Friday, February 6, 2009

Initial Reactions to BBC Persian TV

The initial reception to the BBC’s Persian language news channel launched last month seems to be positive and hopeful. This is according to a story, which highlights a handful of reactions to the new channel from Persian-speaking bloggers across the world. One blogger gave a stamp of approval:

“I believe that BBC Persian TV made an explosive start! The appealing variety of programmes, the praise-worthy professionalism of its presenters and anchormen, the studio's lively atmosphere and the lack of long and tiresome analyses all demonstrate the fact that a different Persian-language news network has been launched…”

Many of the bloggers conveyed frustrations about the lack of credible news sources emanating from Iran, considering the government’s censorship of the news media, and believe the new BBC channel will succeed:

“The Islamic Republic is concerned that in the absence of a credible media outlet inside or outside Iran which can clearly reflect its stances, BBC Persian TV will turn into the Iranians' main news source during various political and social crises…In the absence of credible media, the BBC can attract a wide spectrum of viewers with its [Persian] television.”

Many of the blogges continued, voicing their appreciation for the new channel, while explaining some of Voice of America’s weaknesses in comparison:

“The quality of BBC Persian TV's programmes was excellent and beyond my expectations. I am sure that soon it will gain a special standing in Iran. It is run very professionally and proficiently… It is much more proficient than the VOA…The reason behind this is pretty obvious. The VOA is smaller than the BBC and it is not allowed to be broadcast inside the US.”

There was also a sense of hope conveyed that the high standards of the channel would lead to changes in Iranian-based media, even possibly democratic advancements in the country:

“Maybe it's too early to draw such a conclusion but I believe that the BBC will rank first among Persian-language channels. It will motivate Iranian officials to come to their senses a little and start spending the huge budget they have on producing better TV programmes inside the country rather than on networks such as Press TV and al-Alam which spread lies.”

“The best it can do is that it can act as a mouthpiece for some of the reformists. In the absence of good Persian-language media, the BBC Persian TV can play an effective role in creating a democratic environment.” 

The BBC recognizes the tremendous power that a credible, objective news source has, especially in countries such as Iran. The question remains: will the U.S. realize this and bolster the VOA and its overall news media outreach as a tool of public diplomacy? 

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