No World Cup Match Feed for North Korea

On the eve of the first games of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, it has been confirmed that one of the few places where the games may almost certainly not be visible is in North Korea.

North Korea had demanded that the sole holder of the rights to the match feed from South Africa on the Korean Peninsula, SBS, provide coverage of North Korea’s matches for free, as happened during World Cups in the Sunshine Policy era.

SBS, which has also been driving a hard bargain with those wishing to publicly broadcast the games in South Korea, refused to do so, instead demanding the right to film the reaction of North Koreans to their team’s games in exchange. Subsequent negotiations appear to have failed to narrow the gap.

A government official confirmed the situation yesterday, telling reporters, “Negotiations between SBS, which has the exclusive broadcasting rights to the Korean peninsula, and Chosun Central Television reached no resolution. As the opening of the World Cup is imminent, it has become virtually impossible for North Korea to receive the game feeds from us.”

The Ministry of Unification, which would have been required to grant permission for the match feed to be exported to North Korea, was in no mood to argue with SBS during the negotiations, coming as they did hard on the heels of the Cheonan sinking.

“In view of the North’s recent provocative postures against the South, it is the government position that the North must pay an appropriate price to SBS for the broadcast rights under internationally accepted norms,” a Ministry official told reporters earlier in May, pointing out, “We did not ask the North to make nuclear bombs or be belligerent.”

North Korea opens its first World Cup finals campaign for 44 years against Brazil next Tuesday. It looks like the team may struggle in the tournament, having lost a number of warm up matches, most recently against one of South Korea’s own World Cup opponents, Nigeria.