I often wonder about the non-existence of a media critic in the immigrant Iranian society of today despite the seeming openness for criticisms and lack of censorship practiced in their countries of residence (liberties not granted in Iran).
There are now about six Los Angeles-based 24 hour Iranian satellite TV stations aired in U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. Their names in no particular order are: Apadana, Jam-e Jam, Pars, NITV, Iranian, and Tapesh.
Despite the prevailing democratic attitude in the host country, we still see all kinds of slanders, altercations, accusations, and incriminations in and between such numbered networks. Many of such disagreements are of course attributed to the different political orientation and engagements of the owners of such networks.
Some are still awaiting Reza Pahlavi's return to the promised homeland and promoting his idiosyncrasies or were members of the “National Front of Iran” party pioneered by the late Dr. Shahpoor Bakhtiar, or are just passive spectators of the cultural amalgam called “Iranian-Americanism”.
Amidst all these antagonistic pulls and pushes towards an idealized democracy, Iranian satellite networks have had a major part and a shared effect on the level of understanding and perception of the Iranian immigrants and the Iranians in Iran in regards to current political and societal issues of Iran.
The Iranian satellite programs comprise a valuable case study of the Iranian mentality, its modes of perception and activism, and its depth of cultural authenticity, which is displayed through its taste for music, poetry, film, and arts in general.
Since its broadcast, one station has been allegedly linked to Iranian Mafia's pocketbooks whose heads are Rafsanjani and Khamenei and many of their deploys abroad (gorooh haaye feshaar) whose names are on the Iranian Regime's current payroll.
Some viewers allege financial sponsoring of this station due to a suspicious selection of nonpolitical programs such as “video haaye darkhaasti” or “music video requests”, “culinary shows”, and “plastic surgery advice” which promote ignorance and oblivion of the ones already disconnected from their motherland and act as temporary relief agents for the ones living in the condemned atmosphere of current Iran.
The Iranian TV run by Hamid Shabkhiz frequently claims to be a nonpolitical or anti-political participant in the Iranian arena due to its disinterest and neutrality! If you have ever watched Shabkhiz's TV, you know that you have entered a detached world of desensitizing entertainment, you have probably watched tons of music videos of Andy and Shahram K or have listened to medical advice by film directors or concert advertisements by “politically active” and “anti-regime” singers themselves who are making tons of money by their Dubai performances.
You have most likely been exposed to a series of objects on sale such as gold jewelry, silver tea trays, china plates, hair color, shaving cream, and still life paintings. You have probably been overloaded with the “salaam ahvaal porsi” rendezvous of Shabkhiz and his callers: “ghorboone shomaa”, “nah, ghorboone shomaa”, “khaahesh mikonam”, “fadaatoon sham”, “ekhtiyaar daarin”, and the list goes on.
There is also subtle flirting exchanged between the young female hosts and the male callers who are encountered with something unprecedented: an unveiled Iranian woman with the whole entourage of make up, tacky clothing, and seductive smiles. Amongst it all, it's very clear that you cannot pronounce any anti-regime opinion or you'll immediately be cut off as a caller.
The defense of such programs is one does not have to broadcast anything related to politics, it's true, but how can one remain so ignorant of the fact that what people of Iran need at this moment is not sedatives but long-term conscious-therapy potions: an inevitable rude awakening.
How can one forget all the mortality statistics of war, crimes, and punishments of the current regime by an all day round “ghere kamar” and grotesquely meaningless music and a bunch of sales people who can barely speak their maternal language and whose ultimate effort in arranging and producing TV programs is placing a phone on their coffee table and having a map of Iran behind them?
Alo, befarmaaeed… dorood bar shomaa, az koja zang mizanin? Behbahaan? Behbahaan kojaast? Tu Iraaneh? Aahaan, videoye Sattar ro mikhaayn? Chashm, hatman baraatoon mizaareem. Marzieh o Taghi o Hooshang o Marjan baraatoon salaam miresoonim! Tavallode maadar zanetoon ham mobaarak baasheh…
Another 24 hour TV satellite station is Jam-e Jam, which contains similar programming such as music videos, medical advice, sports coverage,and excessive advertisements as its rivals. An extremely sad and pathetic program of Jame-Jam belongs to a gentleman by the name of “Porchooneh”.
Poorchooneh, as the name implies itself, rambles on incessantly about various relationship issues, covering a range of Oedipus and Electra complexes to profound detachment and attachment parent-preadolescent issues which are of course conveyed in the most uneducated and superficial manner stringing on a thread of insults, rude jokes, and unrivaled grotesqueness.
This Porchooneh person is the epitome of male sexism and misogyny ever observed in a being. Porchooneh indiscriminately makes fun of all Iranian women alive, and continues his idiocy by claiming that the era of “Chauvinism” has just begun! Hold on to your seats dear ladies, since Porchooneh vulgarly boasts about “screwing” girls in the back seat of SUVs and bashes any Iranian woman who has been involved with a non-Iranian man, as if it's an eternal sin.
As you may perhaps deduce, Porchooneh may be forgiven for the lack of better understanding of human relations, but the audacity of the producers of the show seems to be strikingly unique and unreasonably abrasive.
Another interesting TV station is Tapesh, which belongs to Alireza Amirghasemi and his friends. Amirghasemi's seemingly jocund smile is not exactly charitable and heart-warming, but a businessman's grin at achieving lots of economic prosperity without owning the least bit of talent or intellect.
Aside from the redundant conversations with callers via telephone and naming such spontaneous and unpredictable exchanges “TV programming”, there's an interesting program named “beneath the city's mustache” or “zire sebile shahr” run by three to four women in their 30's.
These women, supposedly being representatives of a majority have a variety of simplistic and superficial conversations ranging from hair color to hosiery to waxing their bodies or simply conforming 100% of the time to American societal standard (imposed) esthetics.
The most prominent guests of this program are hair stylists, make up artists, or shallow psychotherapists who watch their own re-runs at night and feel particularly “convincing”. It's nice to divert from seriousness once in a while, but a constant omission of meaningful content all together is not a diversion but a tragedy in Iranian Media.
The other two Satellite TV stations named NITV and Pars are a bit more discreet and professional about what they actually feed their viewers. Although Pars TV is basically being run by one man only, “Mohandes Shajareh”, its trying to practice some democratic principles. Though it has been said that Mr. Shajareh sometimes has the habit of cutting your responses off air if they don't correlate with his own perspective on current politics. Then, the very same station will apologetically claim in a few minutes that there have been some technical difficulties causing the voice cut-off.
But there are at least moments of contemplation when encountering political/social round tables with guests varying in their background and stance. NITV seems to be the most committed of all TV satellite stations for Iranians. Their programs are rather well organized and substantial; there are some seasoned media correspondents and reporters who discuss issues of quality and concern.
However, there is no intention to admire NITV here and disparage all other Iranian 24 hour TV stations. The intention is to demonstrate how a societal lack of inspiration for quality rather than quantity has caused such poor cultural interactions and alienating personal relations with our own heritage.
There are so many vital and profound dialogues that we could have with each other instead of concentrating on alleviating our historical pain and agony by self-medication and artificial healing. Though many Iranians may feel that the presence of such media is far better than its absence, in the long run this fundamental question rises: Is an overdose of illusion grander than a fragment of truth?