Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Watching Cimarro* in Tehran

A 2003 book, Reading Lolita in Tehran, was popular in the West in large part because of its theme that Western culture was attractive and suppressed in Iran.

Thomas Erdbrink, in this article published by the Washington Post, reprises that theme while telling us about a Western-owned satellite channel broadcasting in Farsi.

In Iran, what's forbidden is in -- and on Rupert Murdoch's Farsi1 TV channel
A satellite TV station co-owned by Rupert Murdoch is pulling in Iranian viewers with sizzling soaps and sitcoms but has incensed the Islamic republic's clerics and state television executives.

Unlike dozens of other foreign-based satellite channels here, Farsi1 broadcasts popular Korean, Colombian and U.S. shows and also dubs them in Iran's national language, Farsi, rather than using subtitles, making them more broadly accessible. Its popularity has soared since its launch in August…

Satellite receivers are illegal in Iran but widely available. Officials acknowledge that they jam many foreign channels using radio waves, but Farsi1, which operates out of the Hong Kong-based headquarters of Star TV, a subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corp., is still on the air in Tehran.

Viewers are increasingly deserting the six channels operated by Iranian state television, with its political, ideological and religious constraints, for Farsi1's more daring fare, including the U.S. series "Prison Break," "24" and "Dharma and Greg."…

Some critics here hold Murdoch responsible for what they see as this new infestation of corrupt Western culture. The prominent hard-line magazine Panjereh, or Window, devoted its most recent issue to Farsi1, featuring on the cover a digitally altered version of an evil-looking Murdoch sporting a button in the channel's signature pink and white colors. "Murdoch is a secret Jew trying to control the world's media, and [he] promotes Farsi1," the magazine declared…

Before the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a year ago, Iranian state television seemed to have modernized in some ways. It broadcast debates between the candidates -- a first in Iran -- but had also started showing popular homegrown comedies and soaps. After the election, which led to months of unrest and increased influence for hard-liners, the lighter material gave way to broadcasts of mass trials of dissidents and long interviews with government supporters.

Many urban Iranians… say they no longer feel the state channels speak to them…

*Mario Cimarro is a Cuban actor who stars in one of the most popular telenovelas in Farsi1.
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