How Fox will cover Qatar human rights issues during the World Cup

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In recent weeks, American television rights holders for the upcoming World Cup have held news conferences ahead of the most unusual tournament in Qatar. Executives at Fox, which owns the English-language rights, and Telemundo, which owns the Spanish-language rights, were each asked how they intend to cover the host country’s human rights record.

Fox executive producer David Neal said his network is not looking to run “Real Sports” or “E:60,” the magazine-style programs known for focusing on off-the-field issues. “We really believe that viewers will come to us for the World Cup on Fox Sports to watch the World Cup,” he said.

Telemundo Deportes president Ray Warren had a mixed reaction. He said the network’s news division and sister network NBC will cover events in Qatar, adding that on the sports side: “I think we need to talk about the legacy we’re leaving. By the time the tournament is over, we [won’t have been] “Ignoring the geopolitical issues that may arise.”

A spokeswoman for Comcast-owned Telemundo later said the network would follow NBC Sports’ approach to this year’s Winter Olympics in China. The hosts discussed the alleged Uyghur genocide during coverage of the opening ceremony. The network expects to investigate the human rights situation in Qatar As part of its opening day coverage on Sunday and throughout the tournament as needed.

The divergent strategies of the two broadcasters responsible for bringing the World Cup to American audiences next month will be explored as Western journalists, fans and soccer players descend on Qatar, a theocratic monarchy governed entirely by Muslim rules and customs. will take In response to Qatar’s anti-homosexuality laws, the American team unveiled a new rainbow crown that will be displayed in its hotel. The Australian team released a video in support of the LGBTQ+ community and workers’ rights.

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For Fox, the strategy is similar to what he did at the World Cup in Russia four years ago. But there is another dynamic in Qatar: Qatar Airways, the state-owned carrier, will serve as the main sponsor of the network’s coverage, meaning that Fox’s production in Qatar will essentially be handled by the Qatari government.

In June, Neal told Sports Business Journal that Fox would send a “small army” of 150 staffers and announcers to Qatar, and that Fox would be the first American network to have announcers in stadiums for all World Cup games, in part because The reason is that the places are very close to each other

But the network originally planned to use remote production and send a minimal number of staff and talent to Qatar, according to three people familiar with Fox’s plans. The strategy changed only after the contract with Qatar Airways was finalized. The deal involved competing flights to Qatar to reveal private discussions, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The relationship between the airline and the network dates back to last year, when Qatar Airways announced its partnership with Concacaf and was the main sponsor of Fox’s Gold Cup coverage. including signs on its studio set.

A spokesperson for Telemundo said Qatar Airways is not sponsoring its coverage.

The Qataris hope to use the World Cup to showcase their country to a global audience. A key part of the deal is the US broadcaster’s presence in the country, two people who were told about the deal said. They described Fox executives as celebrating the deal because the network could offer viewers a stronger broadcast but not have to pay for it.

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Fox has unveiled an elaborate studio on Doha’s waterfront that includes four stages and more than 20 LED screens.

“Qatar Airways is the title sponsor of the 2022 World Cup and will have a significant presence throughout our coverage of the tournament,” Fox said in a statement. They, along with our array of sponsors, give us the opportunity to provide unparalleled coverage of what is arguably one of the best World Cups yet with the return of the US Men’s National Team.

“Absolutely not,” said a Fox spokesperson when asked if Qatar Airways’ sponsorship had any effect on its coverage.

After the news broke, a Fox spokesperson sent another statement to the Post denying the network’s deal with Qatar Airways included competing flights.

Today’s World View: The political debate revolves around the Qatar World Cup

The schedule change from the usual summer World Cup was made to deal with the extreme heat in Qatar and will be a hassle for any American broadcaster. Instead of splitting the summer with just baseball, the tournament will compete with the NFL and college football for viewers. Fox has reportedly paid more than $400 million for the four men’s and women’s World Cups between 2015 and 2023. Telemundo reportedly paid about $600 million.

How the matches are covered – and how Qataris react to this coverage – will be closely watched. In an 11th hour decision, Qatar reversed course and banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in stadiums. It was a lead story for many news outlets Friday morning and was picked up in the latest news section of the Telemundo Deportes website, but not on Fox Sports. Before the start of the tournament, a Danish videographer this week He clashed with Qatari officials who threatened to break his camera for filming a live report in a public place..

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The Athletic published a piece this week by football editor Alex K-Jelski detailing his mixed feelings as a gay man and a sports journalist about covering matches.

“Some [reporters] He writes about big games and goals, others will break stories about combinations or failures.” But many will also focus on what’s happening off the pitch, on the fact that some LGBT+ fans are forced to stay in safe houses, on the families of the workers who lost their lives building the stadiums, on the absurd politics that brought the tournament to Qatar. . , about the reality of the lives of the women who live there, and will still be after the circus closes and leaves.

Qatar Airways has been a visible brand in international football for several years. It was the main sponsor of FC Barcelona from 2013 to 2017 before the club terminated the agreement for “social issues”. Today, Qatar Airways is the shirt sponsor of Bayern Munich, although members of the club have pressured the club’s management not to renew the deal after it expires in 2023.

At the team’s annual general meeting last month, team chief executive Oliver Kahn said: “There has been progress in Qatar on labor and human rights. No one suggested that Qatar is a country that meets European standards. “But if you want to change something and start something, you have to meet people, talk to them and exchange ideas instead of eliminating them.”

Steven Goff contributed to this report.



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