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BBC and Sky add to pressure on Saudi Arabia over BeoutQ

The BBC and Sky have called on the European Commission to take formal action against Saudi Arabia over pirate broadcaster BeoutQ providing illegal access to content including the English Premier League.

Both broadcasters have sent letters to Anna Malmström, the EC’s commissioner for trade, adding their voices to calls for a formal EU protest to the Saudi government, which is widely believed to be supporting BeoutQ as part of its campaign against neighbouring Qatar. Qatar-based BeIN Media holds most of the rights in the Middle East pirated by the Saudi outfit.

Sky said that BeoutQ’s rapid growth presented a threat to European broadcasters and rightsholders, while the BBC said that the pirate outfit’s making its content available across the region was commercially damaging, impeding its ability to license content to players in Europe.

BeoutQ set-top boxes are now widely available internationally, including in Europe, enabling users to illegally stream channels.

Last month, BeIN Media launched an international investment arbitration action against the Kingdom, claiming damages to the tune of US$1 billion. BeIN Media says that it has been unlawfully driven out of Saudi Arabia and subjected to an unprecedented piracy campaign.

The media group said that it believed its action was the first to be brought in connection with state-supported illegally broadcast piracy.

In addition to being subject to the BeoutQ piracy campaign, BeIN Media has cited the unilateral revocation of its right to operate in Saudi Arabia, the prohibition of its channels, a ban on the importation of BeIN Media set-tops, a suspension of monetary transactions with BeIN and the blocking of its websites and call centre.

BeIN Media filed a case with the World Trade Organisation, alleging non-compliance with the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.