The BBC’s Persian TV service goes on air today. At the press launch last week, Nigel Chapman of the World Service said the hope was that the BBC’s combined Persian service (TV, radio and web) would attract an audience of 20 million. Currently, the BBC’s Persian radio service boasts 10 million listeners. Interestingly, only one-fifth of these are in Iran itself, the majority of listeners being Dari speakers in Afghanistan.
The BBC doesn’t have the most tranquil of relationships with Tehran. The authorities refuse to allow a Farsi-speaking correspondent in the country, and the BBC’s website has been banned in Iran in the past. A spokesman for the Iranian embassy in London has already said the government considered the station illegal.
The new TV service promises to be a mix of entertainment (including pop music shows and BBC documentaries dubbed into Farsi) and current affairs — with a heavy emphasis on user-generated content, i.e. emails and texts. On the upside, this could provide another outlet for Iranians, but of course there is a risk that participating in such programmes could draw the attention of the authorities.