Media authorities in the UAE and Bahrain have accused Qatar after trying to drag Saudi Arabia into a broadcasting spat after the kingdom was criticised by sports bodies for not doing enough to fight television piracy.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia denied claims by the governing bodies of world tennis that a television channel illegally showing matches from Qatar’s beIN Sports was based in the kingdom and allowed to air on Riyadh-based satellite provider Arabsat.
Similar complaints were made regarding the channel, beoutQ, by football governing body FIFA, its European counterpart UEFA and motorsport competition Formula One.
In a statement issued over the weekend, the UAE’s National Media Council said the kingdom had taken “frequent and effective measures” to “fight piracy and protect intellectual property”.
“The NMC appreciates relentless efforts being exerted by the Saudi Ministry of Media in fighting media piracy by a pirate entity named ‘beoutQ’, as part of Saudi government’s commitment to protecting IP rights,” the NMC said, according to UAE state news agency WAM.
The NMC went on the blame Qatar, whose beIN Sports channels hold the regional rights to broadcast most global sporting events including professional tennis tournaments and the football World Cup, for failing to protect its channels.
“Qatar is trying to cover up its clear technical failure of protecting its sports channels against piracy,” the NMC added.
Bahrain’s Ministry of Information Affairs issued a similar statement backing the kingdom and its decision to block beIN Sports.
It said the channel had been used politically “in order to discredit the kingdom” and called for a legal review of the broadcaster in each country after its involvement in politics during the World Cup.
Bein Sports, which is owned be Qatari broadcast Al Jazeera, has been banned in Saudi Arabia since it enacted a boycott against Qatar alongside Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE last year.
The Saudi Football Federation filed a complaint with FIFA last month after accusing the broadcaster “political media abuse” in its covering of the opening World Cup match between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The four Arab countries have made the closure of Al Jazeera one of their conditions to end the boycott, which has seen them close diplomatic, trade and transport links to Qatar since June last year.