One of the Indian broadcast services being sold illegally in Bahrain
TV viewers bypassing piracy clamp in Bahrain
Manama, 22 days ago
Television viewers are getting round tougher anti-piracy measures in Bahrain by sneaking in illegal set-top boxes from India.
This means they can watch all Fifa World Cup matches and get access to hundreds of TV channels - all for as little as BD22 ($58) a year in subscription charges, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The box and satellite dish required for the service cost around BD100 and the devices are even being sold in Bahrain by unlicensed retailers, giving access to HD channels offered by Indian broadcasters Tata Sky, Dish TV, Airtel Digital TV and Sun Direct.
"These illegal set-top boxes are smuggled into the country from India as passengers carry two to three boxes in their luggage," said Satlink general manager Om Ramchandani, whose company is the official Bahrain distributor of Pehla TV channels.
"These boxes are then sold to third parties who install them in houses or for commercial use.
"Viewers can have access to hundreds of television channels at a cheaper cost than the official licensed services, which is the reason they are popular."
BeIN Sports is the official broadcaster of the World Cup in the Middle East, charging BD130 for an annual subscription and receiver that also offers access to the European football leagues and other events.
A legal subscription to Orbit Showtime Network (OSN) costs BD32 a month for a Premier HD package, while OSN Pehla Prime costs BD14 a month.
"If there is any other channel broadcasting the (World Cup) matches other than BeIN Sports in Bahrain then it is illegal," said Ramchandani.
He revealed the issue had been raised with Bahraini authorities.
"The issue has been taken up with the Interior Ministry and the Press and Publication Directorate at the Information Affairs Authority (IAA) to raid shops selling illegal set-top boxes," said Ramchandani.
"There is also a team from BeIN Sports in Bahrain that is working on the issue."
Adverts warning people against buying illegal broadcast services appeared in newspapers in Bahrain in April, specifically naming Tata Sky, Dish TV, Airtel Digital TV and Sun Direct.
It is illegal to distribute or watch content from unauthorised sources using illegal hardware and punishment can include fines, imprisonment or both.
Measures taken to tackle channel piracy include the introduction of encrypted set-top decoders to undermine so-called Dreambox services supplied via the Internet.
In March, broadcasters, satellite operators and service providers formed the Anti-Piracy Coalition to combat the problem.
Industry experts estimate that 50 per cent of families from the Indian subcontinent in Bahrain and neighbouring Gulf States are watching pirated broadcast services.
One Asian worker told the GDN that he installed more than 10 illegal decoders since the start of the World Cup in different households for BD100 each. - TradeArabia News Service