Tuesday, September 30, 2008

BBC Persian TV is launching!

We finally had some good news: BBC Persian Service, the second professional news and television program, is slated to launch by the end of the year.

Many of the journalists and editors of PTV -- as the BBC refers to it-- are my old friends and colleagues and most of them have no TV background. But there is no need for panic, the BBC always offers the best (or one of the best) training programs. Almost all of the 70 PTV employees have now completed their courses on TV journalism. BBC Persian TV has only one rival: VOA Persian, news and feature programs run by VOA out of Washington. DC, but many experts believe the quality and content of the VOA programs do not meet BBC standards.

There appears to be a huge gap between the producers of VOA's PersianTV programs and the youth in Iran, who make up the majority of the population. Furthermore, VOA is considered to be one-sided and biasedin its reporting and pursues an approach toward Iran that is old fashioned.

The BBC Persian Service is considered to be conservative, but one that seeks to maintain its ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran. It has been criticized for not being impartial, even for being pro regime, or at least favorable to the reformist faction of the Iranian government. But the BBC's standards of neutrality, balance and responsibility in reporting require it to have a rational relationship with any government in Iran.

The BBC works hard to keep a correspondent and an office in Tehran. But requests by its Persian service to open an office in Tehran has been rejected many times. The IR has also banned the BBC Persian website, which has "millions" of visitors each month, mostly fromIran.

I remember when I was dispatched to cover a demonstration against Khatami in front of Chatham House in London; When I asked anti-regime Iranians for a short interview, most of them answered with anger and disappointment at the BBC Persian Service and blamed it for supporting the regime.

I can understand their feelings, but I cannot understand why they expect the BBC to act as a subversive media outlet. But I also know that most of those same Iranians living abroad check the BBC Persian Service website everyday and get most of their information from there.

In Iran, the BBC appears to be more popular, in my survey that I conducted last year, more than 90% of students who asked to said they would welcome BBC PTV as a new source of news.

In this survey most of the students said they use the internet and Persian satellite TV to access the latest news on Iran and international issues or even entertainment, while also watching IRIB news programs.

While some experts like Massoumeh Torfeh correctly believe BBC Persian TV may face challenge to Iran’s media market, there are many factors that can workin its favor to woo viewers and catch eyes on this new channel, including trust, influence and having a good relationship in Iran, we can also count on young editors in BBC Persian TV.

But it is obvious that these factors are not enough. The BBC needs to cover the different needs of its audience. In my survey, a majority of students suggested a 50-50 breakdown between news and non political programs.

From this point of view, maybe no TV background of almost all of editors come out, if they don't involve more TV people especially those who came from Iran in editorial and gate keeping system.

BBC Persian TV has an eye on its Arabic channel, and another on its competitors. but may be the only answer for knowing, making and involving audience is focus on research and survey, The BBC Persian radio service generally has no more than a 5% audience, and the website is completely filtered in Iran. So the only way for the BBC to find its way into the living room of Iranians is through satellite TV. By some estimates, more than 60% urban households have satellite television, though it is illegal.

I will write more on BBC PTV, while some blatherers in some notorious websites in Iran published my name as one of three cavalier of this TV (while I am not involve in any part of it), but I like the promotion compliment of being a cavalier of media!

So thank you!


The Long Story of My Critic on BBC Persian!
The Paradox of Iranian Media