US viewers are accusing UKTN Sports of ‘shilling for Qatar’ amid rave reviews of the World Cup

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US viewers have criticized UKTN Sports after its World Cup opening day broadcast ignored the host nation’s human rights record

Qatar has come under attack for its treatment of migrant workers, allegations of corruption during the tournament bidding process and its record on LGBTQ and women’s rights. Broadcasters such as the UKTN and Telemundo chose to highlight those concerns in their coverage of the first day of the tournament, where the hosts lost to Ecuador after a lavish opening ceremony that featured contributions from BTS’ Morgan Freeman and Jungkook.

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“It’s 64 Super Bowls in 29 days… This is a once in a lifetime opportunity where people come to celebrate football.” @JennyTaft speaks with Secretary General of the Supreme Committee Hassan Al-Thawadi ahead of the opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup pic.twitter.com/LHrtqcTGJQ

— UKTN Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 20, 2022

UKTN, on the other hand, was full of praise for everything from the air conditioning at the Al Bayt stadium to the variety of food available to fans to the “very hospitable” secretary general of Qatar’s World Cup committee, Hassan Al-Thawadi. A puff pastry with Al-Thawadi followed in which he was allowed to speak in glowing terms about the World Cup without question from interviewer Jenny Taft about concerns of journalists and human rights groups.

This is how the UKTN opened its coverage of the 2022 World Cup. A stark contrast to UKTN Coverage in the United States. Take a moment to look. This is how this World Cup should be contextualized 🙌 pic.twitter.com/36HtKOX26w

— Roger Bennett (@rogbennett) November 20, 2022

Roger Bennett, the influential co-host of the Men In Blazers podcast, posted a clip of the UKTN’s coverage, writing: “This is how the UKTN opened up coverage of the 2022 World Cup. Stark contrast to UKTN Coverage in the United States. Take a moment to look. This is how this World Cup should be contextualized.”

Grant Wahl, arguably the most prominent football journalist in the US, too tweeted a link to the UKTN’s opening day coverage, writing: “Stark contrast between the United States’ Qatari regime-aligned coverage of UKTN Sports and the coverage of the rights holder in the UK.”

Other viewers on Twitter have asked UKTN about that “chill out with the propaganda” and to stop “shillings for Qatar”.

Leading up to the World Cup, UKTN executive producer David Neal said he didn’t believe viewers wanted to be distracted by off-field issues during the tournament.

“We really believe viewers come to us at UKTN Sports for the World Cup to see the World Cup,” he said. Qatar Airways, the country’s state-owned airline, is a major sponsor of UKTN’s World Cup coverage.

Telemundo, on the other hand, which owns the Spanish-language broadcasting rights for the World Cup in the US, said it intended to take a stronger line than UKTN.

“I think we need to talk about the legacy we leave. By the time the tournament is over, we’ll have [won’t have been] ignoring the geopolitical issues that could arise,” said Ray Warren, president of Telemundo Deportes.

The US team at the World Cup has made a striking, if subtle, statement about their positions. They have prominently displayed a rainbow logo on the team’s training facility in a country where homosexuality is illegal.

“We want to highlight social issues not only in the United States, but also abroad,” said US national coach Gregg Berhalter this week. “We recognize that Qatar has made progress and a lot of progress has been made, but there is still some work to be done.”

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