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Saudi Arabia permanently cancels licence of Qatar's beIN Sports

Credit: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY

Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Competition (GAC) said on Tuesday it had permanently cancelled the licence of Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports, which has been barred from broadcasting in the kingdom since mid-2017 due to a dispute with Qatar.

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DUBAI, July 14 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Competition (GAC) said on Tuesday it had permanently cancelled the licence of Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports, which has been barred from broadcasting in the kingdom since mid-2017 due to a dispute with Qatar.

GAC said in a statement on its website and carried by state television that it was also fining beIN Sports 10 million riyals ($2.7 million) for alleged "monopolistic practices".

There was no immediate comment from Qatari authorities or beIN, which holds regional broadcasting rights for several major global sporting events and entertainment shows.

The broadcaster initially blocked in Saudi Arabia under a boycott imposed when Riyadh and its allies severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017 over Doha's alleged support of terrorism, a charge Qatar denies.

GAC said it found beIN Sports had "abused its dominant position through several monopolistic practices" related to what it described as an exclusive sports broadcast bundle for the 2016 UEFA European Championship soccer matches.

In 2018, Qatar filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying Saudi Arabia was blocking beIN from broadcasting in the kingdom and said it had refused to take effective action against alleged piracy of beIN's content by beoutQ, a commercial-scale pirating operation.

A WTO panel last month found that Saudi Arabia had breached global rules on intellectual property rights by failing to prosecute beoutQ, while supporting Saudi Arabia's view that it could block the Qatari broadcaster from obtaining legal counsel in the kingdom on grounds of national security.

BeoutQ is widely available in Saudi Arabia but Riyadh has repeatedly said it was not based there and that it was committed to protecting intellectual property. Reuters could not determine who owns or operates beoutQ.

($1 = 3.7506 riyals)

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by Jason Neely)

((ghaida.ghantous@thomsonreuters.com;))

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