Telsat will not broadcast World Cup unless VBTC gets FIFA approval

Rod Smith, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and owner of Telsat Pacific pay-TV service in Port Vila, Rod Smith, says a lot of their customers are angry that Telsat will not be broadcasting the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia because the Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC) has the exclusive rights. Picture: VANUATU DAILY POST

PORT VILA, 29 MAY 2018 (VANUATU DAILY POST)—The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and owner of Telsat Pacific pay-TV service in Port Vila, Rod Smith, says a lot of their customers are angry that Telsat will not be broadcasting the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia because the Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC) has the exclusive rights for them.

He says he has requested VBTC for the rights to rebroadcast their signal of the matches on Telsat’s free-to-air channel, but the CEO of VBTC, Francis Herman, says they would first seek the approval of FIFA.

Rod Smith says the VBTC have been quite unreasonable about the whole matter.

“We got nasty threatening letters from the VBTC to say if we transmit anything to do with the World Cup we’ll be heavily penalised, taken to court and all that sort of stuff. That’s an upfront letter, not explaining the situation first, straight away, court threats, not a very nice way to talk to people,” he added.

“I said, ‘look, tell me what your intentions are, we’ll follow the rules, no problems’. However, there are a lot of customers that want us to see the matches that get our service. So, that means we have to physically have to turn those channels off because they come on free channels like SBS.

“So, I said ‘how about you just allow us to transmit your channel on our free-to-air community channels and people can watch it? It’s a free to air service, they don’t even need a decoder. If they got a modern tv, it’ll just play it. They could just tune in and watch it or if they got STB they can watch it on channel one.

“They came back in the end and said ‘oh, we’ll have to get FIFA approval for that’. I said you don’t need FIFA approval for it, you got FIFA approval already to transmit in Vanuatu whatever system you use whether analogue or digital or whatever you want to use you can use. All you need to do is allow us to do it and we’ll do it for free. We’re not going to make any money, if you want to put some adverts on your channel we can do it too.

“But he’s saying that they still need the approval from FIFA, I have a trail of emails here from the CEO, Francis Herman, showing this.”

Smith says now, they’ll have to turn the channels off when the World Cup matches come on unless they get the FIFA approval, but he’s expecting them to say ‘yes’.

“I mean any reasonable person would say well, that’s a great idea. They can get more adverts because they can them through our channel and our customers are happy because they get to see the world cup matches. Even though coming from the VBTC it’s probably be an analogue signal, probably not that good quality, we can change it to digital but it’ll still be whatever quality they give us. But otherwise, the other channels we have they’ll be coming to us crystal clear from SBS and probably BM Sports or Fox Sports Asia.”

Smith says Telsat can pay for whatever amount VBTC want, ‘but that he’s offered them a better deal’.

“According to the write up Fiji TV’s got the rights for the Pacific. I’ve asked FIFA for the rights to broadcast the World Cup in Vanuatu months ago, and tried chasing it up, but no answer. I sent several emails, but no. I expected that,” he continued.

“They’ve done this to us before. We got taken to court a couple of years ago. They were saying we were advertising and making unjust gain, but we never advertised, ever. And they said: ‘we’ve seen your advertisement outside the Office Pub.” I said: The Office Pub does their own advertising we don’t do that. They make their own advertisement and it comes through one of our channels, free-to-air. I answered this to them and they withdrew their complaint because they had no case.

“I know soccer’s a big deal for all ni-Vans and we just make it available, they just pay their monthly subscription, but we don’t make any special advertisements or anything like that.

“I’m getting a lot of feedback from customers because they are angry that we are not allowed to show it.”

“VBTC are aware of the media frenzy and they are seeking FIFA clarification that we can do it,” Smith admits.

“The Finals are almost upon us. I need time to get the equipment organized to get their analogue AV signal and put it through our IP digital system. Probably a couple of days will be needed to do this.”

Francis Herman, the CEO VBTC is furious about the whole matter.

“You should ask Rod (Rod Smith) why didn’t he apply for the license to broadcast the World Cup for Vanuatu? VBTC we have the exclusive license for Vanuatu.

“We wrote a legal letter to him to say he does not have the right. We’ve provided him with all the letters from FIFA to show that the only one that has the broadcast television rights in Vanuatu is VBTC. We applied for the rights we paid for the rights,” Herman adds.

“The question is why didn’t the others apply for the rights because they have been ‘pirating’ the signal for too long?”

Herman was asked if the others knew they had to apply for the rights? “I mean if the operator of a pay TV service, Jonas you know, you were General Manager of this place, there’s no such thing as a free program. For the World Cup everyone knows you go to pay for the license. We applied.

“The Vanuatu license closed in September last year, I wasn’t even here. Nobody from Vanuatu applied for the license. No one, not even VBTC. When I came in, one of the first things I did was to find out about our licenses and one of the things we found out was that we didn’t have the license so I applied. And have secure for all, we have the World Cup, we have the Under 17 Women’s World Cup we have the Under 20 Women’s World Cup, plus we have the 2018 FIFA World Cup. No other ones, Canal Plus, Telsat, Servicom, none of them applied for the license, why are they crying now.

“I’m really pissed off because everyone’s attacking VBTC, why don’t they ask their providers why didn’t they apply and pay for the rights? The rights don’t come cheaply. I’ll give you an example. For the Under 20 Men’s World Cup last year in Korea, VBTC paid $US25,000 (Vt2.7-million). It was not even the big World Cup, so it is not cheap,” the furious VBTC CEO added.

“The rights are not owned by VBTC, the rights are owned by FIFA. They are the only ones who can sell the rights. That includes Telsat, Servicom or whoever it is. I cannot sell the rights or give the rights to anybody unless FIFA approves it. Rod Smith knows that.

“We’ve told him, I’ve been emailing him and he’s acknowledged it, and he goes and says something else to you and to social media.”

Herman confirmed he’s written to everyone, not only Telsat, to tell them that FIFA’s given them their rights for broadcast and not to anyone else and they were serious about protecting their rights to broadcast the World Cup.

He also confirmed that he was in contact with FIFA about the rights to Telsat to rebroadcast the signals from VBTC and they were still awaiting a final response from FIFA.

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