Monday, March 20, 2006

Etisalat (and WTO) strike again

I fear I'm in trouble: a couple of days ago there was a raid of a building with a satellite dish on the roof. By law, all TV should be supplied by the local phone company, Etisalat, or, more generally, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) (which is starting a second company, du, to cooperate, not compete, with Etisalat). Also, since joining the WTO, the UAE has promised that no one will be allowed to pirate any intellectual property (IP). So the government is not supposed to let residents steal TV shows.

People getting legal satellite TV, paying in full for all IP, buy a card which goes inside the decoder box. Currently, many of the small, backstreet shops selling decoders copy cards and sell them for a fraction of their regular price, because they do not collect the IP fees nor pay the IP holders. The WTO wants them stopped.

The old, pre-WTO law restricting TV to that provided by the TRA also satisfies the WTO requirement in part, since the TRA always collects all the appropriate IP fees (plus their local service charge). There's a slight contradiction here: entering the WTO is supposed to require the allowance of foreign competition to the local phone company, but, since only the TRA enforces IP rights, the WTO seems happy about limiting TV access to that provided by the TRA.

The TRA also enforces all the UAE culture and values, meaning no suggestive scenes with any sexual content, and no suggestive dialog (in Arabic, or in English if they can understand it).

Meanwhile, the roof of my building is covered with satellite dishes, and decoders are available almost anywhere in Dubai for less than €100. Many of the channels available from the European satellites are not in keeping with the culture and values of the TRA. The young ladies on these channels appear wearing rather less, in fact quite a bit less, than the approriate and culturally conforming abaya (loose black robe) and sheila (or hijab, for Arabs not from the Gulf, i.e, scarf which completely covers the hair). The young ladies are usually holding a telephone, and, streaming across the screen, is something in Arabic (which I can't read). I assume the Arabic is advising Muslims to call their Imam for spiritual guidance when tempted by such un-Islamic sights. In any case, a 900 phone number is provided. (After all, Imams have to live, too.)

So now I have to worry about the TRA coming and cutting the wires to my satellite and taking my decoder. Then I'll have to settle for looking out my window...

Actually, now that I'm looking out the window, the view is even less Islamic than what I can get from my European satellite, thanks to the fact that my building is 90% a fondaq Al banat (I don't speak Arabic, so I'm not sure what that means).

So I guess I'll pull up a chair and watch tonight's reality TV window "Catfight at 9."


Blogger Keefieboy said...

By law, all TV should be supplied by the local phone company, Etisalat, or, more generally, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA)

Eh? What about Showtime, Orbit and all the other crap?

9:09 am  

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