Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 17:58 pm (KSA) 14:58 pm (GMT)

BBC to launch Farsi-language TV channel

BBC Persian TV will begin broadcasting next Wednesday (File)
BBC Persian TV will begin broadcasting next Wednesday (File)

The BBC is to launch a Farsi-language television service in Iran and Afghanistan from next week, it announced Thursday, a move that Iranian officals view as "working against the interests of the Islamic republic".

BBC Persian TV will begin broadcasting next Wednesday at 1330 GMT, aimed at around 100 million Farsi speakers in the region -- 70 million in Iran, 20 million in Afghanistan and 10 million in Tajikistan and central Asia.

It will provide "high-quality accurate and impartial news, information and analysis from a global perspective," and "cover the political, social and cultural issues of interest to its diverse audiences," the BBC said.

"Our target is to get seven million viewers by 2011 in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan," BBC World Service director Nigel Chapman told a press conference to announce the service.

The BBC has had a radio service in Farsi since 1940 and has a Farsi-language website used by 700,000 people worldwide, the British public broadcaster said.

The decision to launch the Farsi, or Persian-language, television service is part of the BBC's long-term strategy to "have the right services in the right media for each part of the world," Chapman said.

It will be the BBC's second television service in a language other than English, after the launch of its Arabic service in March 2008 aimed at the Middle East and north Africa.

Behrouz Afagh, head of the BBC World Service's Asia and Pacific region, said the new service "is contemporary in its style, and independent and penetrating in its journalism".

He added that it would give "an opportunity for Persian speakers worldwide to debate common issues, bring to the foreground diverging viewpoints, and promote greater understanding through dialogue."

The BBC has a bureau in Tehran, but Iranian authorities have refused permission for BBC Persian TV to have a permanent presence there.

Iranian suspicions

Fars news agency quoted Iranian officials of saying that BBC Persian will be used by British intelligence for "espionage and psychological warfare.

Tehran described the new channel as "suspicious and illegal" and "working against the interests of the Islamic republic". Viewers were warned to avoid the "lie-spreading" network.

"I didn't sense any hostility (from Iranian officials), but a wait and see attitude," said Chapman, when asked about an article in the Guardian newspaper suggesting that Tehran fears the new service would be used to recruit spies.

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