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


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

Fox’s executive producer, David Neal, said his network would not look to do the work of “Real Sports” or “E:60,” news magazine-style shows known for tackling thorny off-the-field issues. “We really believe viewers come to us at Fox Sports for the World Cup to watch the World Cup,” he said.

Telemundo Deportes president Ray Warren responded differently. He said the network’s news division and that of sister network NBC will cover events in Qatar, adding that on the sports side: “I think we have to talk about the legacy that we leave. When the tournament is over, Me [won’t have been] Ignore the geopolitical issues that may arise.”

A spokeswoman for Telemundo, which is owned by Comcast, later said the network would follow the lead of NBC Sports’ approach to the Winter Olympics this year in China; Hosts discussed the alleged Uighur genocide during coverage of the opening ceremonies. The network is expected to touch on the human rights situation in Qatar As part of its opening day coverage Sunday and throughout the tournament as needed.

The different strategies of the two broadcasters responsible for bringing the World Cup to American audiences will be under scrutiny for the next month when Western journalists, fans and soccer players arrive in Qatar, a theocratic monarchy governed strictly by Muslim laws and customs. The American team unveiled a new rainbow cam that will be displayed in its hotel in response to laws prohibiting homosexuality in Qatar. The Australian team released a video in support of the LGBTQ+ community and workers’ rights.

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The UK’s top diplomat tells LGBT World Cup fans to “be respectful” in Qatar

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

In June, Neal told 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, in part because the venues are so close together.

But according to three people familiar with Fox’s plans, the network initially planned to use mostly remote production and send a minimal contingent of staff and talent to Qatar. The strategy only shifted after the deal with Qatar Airways was finalized; The agreement included composite flights to Qatar, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reveal private discussions.

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 on his studio set.

The Telemundo spokeswoman said Qatar Airways was 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 this is to have the American broadcaster in the country, said two of the people who were told about the deal. They described Fox executives as celebrating the deal because the network can provide a more robust broadcast to viewers but won’t 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 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, allow us the opportunity to present unrivaled coverage of what is arguably one of the best World Cups ever with the long-awaited return of the US Men’s National Team.

Asked if the Qatar Airways sponsorship had any impact on its coverage, a Fox spokesman said, “Absolutely not.”

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

Today’s WorldView: The political debate swirling around the World Cup in Qatar

The change in schedule from the usual summer World Cup was made to accommodate the extreme heat in Qatar and would be a headache for any American broadcaster. Instead of sharing the summer with baseball alone, this tournament will compete for viewers with the NFL and college football. Fox said more than $400 million was paid for the 4 men’s and women’s World Cups between 2015 and 2023. Telemundo is paying about $600 million.

How the tournament is covered – and how the Qataris react to the coverage – will be closely watched. In an 11th-hour decision, Qatar reversed course and banned alcohol sales in stadiums. It was a leading story for many news outlets Friday morning, and was noted in the latest news section of Telemundo Deportes’ website, but not on Fox Sports. Before the tournament began, a Danish cameraman this week Caught up with Qatari officials who threatened to smash his camera for filming a live report in a public place.

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

“Some [reporters] will write about great games and goals, others will break stories about lineups or fallout, “he wrote. “But also many will focus on what is happening off the field, on the fact that some LGBT + fans have to stay in safe houses, on The families of the workers who died in building the stadiums, on the wild politics that brought the tournament to Qatar. , on the reality of the lives of women who live there, and will still want to once the circus has packed up and left.”

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

At the team’s annual general meeting last month, Oliver Kahn, the team’s chief executive, said: “There has been progress in Qatar on labor rights and human rights. Nobody is suggesting that Qatar is a country that meets 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.

Steven Goff contributed to this report.


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