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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Competition (GAC) said on Tuesday it had permanently canceled the license of Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports, which has been barred from broadcasting in the Kingdom since mid-2017 due to a dispute with Qatar.
The GAC, which is responsible for protecting and encouraging fair competition, said in a statement on its wesbsite that it will also fine the broadcaster SR10 million ($2.7 million) for alleged “monopolistic practices.”
The moves follow public complaints and GAC investigations that found BeIN Sports had abused its dominant position in the run-up to the exclusive sports broadcast bundle of the European football championship in 2016 through several monopolistic practices.
These included forcing football fans wishing to subscribe to BeIN Sports in order to watch the tournament to subscribe to other channels, including non-sports ones; forcing subscribers to renew their subscription to the main channels for an entire year as a condition to watch the championship, even though their subscription was still valid and was supposed to cover the period during which the competition was held; and including the fees for championships and sports in the subscription fee, even though viewers might not want to watch the matches.
The practices constitute a clear violation of the competition statute and implementing regulations, the GAC said.
The GAC board said it decided to take appropriate measures to end the practices and violations committed by BeIN Sports, as well as fining the Qatari-owned channel, to protect viewers in the Kingdom.
However, BeIN Sports refused to implement the changes and appealed against this decision before the Administrative Court of the Board of Grievances in Riyadh. The administrative justice found the case on BeIN Sports inadmissible.
According to the competition system and implementing regulations, practices that constitute a violation of the competition’s rules shall be referred to the adjudication committee. The board issued a decision to “approve to refer the case to the committee and take legal action against BeIN Sports.”
It has been established to the adjudication committee in the violations of the competition system that BeIN Sports violated the competition system and its implementing regulations, and that the company continues to do so. These include breaching paragraph 3 of article V of the competition system issued by the Royal Decree No. M/25 on June 22, 2004, which states: “It is prohibited for a firm dominating a market to practice anything that restricts competition as determined by the list, such as imposing special requirements for sales or purchases.”
It has also violated paragraph 10 of article VII from the implementing regulations of the competition system (referred to), which states: “It is prohibited for a firm with a dominating position to abuse dominance in order to violate, limit or forbid competition, including: Suspend selling a product or providing a service, by buying another product, or a limited quantity or by requesting another service.”
The GAC called on relevant authorities and the private sector to promote legal competition in the broadcasting of sports competitions and to encourage consumer choice, thereby promoting the growth of the sports media industry, and increasing its efficiency within a framework of justice and transparency.
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