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 held press conferences before this unusual tournament in Qatar. In each case, executives from English-language rights Fox and Spanish-language rights Telemundo were asked how they planned to cover the host country’s human rights record.

Fox executive producer David Neal said his network is not looking to work on news magazine-style shows like “Real Sports” or “E:60.” “We really believe that viewers of Fox Sports will come to us to watch the World Cup,” he said.

Telemundo Deportes president Ray Warren reacted differently. The network’s news division and sister network NBC cover events in Qatar, he said, adding that on the sports side: “I think we need to talk about the legacy we’re leaving behind.” By the end of the tournament we [won’t have been] Ignoring potential geopolitical issues.”

A spokeswoman for Comcast-owned Telemundo later said the network would follow NBC Sports’ approach to this year’s Winter Olympics in China; While covering the opening ceremonies, the hosts discussed the Uyghur genocide. The network hopes to touch on the human rights situation in Qatar Sunday as part of its Opening Day coverage and throughout the tournament as needed.

The two broadcasters responsible for bringing the World Cup to American audiences will be tested for the next month as Western journalists, fans and soccer players flock to Qatar, a theocratic monarchy with strict Muslim laws and customs. In response to Qatar’s laws banning homosexuality, the American team has unveiled a new rainbow logo that will be displayed at its hotel. The Australian team released a video in support of the LGBTQ+ community and workers’ rights.

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Top UK diplomat tells LGBT World Cup fans to ‘be respectful’ in Qatar

For Fox, the strategy is similar to how it handled the World Cup in Russia four years ago. But there’s another dynamic in Qatar: state-owned airline Qatar Airways will serve as a major sponsor of the network’s coverage, meaning Fox production in Qatar is essentially underwritten by the Qatari government.

In June, Neal told the Sports Business Journal that Fox would send a “small army” of 150 staff and announcers to Qatar, and that Fox would be the first American network to have announcers in stadiums for all World Cup games, and that’s why. very close

But according to three people familiar with Fox’s plans, the network initially planned to use mostly remote production and send a minimum of crew and talent to Qatar. The strategy shifted only after the deal with Qatar Airways ended; The deal included flights to Qatar, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose private negotiations.

The relationship between the airline and the network dates back to last year when Qatar Airways announced a partnership with CONCACAF and was the primary sponsor for Fox’s Gold Cup coverage. including signage in its studio suite.

A Telemundo spokeswoman said Qatar Airways is not a sponsor of its coverage.

The Qataris hope to use the World Cup to showcase their country to a wider global audience. An important part of it is to keep the American broadcaster in the country, said two people who spoke about the deal. 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 the Doha waterfront that includes four stages and more than 20 LED screens.

In a statement, Fox said: “Qatar Airways is a major sponsor of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and will have a significant presence throughout our coverage of the tournament. They, along with our portfolio of blue-chip sponsors, give us the opportunity to offer unparalleled coverage of what is arguably one of the best World Cup tournaments ever, with the long-awaited return of the US Men’s National Team.

Asked if the Qatar Airways sponsorship had any effect on its coverage, a Fox spokesman said, “Not at all.”

After the story was published, a Fox spokeswoman sent an additional statement to the Post, denying that the network’s deal with Qatar Airways included combined flights.

Today’s World View: The political conversation is revolving around the World Cup in Qatar

The regular summer World Cup schedule change was made to accommodate the extreme heat in Qatar, which would have been a headache for any American broadcaster. Instead of sharing the summer with baseball alone, the tournament will compete for viewers with the NFL and college football. Fox reportedly paid more than $400 million for the four men’s and women’s World Cups between 2015 and 2023. Telemundo is reportedly paying around $600 million.

Coverage of the tournament – and how Qataris react to that coverage – will be closely watched. An 11th-hour decision reversed Qatar’s ban on the sale of alcohol in stadiums. It was the lead story for many news outlets Friday morning, and was noted in the breaking news section of Telemundo Deportes’ website, but not on Fox Sports. A Danish cameraman this week, before the start of the tournament Filming a live report in a public place led to a confrontation with Qatari officials who threatened to destroy his camera.

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

“Some [reporters] Writes about great plays and goals, while others break stories about lineups or falls,” he wrote. “But many will focus on what’s happening off the pitch, some LGBT+ fans having to stay in shelters, the families of workers who died building the stadiums, the absurd politics the tournament has brought to Qatar. , about the reality of the lives of the women who live there, still after the circus has packed up and left.”

Qatar Airways has been a visible brand in international football for several years. The club was the front jersey sponsor for Spanish powerhouse Barcelona from 2013 to 2017 before terminating the deal due to “social issues”. Today, Qatar Airways is a jersey sponsor for Germany’s Bayern Munich, but club members have pressured the directors not to renew the deal when it expires in 2023.

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

Stephen Goff contributed to this report.


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