Last week, Bahrain TV shifted its bouquet from Arabsat to Noorsat to protest the transmission of Iranian channels on Arabsat’s Badr satellite. Given below is a clarification issued by Arabsat on its web site on “some of the technical, operational and legal issues that might be unknown to the public”. Arabsat also stated that it hoped “in the light of these clarifications that Bahraini Radio and Television Union … would reconsider its decision to stop its transmission on Arabsat”.
The statement: Arab Satellite Communications Organisation “Arabsat” has been following with much regret, what is reported about the organisation in the mass media (newspaper, websites, social platforms etc…) concerning the Radio and Television Union decision, in the Kingdom of Bahrain, to stop broadcasting its TV bouquet on Arabsat satellite Badr-4 in the orbital position 26°degrees East and especially [regret] that this decision is due to the broadcast of the Iranian channels on Arabsat satellite BADR-5 and that these channels are inciting [sectarianism in] the Kingdom of Bahrain, and so on, and Arabsat has not taken any action in this regard.
The debate has developed in some websites, and has brought Arabsat into political and religious debates that Arabsat has nothing to do with. Arabsat believes that it should clarify the picture for the public opinion:
First, the commercial contract signed with Arabsat for leasing a satellite capacity for the benefit of the Iranian Space Agency on Arabsat satellite Badr-5 in the orbital position 26° degrees East was signed five years ago in 2007. This contract was introduced, before signature, to the General Assembly of Arabsat attended by the Arab Communications Ministers or their representatives with the participation of the delegation of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and it was unanimously approved without recording a minimum objection of any party, and therefore Arabsat went ahead in manufacturing Badr-5 satellite. For non-specialists in the field of satellites, the period of design, manufacture and launch of any satellite is up to three years, and the launch of BADR-5 was at the end of year 2010.
Second, the satellite capacities leased by Iran Space Agency and according the basic design of the satellite, are limited in geographic coverage to the Iranian territories and the broadcast does not reach the Arab world in general, as it is dedicated to broadcast the Iranian channels to Iran, but the signal of some channels can be received intermittently by antennas wider than 60 centimetres in what they call in the field of designing satellites as “Spill Over” – leaks from the down link power of the satellite coverage to the neighbouring areas.
Third, the Bahraini complaint has specifically focused on Al-Alam channel. For public knowledge, the transmission of the Al-Alam channel has stopped over Arabsat covering the Arab territories for more than two years, but has continued to be broadcast on the Nilesat orbital location to the entire Arab world. The European satellites are still broadcasting it to all of the Arab countries.
Fourth, to reduce the impact of the ‘spill over”, Arabsat has reduced the signal strength of the bouquet that includes Al-Alam Channel, and we have reported that to the Kingdom of Bahrain, so that it became impossible to receive Al-Alam Channel in the Arab Gulf States, even with the use of large antennas. This procedure has been applied to the whole bouquet and not only for Al-Alam channel.
Fifth, the Iranian bouquet is still, up to date, being broadcast to the entire Arab world on the European Satellite Hot Bird 13° degrees East. Therefore, the Iranian Bouquet, including Al-Alam channel is received by all the viewers in the Arab countries. Also Al-Alam Channel is broadcast from the orbital position of Nilesat and received by all viewers throughout the Arab world.
Sixth, this issue has been put for discussion during the meeting of the General Assembly of Arabsat last month, and the necessary procedures have been taken in regard and respect to the signed contracts with all parties.
Seventh, since the date of the General Assembly of Arabsat at the beginning of last April and with strenuous undeclared efforts with the Iranian side, to protect Arabsat legally and contractually, Arabsat has reached an agreement with the Iranian side to stop the broadcast of Al-Alam channel on the Iranian bouquet.