After failing to negotiate the rights to any of the World Cup soccer matches, American Forces Network officials scrambled to tell disappointed viewers in Iraq how they could still see the games.

It turns out that information, like the television signal it promoted, was also scrambled.

A message posted on AFN’s Web site June 8 stated that U.S. servicemembers in Iraq “need to go through Arab Radio and Television, which is the Asia regional rights holder, including Iraq, of the World Cup.”

The Web site for Infront Sports and Media, the company that owns the broadcast rights to the World Cup, seems to confirm this, listing Arab Radio and Television, known as ART, as the broadcast partner serving Iraq.

ART, though, disputes this.

“We have no right in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Marina Joseph, a service representative at ART, said through e-mail. Joseph did confirm that ART is the official World Cup carrier for Kuwait.

AFN’s Web message went on to say, “For further details about ART’s service (in Iraq), contact your local AFN affiliate.”

Sgt. 1st Class Gail Anderson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of AFN-Iraq’s Freedom Radio, said he doesn’t know why AFN posted that message. “We don’t know anything about Arab Radio and Television Service.”

Anderson said it was probably a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing.

A call to AFN headquarters at March Air Reserve Base near Riverside, Calif., inquiring about the confusion, was not returned Monday. However, within hours of the call, AFN’s Web site withdrew its previous announcement of coverage in Iraq available through ART.

A new message posted on the AFN site states, “Despite the American Forces Network Broadcast Center’s (AFN-BC) best and most exhaustive effort, the underlying international broadcast rights holder of FIFA World Cup 2006 GermanyTM recently declined AFN-BC’s request to distribute a limited amount of matches via closed circuit means only. Therefore, AFN viewers and listeners will have to rely on host-country media for coverage.”

With ART denying that it has rights to broadcast in Iraq and Infront Sports and Media asserting ART is the only company authorized to broadcast in the country, U.S. servicemembers could have a hard time finding legitimate ways to access the World Cup there — unless they are stationed with British troops.

AFN’s British counterpart, British Forces Broadcasting Service, acquired rights to all 64 of the World Cup matches and is beaming them to British troops the world over.

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