Following a significant change to the Maldivian broadcasting regulations, World Cup matches will no longer be aired through the national television for free. Instead, only the opening and final games will be aired.
This change became effective on September 19.
Though never officially confirmed, the World Cup is one of the major international events that has been listed for broadcasting via national television for free. The regulations as per Maldives Broadcasting Commission, states that events that are of unanimous or general public interest such as the World Cup, should be broadcasted free-of-charge through the permitted channels in the Maldives. The discretion rested in the hands of the commission.
Usual practice is to provide this right to the national television before it is extended to other private broadcasters.
While World Cup being included in the free of charge viewing list is currently questionable, the Broadcasting Commission earlier said it in fact was when the broadcasting permission was granted to national television for the 2012, 2014 and the more recent 2018 World Cups.
However, since then the rebroadcasting regulations, under which the event was aired, has been rescinded with a new regulation taking its place.
According to the new regulations, any rebroadcaster acquiring rights to any program or event, should be extended permission to air the rebroadcast program without charges incurred. However, in such circumstances public service broadcasters can commercially benefit by sharing not less than 50 percent of the earnings to the licensed broadcaster, through a mutually agreed arrangement.
Should any rebroadcaster acquire broadcasting rights that infringe upon the right for public broadcasters to air any listed event, then it is deemed a breach of the regulations.
Current listed events in accordance to the Broadcasting Commission guidelines include;
- Matches played by Maldives national teams
- Olympic Games
- Commonwealth Games
- Special Olympics
- Asian Games
- Opening game and Final match of FIFA World Cup
Meanwhile, the commission's regulations dictate that any event scheduled to commence earlier than the following 12 months, should not be included among the listed events - which also means, inclusion of the World Cup in the list is a breach on the commission's regulations.
Unlike previous World Cup events, Public Service Media (PSM) has already reported expenses will incur in securing broadcasting rights for the upcoming 2022 World Cup. This means the free viewing rights will no longer be optional.
Managing Director of PSM Mr. Ali Khalid confirms the channel must pay USD 333,000 (MVR 5.5 million) in securing rebroadcasting rights. This year's FIFA World Cup rights have earlier been secured by MediaNet, which will be extending rebroadcasting rights to its ICE TV channel and Raajje TV.
While PSM has spent to acquire rights for the event on previous occasions from the actual foreign broadcasters, it was not the case this time since another local media has earlier secured the said rights. MediaNet similarly, had to purchase the rights because the broadcasting rights for the region was acquired by a channel which is not listed under company. According to reports Viacom18, of which MediaNet had not acquired rebroadcasting rights, had secured FIFA World Cup's broadcaster license for this region.
Meanwhile, PSM front man confirms the channel had not paid to secure the rebroadcasting rights yet, and that the channel required to seek options in arranging the funds. PSM maybe seeking to pay for a channel that already has secured the broadcaster rights.
Moreover, a Broadcasting Commission official claims PSM did not lose its opportunity to air the World Cup matches free of charge, despite changes to regulations. While the official had claimed the event was not announced as a listed event, the commission's most recent outgoing president Mohamed Shihab claims it was announced earlier in 2012 in accordance with the regulations.
According to Shihab, World Cup games since 2018, along with every match played by Maldives national football team, were announced as listed events.
However, a member of the current commission claims the decisions have not been formalized into any documents, but rather only visible on a draft.
Regardless of the current circumstances, under the previous broadcasting regulations, any private local media acquiring the rights to the event was legally mandated to issue rebroadcasting permits to PSM free of charge. However, with the current regulations, the parties that secure the rights will have legalities in monetizing their sale of rights to other channels, PSM included.