Al Jazeera Sport is unlikely to be liable for compensation following the signal disruption during the World Cup, according to a lawyer with experience in the Middle East satellite sector.
The network – which has the exclusive rights to the competition – has agreements in place with telecoms and cable TV operators in the region, whose customers were also affected by the loss of signal during several World Cup matches at the weekend.
“Commercial satellite contracts typically include a force majeure clause that would envisage interference out of the broadcaster's control, such as the jamming that Al Jazeera suffered this past weekend and that would excuse the broadcaster from liability,” said Sonya Shaykhoun, attorney, Charles Russell LLP, who has experience in the region’s satellite broadcasting sector.
“Moreover, as satellite television is still not regulated in the Middle East, it is unlikely that any of the telecommunications regulatory authorities in the MENA region would have jurisdiction over a satellite television operator in the highly unlikely event that the operator caused the transmission interference itself,” she added.
Despite public and media outrage at the interference, Al Jazeera has said that it too was a victim in the interference. Reports in Arab media have suggested that the network blames satellite operator Nilesat for the problems and has also described the interference as “sabotage”.
“Needless to say, it is caustic to imagine that either of the satellite operators, Nilesat or Arabsat, would interfere with the Al Jazeera channel, which is owned by the Qatari government, to such a damaging extent and at such a crucial time.” claimed Shaykhoun. “Especially given that Nilesat is owned in party by the Egyptian government while Arabsat is owned by a consortium of Arab countries. It is imaginable that the sabotage was not commercially-motivated but rather motivated by a disgruntled customer armed with the know-how or by political malcontents for obscure political reasons,” said Shaykhoun who also noted that signal interference of any form is illegal under international law.