BBC joins international protests against Iranian TV interference

Jan 14, 20100 comments

Corporation supports formal complaint after signal jamming and removal of Persian service from satellite Ian Black Jan 14 2010 Iran is facing mounting international protests about its jamming of the BBC’s Persian TV service (PTV) after the channel – which has millions of viewers and is hugely popular with opposition supporters – was taken off a satellite owned by Europe’s leading operator. The BBC said today it was “actively supporting” a formal complaint to the International Telecommunication Union, a UN-affiliated body, about “deliberate interference” from Iran. The ITU confirmed it had received representations from regulators in France, home to Eutelsat, owner of the Hotbird 6 satellite, which transmitted PTV until the end of last month. The German state broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, said it too would protest about interference with its Persian-language radio broadcasts. Voice of America Persian TV programmes have also been jammed. The BBC said it was telling viewers how to adjust their satellite dishes to receive programmes via two other satellites that are out of range of Iranian jamming. Eutelsat says PTV was removed from Hotbird 6 “in agreement” with the BBC, though sources close to the affair say the operator caved in to commercial and legal pressures from other customers broadcasting on the same transponder. Another Eutelsat satellite, Hotbird 8, provides capacity to Iranian state media channels, including English-language Press TV, which has offices in London. Iranian opposition supporters are accusing satellite companies of “siding with dictators”. Eutelsat and GlobeCast, a France Télécom subsidiary which leases bandwidth from Eutelsat — and which made the decision to take down PTV — refuse to say publicly that the Iranian government is responsible for the jamming. “It makes me angry that we are the victims of jamming by the Iranian government and the Iranian government is still able to use Hotbird for its own programmes,” said one BBC source. “We are the victims and they are the perpetrators.” PTV was launched a year ago this week to Iranian fury. Sporadic jamming began after last June’s disputed presidential elections but intensified in late December, after the death of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a revered cleric associated with the opposition, which triggered a new round of demonstrations. Tehran has repeatedly attacked PTV as an arm of the British government, which it accuses of seeking to foment a “velvet revolution”. Last week, it included the BBC on a list of 60 “subversive” international organisations. Britain and Iran are at odds over Iran’s nuclear programme, Israel, and other Middle Eastern issues. The Foreign Office called the jamming “a clear attempt to infringe the right of Iranians to watch the TV channel of their choice”. The BBC said it was exploring other options with Eutelsat. “We will try every avenue to give our large audiences in Iran the television news services that they want,” said Peter Horrocks, the BBC World Service director. Iran has gone to extraordinary lengths to block TV broadcasts it considers hostile. Signals transmitted from the US, beyond reach of Iranian jamming, have occasionally been jammed from Cuban territory. But hopes of a response from Tehran to these latest complaints are slim as the Geneva-based ITU has no enforcement power and is widely seen as toothless. Iranian viewers are angry and frustrated. “We Iranians are now under repression,” one PTV fan said. “We are passing another turning point in our history and we need unbiased news more than ever.” Another told the BBC: “People have been left with an utter lack of information … Perhaps you don’t realise the extent of your influence on Iranian society.” “Iranians keep asking me why the west is so powerless,” Sadeq Saba, head of PTV, wrote on his blog. “They say: ‘This is a rogue government jamming international signals. How will the west stop Iran getting nuclear weapons if they can’t deal with this?'” Source: