The sports channel is back on Saudi screens despite the lack of confirmation of the resumption of the network’s activity in the kingdom.
Saudi authorities have lifted the three-year ban on Qatari TV channel beIN Sports as part of the latest step towards full reconciliation between the two Gulf countries.
It is not known if the ban was officially lifted, but several cafes and restaurants in the capital Riyadh were using satellite dishes to broadcast English Premier League football matches on beIN Sports channels, witnesses told the Reuters news agency.
Saudi Arabia’s General Competition Authority said in July 2020 that it had permanently canceled beIN’s license after being barred from broadcasting in the kingdom in mid-2017 due to a bitter conflict with Qatar. .
BeIN Media Group, meanwhile, said that nothing “has changed significantly to our knowledge at this stage”.
“Our website is still totally blocked in Saudi Arabia and we have not received any official communication from the Saudi authorities suggesting that our license has been reinstated,” a beIN spokesperson said in a statement.
“However, like everyone else, we hope that Saudi Arabia will take positive steps to allow beIN operations to return to the country after 3.5 years. We are waiting to see.
Global rule violation
Qatar filed a complaint in 2018 with the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding Riyadh’s blocking of the broadcaster in the kingdom and its refusal to take action against alleged piracy of beIN content by beoutQ, a commercial-scale hacking operation.
A WTO panel last year concluded that Saudi Arabia had violated global intellectual property rights rules by not suing beoutQ, while supporting Riyadh’s view that it could block the Qatari broadcaster to obtain legal advice in the kingdom for reasons of national security.
Riyadh has repeatedly stated that it fights piracy and is committed to protecting intellectual property.
BeIN said Saudi Arabia is its largest subscriber base and largest trading market in the Middle East and North Africa.
A lawsuit, brought by beIN under international arbitration rules and claiming more than $ 1 billion in damages against Saudi Arabia, is still pending. The arbitration will take place in London.
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that beIN will withdraw the case once the broadcaster is allowed to return to the kingdom, as part of a broader political reconciliation between the two countries.