The UK’s public service broadcaster has been criticized for choosing not to broadcast the opening ceremony of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on its main programme.

The BBC relegated its coverage of the opening ceremony on Sundays to its second-tier streams, including its “red button” service, its online iPlayer app, and its sports website.

However, viewers tuning into top coverage on BBC One were unable to watch the inclusivity spectacle from Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, missing out on highlights such as a performance by BTS star Jungkook and Qatari singer Fahad al-Koubaisi.

Morgan Freeman, who narrated the ceremony, appeared at the stadium to shake hands with a FIFA World Cup ambassador suffering from a rare spinal condition in an image meant to represent inclusion in a country that has faced criticism for its human rights record.

BBC One had broadcast the Chelsea-Tottenham match in the Women’s Super League, which ended after the opening ceremony began. The BBC’s social media team also posted a Four minute Instagram video around the same time, recalling the Gay Games of 1982, organized by former Olympians to highlight homophobia in sports.

When the channel switched to broadcasting the program from Qatar, hosts Gary Lineker, Alex Scott and Alex Shearer discussed the allegations against the host nation.

“It’s the most controversial World Cup in history and not even a ball has been kicked,” Lineker, a former English football captain, said in his opening monologue.

“Since FIFA chose Qatar in 2010, the smallest country to host the biggest football competition has faced some big questions. From allegations of corruption during the bidding process to the treatment of migrant workers who built the stadiums where many lost their lives.”

“Homosexuality is illegal here, women’s rights and freedom of speech are in the spotlight. Also the decision six years ago to move the World Cup from summer to winter.

“A tournament has to be played against that background, one that will be watched and enjoyed all over the world. Stick to football, say FIFA, well, at least we’ll do that for a few minutes.”

In the 12 years since it won the right to host the first World Cup in the Middle East, Qatar has labor laws have been reformedincluding the abolition of the much-criticized kafala system and the exit permit system, which had been abused by unscrupulous employers. Qatar has also introduced a minimum wage and new rules for working in the heat as part of labor reforms.

In a report The International Labor Organization (ILO), released this month, said Qatar had made progress with its labor reforms — improving working and living conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers — but challenges remained in implementation.

World Cup organizers say all fans, regardless of their sexual orientation, are welcome to Qatar.

In Qatar’s conservative society, public displays of affection are frowned upon, not just those between LGBTQ couples.

A BBC spokesman told Al Jazeera that: “The full build-up and coverage of the World Cup is available on the BBC, including the opening ceremony on iPlayer.”

BBC presenter Gary Lineker fired back at critics, saying it was all a matter of timing and logistics. @BBCiPlayer, BBC Sport website and red button. The timing of the opening ceremony was very recently changed to an earlier time and WSL was already confirmed @bbcone. If you wanted to see it, you could.

The opening match and ceremony of the World Cup were brought forward a day from FIFA’s original plan, with the announcement of the move more than three months agoin August.

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