BANDOS ISLAND, The government of the Maldives has called on the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) for assistance in gaining access to this year’s FIFA World Cup for broadcast on TV Maldives, the only free-to-air network in the small island nation.
The Maldives’ Minister of Information and Arts, Mohamed Nasheed, made the appeal to the ABU during the opening ceremony of the organization’s 80th Administrative Council. According to Nasheed, the local satellite platform does have rights to all 64 games, making the World Cup available to only about 25,000 people out of the country’s 300,000 population.
TV Maldives is reportedly being asked by the unnamed pay-TV platform to pay more than US$600,000 for access to a limited number of games. Nasheed referred to the asking price as “a tsunami amount of money.”
“Charging a small public broadcasting organization 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. “We cannot be victimized by this and we do not want to accept such manipulative deals.”
He continued, “US$600,000 is equivalent to nearly 7.7 million rufiyaa. Divide that by 300,000 people, it comes to 25.7 rufiyaa per person. This is an enormous amount. And if we understand correctly, there are richer and bigger countries that would pay only US$40,000 to watch all the 64 games.”
The Secretary-General of the ABU, David Astley, added that the asking price was a 3,000-percent increase on what the broadcaster paid for the same rights in 2002. “It is outrageous that the rights holder should be asking for an increase of this magnitude at a time that this small island nation is recovering from the devastation of the tsunami. The amount being asked is totally out of proportion to what other countries of this size are being asked to pay.”
The Maldives’ government is said to be drafting legislation that would require events like the World Cup to be made available to free-to-air television at a reasonable cost. “This could have been avoided if the pay-TV provider had been willing to negotiate a fair price with the free-to-air broadcaster,” Astley said. “I believe it is a case of the pay-TV operator simply not being aware of the market conditions in the Maldives.”
The ABU’s head of sport, John Barton, will hold discussions with pay-TV operator concerned.