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Israeli MSO Resolves Dispute with Arab Net

Tel Aviv, Israel-This country's No. 2 MSO has settled a drawn-out legal battle with a Qatar-based pay TV channel, signing a carriage agreement to legally transmit the network.

Tevel Israel International Communications Ltd.-which is renaming itself Tevel Digital-inked the pact with Aljezira, an Arabic news service that Israeli newspaperHaaretzcalled "the CNN of the Arab world."

Tevel had carried the channel without a contract. According toHaaretz, Aljezira in August filed criminal and civil charges against Tevel.

A Haifa court in mid-September ruled in favor of the programmer, ordering Tevel to pay Aljerzira $250,000 in damages.

Tevel, through a spokeswoman, said there was no copyright infringement, because Aljezira officials knew the channel was being carried on the system and, for a long time, did nothing to stop it.

The MSO also claimed that when the "misunderstanding came to light," the two sides had met to discuss the problem, resulting in the agreement and the dropping of all charges. Aljezira officials couldn't be reached for comment.

Tevel has apparently become aware of the value of its Arabic-speaking customers. Of its base of 440,000 subscribers-which represents 45 percent of all Israeli cable homes-about 25,000 are Arabic speakers.

Overall, Arabic speakers comprise 18 percent of Israel's population of 6.1 million. Most live in outlying villages that the cable companies did not wire, and should benefit from direct-to-home satellite TV here, which arrived in July with the launch of YES: DBS Services.

Tevel emphasized that news channel Aljezira is only one part of a package aimed at Arabic-speaking customers. The MSO also carries Arabic networks from Jordan and Egypt-both of which, unlike Qatar, have diplomatic relations with Israel.