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Qatar's beIN off-air in UAE amid crisis and pirate claims

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Television channels belonging to Qatar media giant beIN were blank for thousands of United Arab Emirates viewers Saturday, as the anniversary of a diplomatic dispute between the countries approaches.

Digital television company Du said the blank screens were the result of action taken by beIN.

"We regret to inform that our costumes are temporarily unable to view beIN sports channels and packages as a result of a decision by the broadcaster of beIN sports," it said in a statement on its website.

As well as ongoing political tensions, Saturday's incident comes as beIN claims its channels are being pirated in a sophisticated operation across the region, with pictures broadcast illegally by a company called beoutQ.

The Doha-based broadcaster has exclusive rights to the World Cup which starts in two weeks and will show all 64 matches live across the Middle East, including the UAE.

Anxious sports fans in the UAE took to social media to ask what was happening.

A source with knowledge of the matter said the disruption had been caused by ongoing commercial negotiations and had nothing to do with political tensions or pirating claims.

Pictures would be restored as soon as terms were agreed, added the source.

Du is one of two companies in the UAE showing beIN channels, the other being Etisalat.

A group of countries including the UAE cut all ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, accusing Doha of supporting extremism and being too close to regional rival Iran. Qatar denies the allegations.

In the immediate aftermath of the crisis, beIN channels were blocked in the UAE but were back on the air by July last year.

Earlier this week beIN called on FIFA to launch legal action against those bootlegging their broadcasts in the region.

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