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BBC Persian TV

Richard Sambrook | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The BBC launches its latest TV channel today - BBC Persian. It will be a daily eight hour service, for audiences in Iran, Afghanistan, and the wider region, broadcasting at peak times for the market. It will run from 1700 to 0100 local time in Iran (that's 1330 to 2130 GMT).

Behind the scenes at BBC Persian TV with presenter Farnaz Ghazizadeh

The backbone of the schedule will be news, together with a rich mix of current affairs, features and documentaries, culture, science, business and arts programmes - all broadcast in Persian from a new newsroom in central London.

Iran is obviously geopolitically important with significant influence across the Middle East. And Afghanistan is a high priority for BBC World Service, with very large radio audiences. The BBC has been providing news and information on radio in Persian for six decades. But these days, TV is the preferred news medium for Iranian audiences.

The BBC is well respected by opinion formers within Iran and brand awareness is high - despite government media restrictions. Media freedom is severely limited - so we hope BBC Persian TV will build a following by providing free and independent news and information - the traditional role of the BBC World Service over the last 75 years - and provide a window for Iranian viewers to the rest of the world in an open and unbiased way.

The Iranian authorities have been a little apprehensive about the launch, describing it as "an illegal channel", refusing us permission to work within Iran and suggesting anyone found working for it will be arrested as a spy. However, we hope once they have seen the service they may recognise the independence and quality of the channel - and hopefully take part in its programmes.

Persian TV is aimed at audiences in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan - totalling around 100m Persian speakers. The potential audience in Iran is young, highly educated and outward-looking. The projected audience figures for Persian TV are 10m within 3 years - with a total tri-media reach (radio, TV and online) of close to 20m by 2012.

The channel will cost £15m a year - funded by the Foreign Office via Grant in Aid.

The launch is much anticipated within the region and is already being discussed on blogs within Iran, Afghanistan and beyond. Clips have appeared on YouTube (see below). It will be available globally, streamed on the BBC Persian website.

Richard Sambrook is director, Global News.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I had to smile:

    "The Iranian authorities have been a little apprehensive about the launch, describing it as "an illegal channel", refusing us permission to work within Iran and suggesting anyone found working for it will be arrested as a spy."

    'A little apprehensive' - how many rewrites did it take to come up with that delphic phrase ?

    ;-)

  • Comment number 2.

    Why is taxpayers money being wasted on a service that even Iran does not want. In the modern age many Iranians can actually speak and read English. Far from the misconception of the BBC, Iran is in fact quite a modern forward thinking state with believe it or not many places of learning including Universities. The funds should be better spent elswhere.

  • Comment number 3.

    "Daily eight hours' service."

    This should be adopted by all channels throughout the BBC. Solve the funding problems in one stroke.

    Why should Iran be the only channel to have the crap cut?

  • Comment number 4.

    Best of luck with the venture, Richard. It is still a shame that we can't get BBC World in the UK.

  • Comment number 5.

    Richard,

    Iran is obviously geopolitically important with significant influence across the Middle East. And Afghanistan is a high priority for BBC World Service, with very large radio audiences.

    When you step back and think about what the BBC actually is - the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation - and then look at the geopolitical significance of these countries, and our own historical role in them (not to mention our possible intentions)..... well it's hard not to look upon the decision to launch this channel as just the next step in a wider propaganda campaign.

    I'd be interested to know what kind of say (if any) the British government or intelligence agencies had in this.

    Did/Do they benefit from seeing things like this implemented?

    I'm sorry if that sounds conspiratorial and overly suspicious, but it's just how it looks from the outside.

  • Comment number 6.

    This is a significant and welcome step to enable the BBC to extend its quality programing to an audience who are susceptible to being fed misinformation because of current geopolitical disputes.

    The West successfully avoided large scale conflict and was eventually reconciled with the former Soviet Union. Not so much by the use of force but by the people not wanting to continue the conflict. This would have been informed by their knowledge of us.

    So it can only help us in this region if the BBC is able to output the sort of programming carried by World Service radio on television. I am very happy to see my taxes spent on this sort of work and would condone more of the same.

    I expect the editorial control to be in the hands of the BBC. We can always argue about their bias, but most of the world sees them as balanced and reasonable. No instructions from government agencies should be necessary. Though I am sure they will communicate the British Governments stated position on things like the Gaza conflict along with other Governments statements. The BBC charter gives them a reasonable degree of independence from the establishment in this country. It is State owned but not State run.

    Hopefully we will also see some of the programming for the region appear in English here in the UK. It is a two way street.

  • Comment number 7.

    coastwalker,

    ...to enable the BBC to extend its quality programing to an audience who are susceptible to being fed misinformation because of current geopolitical disputes. The West successfully avoided large scale conflict and was eventually reconciled with the former Soviet Union. Not so much by the use of force but by the people not wanting to continue the conflict. This would have been informed by their knowledge of us. So it can only help us in this region if the BBC is able to output the sort of programming carried by World Service radio on television. I am very happy to see my taxes spent on this sort of work.

    Happy as I would be to see a secular liberal agenda blossom around the entire world, I still have to ask, isn't all the above more resonant of politics and propaganda than anything else?

    After all, if this was English-speaking output for the purpose of British servicemen and women serving abroad, I'd understand it.

    If it was purely a Murdoch-style capitalist venture, exploiting a hitherto untapped market for financial reward, then I'd also understand it.

    But it appears to be something else.

    When Richard himself says:
    Iran is obviously geopolitically important with significant influence across the Middle East ... [and we hope the service will] ... provide a window for Iranian viewers to the rest of the world in an open and unbiased way.

    - it really does sound like a concerted attempt to shape opinion throughout that part of the world.

    Is that the bottom line?

    Let's face it, from the point of view of Western goverments, opinion-forming in this part of the world (aka soft power) is exactly what they need right now, given the problems posed by the prospect of further military involvement. Is the timing a coincidence?

    (Yes I know the BBC has been providing news and information on radio in Persian for six decades - that can still be held up to the same question - what was its real purpose? Is it now and has it always been effectively an extension of the British Foreign Office or intelligence services?)

    As I say, I realise these things sound conspiratorial, but I'm genuinely interested to know the BBC's bottom line objectives, not just for this station launch but more generally the BBCs involvement around the world.

    "Providing an alternative source of news and information" isn't a bottom line objective. It's a method for achieving an objective. So what are the actual aims and objectives that are met by providing services like this one, Richard?

  • Comment number 8.

    @unablogger: One of the BBC's public purposes is to bring the UK to the world: http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/purpose/public_purposes/world.shtml. Delivering news to Iran perfectly suits said purpose and while you express concern about a service "even Iran does not want", just because the Iranian government is concerned does not mean that the Iranian people do not want said news.

    Having moved here from the US, I'm often surprised that many people in the UK hold the BBC in far less esteem than much of the rest of the world. Many of my fellow Americans constantly rely on the BBC because they consider to be a counter-point to our media and an excellent window on the world as a whole. I hardly consider this money "a waste".

    Disclaimer: I work for the BBC so I may be biased, but I held this view long before I started working here. Also, these views are my own, not those of the BBC.

  • Comment number 9.

    Surely the 'British' in British Broadcasting Company should mean for the British Public. The TV license is paid for by the British public for British programming, why is it that the rest of the world benefits from free BBC programming (tv and radio)? If the BBC wants to branch out (even if under the guise of 'world service') would it be too much to ask a fee for using the service - along the lines of 'pay per view' etc ? If not then surely it would be fairer for the UK license payers to abandon the tax and have these service subsidised in whole by the government.

  • Comment number 10.

    I suppose it is nice to know that it will take the Iranian authorities no time at all to confirm all the "lies" the BBC has been dishing out to its UK audience over the years, but really just how does the BBC justify this expenditure?

    You cannot get your coverage at home right so whose (not so) bright idea was this?

    Is this a part of your smart-ass plan to take over the world of media? Or is this just another blog to wind up the natives?

  • Comment number 11.

    "Persian TV is aimed at audiences in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan - totalling around 100m Persian...."
    Please amend your data as there are more than 35 million Azeri Turks living in Iran with different language( Not Persian) who prefer to use Turkish or English Media!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Richard:

    Congrats to the BBC Persian TV Channel and, I am wish this channel many positive things to come for the new channel and service....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 13.

    I use to be a great supporter of the BBC, I'm not now.

    I use to think the BBC was free from government interference, I don't now.

    I use to think the BBC gave impartial opinions and reported the news fairly, I don't now.

    I use to think the BBC projected all that was great in our country, I don't now.

    I use to think the BBC was a great organization, I don't now.

    I never thought the day would come when I would think the best thing that could happen to the BBC would be for it to be privatised, I do now.

    Why would I think that way and why would so many other people think the same. The BBC has become a patronizing, smug, money greedy, extravagant, politically correct out of touch organization which most ordinary people cannot relate to, they preach, condemn and try to manipulate and anyone that does not fit into their nice little middle class chattering classes lefty boxes are regarded as some sort subhuman subculture.

    If I were Iranian I would not trust the BBC, that is a shame after its great and distinguished history. I'm afraid any semblance of trust was destroyed by Tony Blair and I can't see them recovering for at least the another 30 years.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm not sure all the commenters above me realise that this is a BBC *World Service* project. The World Service is funded by taxpayers, not Licence Fee payers, (UK Foreign Office) and was set up for 'counter propaganda' whatever that is.

    Its used to be all radio until recently (as far as I know) when BBC arabic and now BBC Persian were introduced.

    So the experience that some of the above commenters have had with the BBC may not be the experience World Service listeners have had over the years.

    Several World Service radio stations in Eastern Europe (I think) were closed to fund BBC Arabic, I'm not sure about BBC Persian.

  • Comment number 15.

    Persian TV? Maybe.
    In Persian? Don't you mean Farsi?
    What language(s) have you been using over the past 6 years for radio?
    Perhaps you should also consider using sub-titles in the other languages spoken in the whole area that you intend to cover.

    It matters not what any individual says about the need for, or acceptance of, broadcasting to any area in the world; the only things that matter are truth and objectivity. Whilst those two are now degraded within the BBC in the UK, the BBC World Service has had a much better record in the past and it is to be hoped will continue to have in the future. Their were many people within the old Soviet (USSR) countries who relied upon the World Service for 'free' news.

  • Comment number 16.

    Awesome idea to have a BBC Persian Channel. Can't wait to see whats next in store.

  • Comment number 17.

    Dear Sirs,

    With all my respect for BBC and special gratitude for recently established BBC Persian TV, I would like to ask you on behalf of many young, well-educated Tajiks like myself to increase the amount of news and analysis from Tajikistan to proportionate level of coverage and representation coming from our brotherly nations, Iran and Afghanistan.

    It would greatly help in achieving good purposes of your undertaking.

    Sincerely yours.

    -- Botur Kosimi

  • Comment number 18.

    Why does the BBC Persian Television not broadcasted 24 hours a day? Like BBC Arabic Television which is reach globally and broadcasted 24 hours a day.

  • Comment number 19.

    Dear all:
    I'm really sorry to hear that Iranian supreme leader branded bbc and British government as evil. Rest of the world fully aware of what happening in Iran and they know who is real evil. These days i'm so concern about what is going on in street of Tehran, but one day i'm positive Iranian people will be free and embrace the free world. At the end just want to say that i'm great admirer of bbc and i wish you all the best.
    Thank you

  • Comment number 20.

    RE: Anousheh Ansari - Space Visitor

    I have just been watching a report on Anousheh Ansari seemingly boasting about having £20m pocket money to visit the space! Considering what our fellow country men and women are currently going through and having to put up with, I hardly think it appropriate to show this programme at this moment in time. It is not as if Ms Ansari has made any positive contributions to humanity by visiting the Space and to be perfectly honest I find it totally unpalatable and rather nauseating that anyone would be so shallow as to show their face to talk about "how her wishes have come true"! I am sure anybody with that much spare cash would have better sense as to how it should be spent. How about bringing the dreams of the street children true by providing them with a warm bed if you have that sort of money lying around. Please BBC, could you try to show more compassion at this time of the year. There is nothing to get excited about this woman who only God knows how she got hold of this amount of cash! It beggars belief how vulgar some people can be.

 

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