Iran: Rule banning musical instruments on TV is broken

A group of musicians and their instruments on Iranian TV

Iran's Channel One television has caused a sensation by showing musical instruments on screen for the first time in 30 years, it's reported.

Some Shia Muslim clerics say broadcasting music is at odds with the religion, and Iran has adopted a curious policy of broadcasting concerts but not showing the instruments - often replacing them with pictures of flowers. Strangely, TV aimed at Iranians abroad does show instruments.

There is confusion over whether Channel One intended to break the taboo or simply made a mistake in showing traditional musicians performing a tribute to the Muslim Prophet Muhammad on the anniversary of his birth - a public holiday in Iran.

Channel One's move was welcomed by Iran's more liberal media. Sharq newspaper ran a major article which declared: "The spell on showing instruments in the national media is finally broken". But Gholamreza Bakhtiari, the producer of the programme in question, insisted the incident was an error. The hardline Fars news agency quoted him as saying that the footage was "simply our mistake", and that "of course, I am ready to accept the consequences".

IRIB, the Iranian state broadcaster, has faced criticism over the long running ban. Singer Alireza Qorbani complained that Iranian children are being cut off from their cultural legacy by a broadcaster that is happy to show knife fights in feature films. In response to the debate, IRIB recently showed jazz-fusion outfit Palett miming instruments during a recent performance.

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