Friday, April 28, 2006

Maldives asks for World Cup TV at "bearable cost"

The Maldives government has called on the Asian Broadcasting Union to help it gain "reasonable access" to free-to-air access for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The Maldives is an Indian Ocean nation with a population of less than 300,000 who live some 20 atolls. It was one of the countries damaged by the 2005 Tsunami.

The country’s Minister of Information and Arts, Mohamed Nasheed, told the opening ceremony of the ABU’s 80th Administrative Council meeting that the only free-to-air television station, TV Maldives, had been asked to pay more than US$600,000 to broadcast a limited number of games. He said the local cable operator had "been given" the broadcast rights to all 64 games but they had only 25,000 subscribers. He further suggested that the holder of the broadcast rights was taking advantage of the Maldivians’ love of football.

“Charging a small public broadcasting organisation such as ours whose only interest is to show its nationals their life-blood game is like taking away the means of our life and charging an exorbitant amount to return those means,” he said.

He claimed the satellite operator which had acquired the broadcast rights from FIFA was asking TV Maldives to pay “a tsunami amount of money. And if we understand correctly, there are richer and bigger countries that would pay only US$40,000 to watch all the 64 games."

He appealed to all members of the ABU to support its cause to obtain the World Cup rights “at a bearable cost that is commensurate with our nation, its population and its capacities”.

The Secretary-General of the ABU, David Astley, said the price being asked of TV Maldives was a 3,000 percent increase on what the broadcaster paid for the same rights in 2002. “The amount being asked is totally out of proportion to what other countries of this size are being asked to pay”. He said he had been informed that the government was drafting ‘listed events’ legislation which would require events like the World Cup to be made available to free-to-air television at a reasonable cost.

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