Iran launches English-language news channel
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

Iran’s state broadcaster launched its 24-hour English-language news channel yesterday in a bid to break what it called the “stranglehold” of the West over the world’s media. Press TV is promising the usual diet of twice-hourly news bulletins, talk shows and documentaries familiar to viewers of established names like CNN and BBC World but with a distinctly Iranian spin.

“There are few media which rightly fulfil their responsibilities,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at the opening ceremony. ”The media are used by the domineering powers to occupy lands and people’s hearts,” he said, promising that the new channel would “stand by the oppressed.”

The channel, which has more than 400 staff, says it has 26 reporters in bureaus around the world, including Jerusalem, Gaza City and Ramallah on the occupied West Bank as well as New York and Washington. It has also brought journalists from foreign countries including Britain on board “to break the global media stranglehold of Western outlets”, its website says.

Mohammad Sarafraz, head of international services of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), said in a recent interview that the main aim of Press TV was to present “an alternative view” of global news. Its features will include documentaries on aspects of the Islamic world and culture as well as live talk shows broadcast from Damascus, New York and Washington.

He said the channel’s website had already received millions of hits but it remains to be seen how Western audiences will respond to the channel during a period when ties between Iran and the West are distinctly frigid. Iran’s state broadcaster already runs Al-Alam, an Arabic-language rolling news channel whose slick programming has won a loyal following from Shiite Muslims in Lebanon and across the border in Iraq.

Although Iran uses satellite to broadcast programmes abroad, it remains illegal to have satellite television within the country, where officials frequently denounce the “cultural decadence” spread by foreign channels. In recent years, many Iranians have discreetly installed satellites in their homes but can still be the target of sporadic crackdowns by the police who confiscate illegal dishes.

(Source: AFP)