The launch of BBC Persian television fulfilled a major commitment, while radio and online developments reinforced the BBC's multimedia presence in a key region.
BBC Persian television went on air on 14 January 2009. The launch, on budget, fulfils BBC World Service's commitment to developing its widely respected Persian radio and online services into a fully trimedia operation.
BBC Persian TV is one of the most unambiguously positive developments I have seen in a long time, and worth every penny of its £15m annual budget.
Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian
The new channel is available to a region of more than 100 million Persian speakers in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
Anyone with access to a satellite dish or a cable connection can receive live broadcasts, eight hours a day.
Programmes are also available globally 24 hours a day via click
Audiences can now access BBC Persian on radio, television, via the internet, mobile phones and handheld computers. Iranians are avid internet users although bbcpersian.com has been blocked to a majority of people in Iran since January 2006 at the request of the authorities. The website has been relaunched and now has extensive video content, including BBC Persian television's live output.
In Iran, where international channels are widely watched despite a ban on satellite dishes and restricted internet access, the new channel made an immediate impact.
One blogger described the launch as "explosive".
"BBC Persian television is changing the media landscape in Iran," says Behrouz Afagh, Regional Head, Asia Pacific Region. "It is setting standards. Audiences are saying that. Even the Iranian authorities acknowledge it."
Funded from BBC World Service's Grant-in-Aid, BBC Persian television aims to win 10 million viewers by 2012, giving the BBC a combined radio, television and online reach of almost 20 million.
Its youthful, open-minded style is designed to have special appeal in Iran, where two thirds of the population is under 30.
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Programmes reflect the richness of Persian culture and give everyone a chance to express their views.
The BBC is fast becoming the forum for debate among Persian speakers from different backgrounds and regions.
I watched you with incredible pride, wanting to shout out, ‘Look at what a group of young people from my country have managed to produce - a first-class television channel'.
One of hundreds of emails and texts from viewers received by BBC Persian television within minutes of going live
More than a thousand texts, emails and webcam messages are received daily from people wanting to take part in interactive programmes.
"It is a truly global conversation among Persian speakers of a kind never seen before," says Andres Ilves, Head of BBC Persian and Pashto. "Someone from the Iranian city of Mashad could be debating current events with people of all ages from Afghanistan, Dubai and Toronto. And it is the BBC that is making it possible."
Broadcasting from a new newsroom in London alongside BBC Arabic television, most of the 140-strong team were recruited from Iran and had no previous television experience.
After eight months of training and with BBC mentors on hand to help, they won praise for the quality and production standards of the new channel.
"I have been involved in over a dozen channel launches in various parts of the world, including the UK, and they are undoubtedly the most creative and quick-to-learn group of people I have ever worked with," says editorial launch director Rob Beynon. "It is amazing to watch."
The BBC Persian team of television presenters - including Nader Soltanpour and Famal Ghazizadeh - come from a range of journalism and media backgrounds.
Although Iran remains closed to BBC Persian reporters, a Tehran-based news correspondent reports in English for the BBC across platforms and channels.
The new channel builds on the reputation and experience of 68 years of BBC radio broadcasts and eight years of online content in Persian.
According to independent research, audiences regard the BBC as one of the most trusted, impartial and objective international radio news providers in the Persian-speaking world.
"Our research shows a real appetite for balanced and fair reportage without a preconceived agenda - and we aim to provide it," says Steve Williams, Executive Editor, Asia Pacific Region.
The presence of BBC Persian TV is also bringing the richness of Iranian life to a wider audience.
A number of programmes have been co-produced for BBC World News and UK channels.
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Meeting growing need
Television has growing impact in Afghanistan but radio remains the dominant medium. Nearly two out of three adults listen at least once a week to BBc programmes, now increasingly available on FM. "The need is on the increase", says Andres Ilves." About 40% of the people who listen to us in Afghanistan only began doing so in the last couple of years."
A special news and current affairs programme in Pashto was launched for listeners in southern and eastern Afhanistan, including the Pakistan border.
- News: The BBC Persian television schedule is led by the latest international and regional events, which are given a global perspective. Viewers exchange opinions on the day's events. BBC correspondents host in-depth weekly programmes of analysis and major interviews.
- Debate: Nowbat-E Shoma (Your Turn) is a weekly interactive debate programme on TV, radio and online, with contributions via telephone, email, SMS and webcam. Emrooziha (Youth) reviews global news events for young viewers and gives them a place to share their opinions.
- Documentaries: A weekly showcase of the best Iranian, Afghan and Tajik documentary films is followed by reviews and discussion.
- Music: Kook (Tune) Behzad Bolour presents Iranian and world music, with major interviews, the latest videos and charts.
- Sport, film, technology, arts and culture are regular programme highlights.
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