Lebanon: Frustrated World Cup fans tune into Israel

File image: Viewers watch Brazil v Croatia in Gaza City Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rights issues mean that some Middle East viewers encounter difficulties in watching World Cup matches

Football supporters in Lebanon have apparently been tuning in to Israeli television for their World Cup fix, rather than pay cable fees.

Qatari cable television provider Sama was granted exclusive rights to broadcast the games in the Middle East, but many households have been unable to pay the fees demanded by the sole agent in Lebanon. Instead, the Al-Nahar newspaper reports, "Israeli commentators' voices in Hebrew can be heard everywhere in south Lebanon; in people's houses, balconies and courtyards because the country has failed to allocate money to enable them to watch the games,".

However, Sama now says that Lebanese viewers will be allowed to watch the World Cup for free. Their announcement comes just after Lebanon's public broadcast network Tele Liban said that it would air World Cup matches this week in defiance of the cable TV deal. The defiant chairman, Talal Makdessi told Beirut's Daily Star it was "the right of every Lebanese citizen, in every village, to be able to watch the World Cup, and the only way to do that was through broadcasting on Tele Liban".

The decision to air the matches free-to-air can't end soon enough for one viewer, who complained to Al-Nahar that the Israeli commentators were biased against "the Muslims of Bosnia" during their match against Argentina.

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