Consumer Boycott of the World Cup

A bit more pressure and the cynical gang that sought to reap easy profits and get rich quick at the public's expense will be further broken.

A bit more pressure and the cynical gang that sought to reap easy profits and get rich quick at the public's expense will be further broken.

The gang includes Eli Azur and Pinhas Zahavi, owners of the Charlton company ? that owns the rights to broadcast the World Cup games in Israel, the cable companies ?(Hot?), Yes and the regulation officials led by Yoram Mokdi, the chairman of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council. All of them are trying to portray a situation of mass hysteria, as if tens of thousands have already subscribed and connected to them to watch the World Cup, which begins in five days.

But this is not the case. According to reliable sources, only 5,000 households have purchased subscriptions so far in all of the various sales campaigns. According to the most generous assessment, Azur and Zahavi need at least 50,000 subscribers to return on their investment, not to mention make a profit.

Every soccer fan who comes to a game without a ticket knows that if he waits calmly until the last moment, until the opening whistle, the scalper will be compelled to lower the ticket price if only to get rid of the stock he has collected. This is also how consumers should act if they wish to join the citizens of the planet in their passion to experience, if only on the screen, the greatest television event in the world.

The method has proven itself. Last week, the merchants were forced to lower the price of the package when they realized there was no demand. Already about a year ago, Charlton, with the shameful backing of HOT and Yes, and with the bewildering backing of Mokdi, presented an exorbitant price offer of NIS 1,100. The protests of public officials, led by Eitan Cabel ?(then an MK and today a minister?), were of no avail. They thought that the public would buy all of the goods they offered.

Cabel, a devoted soccer fan, called for a consumer boycott. The public did not respond. But Cabel ?(and why has the voice of Sport Minister Ophir Pines not been heard??) persisted in his fight. After being selected as minister, he raised this issue for the public agenda and also conducted talks with all of the parties involved ? the owners of Charlton and the broadcasting entities ? about lowering the prices. At the same time, the owners of Charlton continued behind his back to act in conjunction with commercial entities to maximize profits.

The public reacted with indifference. But this time, it was a welcome indifference. Charlton, HOT and Yes, which saw there was no demand for the goods, were forced to lower prices ? first to NIS 800, then to NIS 500 and now to NIS 309, and even to NIS 189 if the subscriber commits to remain with the company for another two years.

This is one of the only times that a consumer boycott has succeeded in Israel. It is a spontaneous, popular and almost unorganized boycott. Unlike Israel, in Western countries ?(which Israel aspires to resemble?) and in the countries of South America, and even in neighboring Egypt and Jordan, there is a tradition of consumer boycotts and stormy protests, which even overflow into unwanted violence, against injustices like price increases.

It is true that the fight for the right to inexpensively receive a popular product like World Cup broadcasts is not about bread, but about entertainment. There is, of course, a need to fight for more important things like increasing social welfare allowances, subsidizing medication, against bank fees, against the wantonness of executives who arrange huge salaries for themselves, against the haplessness of the police in tackling crime, in favor of evacuating settlements and for peace.

But we can draw encouragement from the struggle for the right to watch the games. It can serve as an important milestone. With another few struggles ? like the hunger strike of the cancer patients and the achievement of the pensioners in the elections ? hope arises that there is indeed a limit to what the public is willing to accept.