The BBC Farsi television satellite television network has significantly impacted Iran’s political and social atmosphere.
Although Iranian officials had originally promised to cooperate with the BBC Farsi television network, in the end they threatened those who cooperate with the network inside the country.
Nevertheless, it can be predicted that with the launch of BBC Farsi television the number of listeners to BBC Farsi radio network has decreased. Some former listeners have now turned into BBC “viewers” and follow the network’s news programs, analyses and diverse offerings with more excitement.
BBC Farsi’s relatively long broadcasting hours – starting at 5 p.m. and continuing through one hour past midnight – will also decrease, at least in the short run, the number of viewers tuning into domestic channels to watch “news-analysis” and even entertainment programs. The same negative impact can be discerned in the short run on other Farsi-language satellite networks, including Voice of America. One hopes that competition would inevitably lead to an improvement in the quality of offerings by these networks, whose offerings have been limited to roundtables attended by various guests, and that we would witness a move toward independent and professional journalism, as opposed to propaganda-related and biased reporting.
The alternative positive impact of BBC Farsi network could lie in a change of behavior of Iranian officials, enticing them to reform their approach toward domestic media outlets, especially independent newspapers and professional journalists, allowing them more freedom to flourish as they did during former president Khatami’s tenure. More optimistically, one can hope that the regime’s top officials would revise the Constitution of the Islamic Republic to break the public sector’s monopoly over television broadcasting, allowing the private sector to enter that market.
Finally, the establishment of BBC Farsi television network would probably entice officials in other countries, such as Netherlands, Germany, France or even the European Union to follow the lead of the United States and Britain in supporting projects aimed at establishing Farsi-language television networks.
In such conditions, the Iranian nation would certainly reap the most benefits out of the new breeze in the country’s media market, which allows it access to more information and outlets.