Officials and lawyers for ELTA TV and ERA TV met for legal proceedings and to present their case yesterday, as the Taipei District Court opened its hearing on the World Cup broadcast dispute, which could affect millions of viewers.
Focused on sports programming, ELTA holds the exclusive broadcast rights in Taiwan for the World Cup, in a deal signed with FIFA, the soccer’s world governing body.
ELTA said that “there have been serious violations by ERA TV,” and if the situation continues, “FIFA may cut off the TV signal feed for all of Taiwan.”
If that happens, ELTA said everyone would lose: the public, soccer fans and broadcasting media companies, according to the company’s statement released on Sunday.
When contacted by the Taipei Times, a FIFA media official confirmed yesterday that FIFA is now entering discussions with ELTA on the situation to protect its media rights.
“We are in close discussion with ELTA, FIFA’s broadcast partner in Taiwan, to safeguard the protection of media rights. FIFA treats any unauthorized activities, should they be the case, extremely seriously and we work hard with our Media Rights Licensees to protect the integrity of FIFA’s media rights program,” a FIFA media officer said in a statement.
“The integrity of FIFA’s media rights agreements is crucial to protect the resources that FIFA needs to fulfill its core mission of investing in football development programs,” the FIFA statement said.
ELTA is the exclusive rights holder in Taiwan for this year’s FIFA World Cup, with the agreement including broadcasting on TV, Internet, radio and mobile devices. The agreement includes a partnership with telecommunications firm Chunghwa Telecom, which has the online streaming rights for mobile devices and computers.
Subsequent to acquiring the FIFA agreement, ELTA entered into an agreement with ERA TV in which authorization was given for ERA to broadcast the games on its TV channels, but not on Digital Cable TV, which has wide coverage and millions of subscriptions by households in Taiwan.
According to ELTA officials, ERA violated the deal by providing the World Cup signal feed to Kbro, a cable systems operator affiliated with ERA, and to other cable companies to screen the games for digital cable TV channels across Taiwan.
“ERA has knowingly breached the broadcast agreement, and has made profits on this illegal action,” an ELTA spokesperson said.
In response, ERA said it had followed the terms of the agreement to legally provide the feed for cable system operators, “to protect the rights of Taiwan’s viewing public.”
“This impacts on the public and the ERA’s media responsibility to our society. ELTA’s threat to cut off game-feed signals disregards the public’s rights to be able to watch the games of important international tournaments,” a statement issued by ERA said on Sunday.
“Because the action by ELTA to cut off signals will seriously affect the viewing public’s interest, ERA will at all costs stand together with the public, to defend Taiwanese viewers’ right to watch the 2014 World Cup games. However, we will continue dialogue and negotiations with ELTA to resolve the dispute,” the statement said.
Some in Taiwan’s online communities endorsed ERA’s stance and said that people’s rights to watch the World Cup games on cable TV must be upheld, and that it is in the best interests of promoting the game in this country.
A majority of netizens supported ELTA, as many said ERA used loopholes and devious means to circumvent the agreement, and had contravened legal means of media business practices.
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