Thursday 16th of September 2021

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First hearing in MBC lawsuit slated for today

جوردان تايمز - AMMAN — The first hearing of a lawsuit by the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) against Amman-based Arab Telemedia Services (ATS) centre will be held in Dubai today, according to ATS sources.

The $20 million suit was filed against ATS for breach of contract regarding the controversial television series “The Road to Kabul.”

The contract, which granted MBC broadcasting rights to the series during the month of Ramadan in 2004, was breached when ATS failed to submit the complete series of episodes to MBC, according to the channel's managers.

The drama series consisted of 30 episodes and was shot over a period of four months in Jordan and England at a cost of $2 million.

“The channel launched a large advertising campaign for the series and aired the eight episodes which were received from ATS before having to halt broadcasting. The interruption in broadcasting resulted in substantial losses,” said an MBC statement released to the press.

The series, featuring mainly Jordanian and Syrian actors, portrays life in Afghanistan from the Soviet occupation of the 1980s to the emergence of the Taleban and their subsequent removal from power following the events of Sept. 11 and the US-led invasion in October 2001.

ATS Director General Adnan Awamleh told The Jordan Times on Sunday that the centre produced the series for Qatar Television (QT), and that the request to halt broadcasting came directly from QT headquarters.

“As executive producers, the centre has no authority to negate any instructions sent from the producer, and to this day I am unaware of why Qatar Television requested a halt in broadcasting,” commented Awamleh.

According to ATS, several other satellite channels acquired broadcasting rights to the series, including Yemen Television, Morocco Television and Bahrain Satellite Channel, with all of interrupting the broadcast after failing to receive the complete series from the centre.

News reports in the Arabic press suggested that the reason behind the cancellation of the series was a wave of threats made on an Islamist website to “strike” everyone from actors to TV executives if the show portrayed the Taleban in a negative light.

The threats were made by a previously unknown group calling itself Al Mujahedeen Brigades in Iraq and Syria and could not be independently verified.

No personnel at QT headquarters could be reached for further comment.

“With the Arab media industry still in the growth phase, I had hoped that MBC would avoid litigation and embrace a less severe approach in solving the issue,” added Awamleh.

“We always prefer to have good relations with all television media channels, particularly ones as successful as MBC.”

Local media reports say the lawsuit is the largest in the region's media industry.

ATS told The Jordan Times that a team of legal experts was sent to Dubai to represent the centre. The first phase of hearings is projected to end within the month.