14:10:03 MDT 2006

Keep cool!  Outside the US and Europe we can’t 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 
China either.

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 won’t 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 won’t go into the massive dollar figures associated with the FIFA and the 
World Cup. It’s 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 world’s 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 you’d better pay up something like 
300$ to get a satellite dish and receiver from ART. And No, you can’t just 
buy a month’s access to watch the games. You’ll have a full year access to 
ART’s ‘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. That’s 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 
country’s 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 company’s tolerance of the 
Palestinian TV stations’ “piracy” of their broadcasts was a good PR move.
The aggressive licensing of the World Cup’s 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 they’re 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. That’s 
where the mainstream TV business can still excel.
One can’t 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 people’s 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 they’re 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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