Television (and other software) piracy is rampant in Beirut and the surrounding region, with thousands of ‘informal’ cables strung between the cities and towns illegally delivering the very best in pay-TV for just a few dollars a month. Barely a penny goes to the official rights’ holders. That may be changing.
A deal was struck in Beirut on Tuesday between one local cable operator, Cable Vision, and Orbit Showtime Network, itself a long-struggling pay-TV broadcaster beset by piracy of its signals.
The deal was signed during a news conference held at Lebanon’s Information Ministry, in the presence of Information Minister Tarek Mitri. The minister said the agreement was significant because it would help regulate the distribution of cable television channels and prevent piracy. However, he declined to criticise the cable operators, saying “What they do is not necessarily illegal because there is no law to hold them accountable,” he said, asking distributors to present suggestions on how to regulate the sector.
This is somewhat naive given that Orbit/Showtime, ART and enforcers like the Motion Picture Alliance have long lobbied the Lebanese to get tougher with local pirates. However, the Minister admitted that the sector needed attention: “We need to regulate this sector and to issue laws … This is a new step toward regulation and legislation,” he added. He added that the Information Ministry was preparing a new and global information law, “different from the scattered laws we have today,” that would include the issue discussed during the conference. “I want everyone concerned to be involved in the process so we can write a just law,” Mitri said.
Cable Vision Director General Mohammad Fakhoury said the newly signed agreement would allow subscribers to benefit from a broader range of channels for reasonable prices and with HD technology. He added that no additional costs would be imposed on subscribers and that Cable Vision would communicate with local cable distributers. “Signing this agreement is a fundamental condition for distributing OSN channels in Lebanon,” Fakhoury said.
The new agreement will allow Cable Television to broadcast OSN channels while preserving the television company’s copyrights.