Al-Jazeera has been having a hard time since the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The Qatari network, which holds the rights to broadcast the soccer matches, has been in intense talks in recent weeks with broadcasting authorities in the Arab world, and has sold pay-per-view subscriptions to the international event's games.
Al-Jazeera's insistence on high prices has made the otherwise popular network the subject of criticism in the Arab world, and it will likely be facing massive lawsuits filed by disappointed viewers. This has also lead to tensions between the Qatari government, which owns the network, and other Arab states.
The network's troubles began on the first day of the World Cup, when viewers were unable to watch the opening match between South Africa and Mexico. The network claimed that a "third party" disrupted the broadcast and even convinced FIFA to investigate the matter.
Qatari elements in private blamed the disruptions on the Egyptian Nilesat – the leading satellite provider in the Arab world.
Meanwhile, disruptions have occurred in almost every match since Friday. Clients who have paid between $80 to $160 for a subscription to watch the matches have complained of broadcasts freezing during games and several other hitches.
The Qatari network charged coffee shops and restaurants interested in broadcasting the matches between $800 and $1,400, and many in the Arab Gulf countries are considering suing.
Al-Jazeera's vow to compensate the disappointed clients and business did not manage to calm the storm.
Pointing fingers at Israel
The network has been placing the blame on cable companies and satellite providers throughout the Arab world, but now, it is also point the finger at Israel.
Raed Abed, head of the Al-Jazeera's broadcasting department, told Emarat Alyoum, "I do not rule out Israeli involvement in the disruptions."
Meanwhile, the al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper said Egyptian parliament members have adopted Al-Jazeera's claims. Egyptian MP Mohsin Radi was quoted as saying that Israel has a clear interest in disrupting the broadcasts to increase inter-Arab tensions.
Al-Jazeera has invested millions of dollars in constructing studios and hiring leading commentators, but bloggers around the Arab world say the network failed on a technical level.
Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd.