BBC’s best kept secret

My friends tease me endlessly about my fascination with the radio. Many of them think radio to be a dying or a dead medium, seeing very little use for it. I beg to differ. I love the radio on two accounts. One is that listening to radio is a convenient pastime. You can do other things when you listen to the radio. You can move around and do house chores, write bills, and exercise as you listen. Another is that listening to the radio can be both an entertainment and a good source of news and information. As compared to the internet, radio programming on more official stations supported by large teams of reporters and analysts could provide a much more reliable source of information. I listen to the radio on my computer, which makes it an even more appealing hobby, as this is “radio-on-demand” when I want to listen to it, complete with pause, stop, fast forward, and rewind buttons. I cannot gush enough about it!

Among the five Farsi radio stations I listen to with some regularity, my most favorite program is BBC Persian’s Rooze Haftom (Seventh Day). This program is the one I look forward to every week. It is a collection of very intelligently designed segments which altogether present two hours of humor, music, nostalgia, news analysis of sorts, interviews with famous political and cultural figures, and an excellent view into what Iranians inside Iran think and say. I wonder who the target audience for this program is, but even at my unnamed age and locale, I find it quite delightful and entertaining. I am really impressed with the updated and interesting approach the traditionally conservative BBC seems to have taken with this program.

The program is produced, directed, and performed by Siavash Ardalan, accompanied by his co-anchor, Maryam Zamani. He is the guy who was on Radio Farda’s Kharej Az Dastoor program, a political satire segment. The formula for the style of that program has somewhat found its way into Rooze Haftom'sBalatar az Khabar. It is a fantastic approach to daily political news of Iran. Sound clips of Iranian officials and leading clerics are broadcast, interspersed with Ardalan’s own brand of humor, commentary, and satire. The effect is irresistibly funny, real, and by the time it is delivered, without need of further analysis and interpretation. Balatar az Khabar also has political satire pieces on international politics, here for example, reviewing George Bush's recent trip to Albania.  I believe this segment’s brand of comic political commentary to be the most intelligent, delightful Farsi programming on any Iranian medium!

Another segment of the program is Weekly Discussion, or Bahse Hafte, where each week a topic is announced in advance and people from inside Iran can participate by sending SMS or calling in and appearing on the air, voicing their opinions. They also invite experts who participate actively in the discussions. Topics are picked according to their “hot-ness” and importance for Iranian audiences inside Iran. One week they covered Iranian attitudes to Afghan refugees, and this past week, they were talking about cousin marriages in Iran.

Regardless of the topic, the segment is a refreshing window into Iranians’ way of thinking about issues. Ardalan proves that his sharp wit and sense of humor are not his only assets—he appears capable and quite unruffled in handling the often unpredictable guests and technical difficulties common with live broadcasting.  The only annoying thing about this segment is that telephone connections to and from Iran are occasionally of low sound quality and there are frequent cut-off’s which I suppose there’s not that much they could do to improve.

The program has a segment that interviews famous Iranians in 100 seconds in which question after question is fired at the poor souls! The result is so effective in introducing the character in the hot seat. People like


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Meet your Persian Love Today!
Meet your Persian Love Today!