Middle East

Iran TV pulls game shows amid religious gambling row

Screenshot from Iranian media showing the host of the show Image copyright iSNA
Image caption Be a Winner is hosted by actor and model Mohammad Reza Golzar

Iranian state TV has temporarily banned the country's equivalent of Who Wants to a Millionaire after complaints by senior clerics and conservatives.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that game-shows endanger the "culture of hard work and productivity" that the country seeks to encourage.

Now a senior Shia cleric has issued a fatwa (an Islamic religious ruling) against shows like Be a Winner that offer cash prizes.

Gambling is banned under Islamic law.

Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi's fatwa targets shows that offer cash rewards to viewers and participants.

Makarem-Shirazi called them a form of "gambling" and "games of chance" and stressed that they were forbidden under Islamic law.

The show, hosted by actor and model Mohammad Reza Golzar, gives contestants the chance to win up to 1bn Iranian rials (about $25,000) and allows audiences to win money by participating at home via an app.

News agencies criticised state-broadcaster Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) for "running a halal casino" by running these lottery-style competitions for viewers.

The IRIB said it was launching an enquiry into TV shows that engage in similar practices.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Cash as a prize on TV shows is the target of a religious fatwa

Media in the country reported that Be a Winner would be off the air for at least a week, while state television executives said they would work to change the show's sponsorship.

Another Millionaire-style show, Five Stars, also told fans on Instagram that the show would not be broadcast his week, but offered no further explanation.

Conservative outlets called for far-reaching consequences to what they called an "embarrassment" and suggested the head of the channel that airs Be a Winner should be fired.

Iran has experimented with a number of programmes adapted from American and European formats, including a Britain's Got Talent equivalent which is called New Age.

Reporting by BBC Monitoring's Daniel Amir

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