Algerian government subsidises World Cup satellite access cards
By Nazim Fethi for Magharebia in Algiers – 09/06/06
The Algerian government's last minute decision to subsidise Arab Radio and Television (ART) satellite subscription cards may have helped alleviate some of the concerns viewers have had about watching the 2006 World Cup in their homes.
Following a presidential directive issued on Thursday (8 June), the government has arranged for 360,000 ART decoder cards, valued each at $125, to be sold for around $28 for one month during the cup. The cards will be available at post offices throughout the country.
From the moment the news was announced, post offices were besieged by thousands of Algerians trying to secure this magic key.
But with a satellite penetration of 87 per cent in a country of over 30 million, it is likely that many Algerians will not find a card to buy. Those who do succeed in purchasing one, however, will have to buy the ART card reader or decoder, which costs between $85 and $114.
Arab Radio and Television (ART) holds exclusive transmission rights for the World Cup in the Middle East and North Africa, purchased at a cost of 140m euros. Many state-owned media in North Africa and the much of the Arab World could not afford to buy the rights. With the exception of the final matches and the opening ceremony, terrestrial stations in the region will only be allowed to broadcast 20-minute summaries of games.
The Algerian government failed to reach an agreement with ART allowing it to transmit all the matches live. Hamraoui Habib Chawki, Algerian television's managing director, even went to Cairo this week to attempt a last minute compromise with ART.
Some Algerian viewers, accustomed to pirating signals from European satellite channels, especially French ones, were surprised to learn that these channels will also encrypt the World Cup matches. Some are now trying to capture German or Swiss channels.
Many Algerian families are prepared to spend their savings to buy television access to the World Cup matches. Omar, a bank teller, admits that he's had to borrow to keep his children happy. "I’ve got two football-crazy boys. I know that if I don't buy the card for them, they'll go elsewhere to watch the matches," he told Magharebia.
Rachida, an architect, convinced her husband to do the same. "I'm not that bothered about football. But when there's an event like this, I don't want to miss out. It's not just my husband who watches the matches. Even my 14-year-old daughter cried when she saw in the papers that the matches weren't going to be shown on Algerian television."
Yazid, unemployed and 22 years old, said he would not give up. He said the government must find a solution. "As it is, we've got nothing to entertain us. If they deprive us of the World Cup, it's as if they're punishing us," he said bitterly. "There's still some hope. As for me, I'm not going to miss a single Word Cup match. I'm sure I'll end up finding a café or a theatre where I can follow the matches," he added.
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