Anti-World Cup activists zapping TV broadcasts of matches in pubs

Sports News Anti-World Cup activists zapping TV broadcasts of matches in pubs
NOV 25, 2022 LISTEN

A group of French activists protesting against the holding of the World Cup in Qatar is using home-made remote controls to switch off pub television screens in the middle of the football matches.

French football supporters, gathered in a bar in Paris on Tuesday night, were surprised when the television showing the match against Australia suddenly went blank.

Nothing wrong with the power supply, just a touch of sabotage, or in the new protest lingo "direct action".

"This is our way of showing 'peaceful resistance' to the world," Dan Geiselhart, one the organizers of this action told Le Parisien daily.

He had just turned off the television remotely using a device known as a "TV-B-Gone", invented by the hacker Mitch Altman. The box incorporates the signals of nearly 160 brands of television and works from 45 metres away.

This model was designed at the Recyclérie, a creative workshop in Paris, initiated by Geiselhart.

Geiselhart does not encourage confrontation but insists on the need for dialogue with the fans in the bar when a match is interrupted by the remote control.

Making a point

He says the television can be quickly turned back on once the activists' point has been made.

The World Cup in Qatar has been dogged by controversy, notably over Qatar's alleged human rights abuses, the suppression of social and political dissent, the mistreatment of foreign workers, and the persecution of LGBTQ people. Then there's the environmental impact of air-conditioned stadiums.

"The idea is not to weigh political decisions on the back of the supporter, or to annoy them. But more to signal something, and to say that we can love football, but that we can also say that in this World Cup, things are not going well," Thomas, a volunteer hacker and designer told Le Parisien.

Nicolas, who participated in the workshop says he's boycotting the World Cup matches but is reluctant to impose his choice on others.

"It's not very cool for the guy who runs the bar, because he is not responsible for all that," he says, referring to the problems in Qatar.

Instead, Nicolas intends to use the remote to turn off advertising screens, to cut down on wasteful electricity use, another rising trend in "direct action" used by environmental activists in Paris and around the world.