BBC Persian audiences nearly double in Iran despite continued censorship

For BBC Arabic, the audience increases in Egypt and Libya underline how important an established, trusted and reliable news service is when the political landscape is uncertain."Peter Horrocks, Director, Global News
Date: 02.04.2013     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.04
Category: World Service
A new survey shows that the BBC Persian TV (PTV) audience has reached a record high and almost doubled in Iran to 11.4 million - up by 90 per cent.

This builds on growth reported last year for PTV with an 85 per cent rise from 3.1 million to 6 million. Of those who have a satellite dish at home in Iran, 45 per cent tune in to PTV. BBC Arabic has also performed strongly on all platforms with weekly audiences of 32.5 million in 2013 - an increase of 28 per cent on last year.

World Service Director Peter Horrocks says: “The huge audience rise for BBC Persian is a tribute to the professionalism and bravery of our staff and their families who have defied intimidation from the Iranian authorities. It is clear that crude attempts to discredit our journalism are failing and ordinary Iranians are increasingly turning to the BBC for independent news they can trust.”

The latest figures show that:

  • BBC Persian audiences in Iran on radio and TV have risen by 77 per cent to a record high of 11.8 million adults weekly - up from 6.7 million in 2012.
  • Audience reach to BBC Persian TV in particular has nearly doubled to 11.4 million, up from 6 million in 2012 – a rise of 90 per cent. Persian TV has a weekly reach of 19 per cent among the overall population of Iran and 45 per cent of those who have a satellite dish at home. (The figures for PTV were compiled during a period when PTV was not jammed by the Iranian authorities.)
  • Despite heavy internet censorship, BBC Persian online usage in Iran has risen to 55,000 unique users per week, up from 38,000 in 2012, representing a 46 per cent increase. Overall online users have risen by more than 36 per cent over the last year to 1.1 million, up from 830,000 million users.
  • An estimated 12.5 million people in Iran consume BBC News in either Persian, English or Arabic weekly on any platform.

BBC Arabic has also performed strongly on all platforms, with weekly audiences of 32.5 million in 2013 up from 25.3 million – an increase of 28 per cent since last year. BBC Arabic TV’s viewership has risen more than 35 per cent to 28 million, up from 20.7 million. These increases were mainly driven by increases in Egypt since the last full measurement survey in 2011, and in Libya.

Peter Horrocks adds: “For BBC Arabic, the audience increases in Egypt and Libya underline how important an established, trusted and reliable news service is when the political landscape is uncertain. BBC audiences grew rapidly during the Arab uprising and it is gratifying that audiences have grown further beyond those dramatic news events of 2011.”

Notes to editors

Data from Egypt, Morocco and Iran resulted from studies that were carried out under the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ International Audience Research Program (IARP). All rights reserved. The surveys were conducted using random sampling methods, administered by trained local interviewers, in local language. Participants were interviewed either face-to-face at home or by telephone. All surveys are representative of a defined adult population in each market. Audience numbers have been calculated based on the most recent population estimates for each market. Fieldwork was conducted in Iran 5-30 March 2012 and in Egypt 10-19 May 2012. The surveys were purchased by the BBC after completion of the fieldwork.

Libya data was from a survey conducted by Oxford Research and Benghazi University, fieldwork was between 12 December 2011 and 10 January 2012. The research involved a team of 60 researchers (who all had studied at university level), who received additional training from scholars from the University of Oxford and the University of Benghazi. The total BBC Arabic audience figure combines reach from surveys conducted across the region as well as global digital usage data.

SW