LONDON (AFP) – Coverage of this year’s World Cup football finals in South Africa by the Al-Jazeera satellite television was jammed from Jordan, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported in its Thursday edition.
“Mysterious jamming of TV broadcasts of the summer’s World Cup by the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera has been traced to Jordan, which appears to have retaliated angrily after the collapse of a deal that would have allowed football fans there free access to the matches,” the paper reported.
“Secret documents seen exclusively by the Guardian trace five episodes of jamming definitively to a location near Salt in Jordan, northeast of the capital Amman, confirmed by technical teams using geolocation technology.
“The co-ordinates identified were 32.125N 35.766E. It is accurate to within a range of three to five kilometres (one to three miles).”
Jordanian officials were not immediately available to comment on the reported jamming, which infuriated million of fans who had paid in advance for coverage of the tournament only to receive blank screens, pixelated images or commentary in the wrong languages.
The Guardian said the interference to the broadcasts by the Qatar-based channel over the Nilesat and Arabsat satellites had affected a total of eight games.
“There was speculation that Egypt or Saudi Arabia, both hostile to the channel, were involved, though the network has never named any suspects or gone public with the results of its own investigation,” the paper said.
“Experts say the jamming was unlikely to have been done without the knowledge of the Jordanian authorities. ‘It was a very sophisticated case,’ said one.”
Al-Jazeera had exclusive pay-TV rights to broadcast World Cup matches across the Middle East from North Africa to Iran and charged up to 150 dollars for one-month subscription packages or cards to see the games.
“Jordan’s King Abdullah, a keen football fan, sent a close adviser to negotiate the deal with Al-Jazeera,” the Guardian reported.
“When it collapsed on the eve of the games, one Jordanian official complained that the network’s stance was ‘based on a political agenda and has nothing to do with commercial or any other purposes’,” it added.
The paper quoted sources at Al-Jazeera as saying Abdullah had asked the channel to provide giant television screens in public places where Jordanians could watch the games free. “It refused, saying other Arab countries would expect similarly favourable treatment,” the report said.
Al-Jazeera has revolutionized the Arabic-language media and reporting on the Middle East since its foundation in 1996 but at the expense of offending many Arab governments, including that of Jordan.