Amazon Honor System

Media * Benefit auction * FAQ * Write for
* Editorial policy
Bad TV
Even the shows with political themes are mostly filled with profanity and accusations

By Farhad Radmehrian
June 12, 2002
The Iranian

A most dangerous and harmful cultural phenomenon is bad television. Bad television is responsible for high crime rates and moral decay in many developing and modern societies. In free and open societies with many entertainment alternatives, bad television is often avoidable and therefore not as critically harmful as a situation when the corruptive airwaves of bad television are all there is to watch. That is the case in today's Iran.

The choice given to the youth of Iran is one between boring and manipulative state-owned television or the often expensive and illegal options of bootlegged American videos or satellite television. What really concerns me is that scores of Iranian youth, frustrated with the government-run broadcasting, have turned to Los Angeles-based satellite broadcasters as their primary source of entertainment.

There are no verifiable statistics as to how many viewers tune into these channels but the word on Tehran streets is that the number of satellite receiver owners is increasing at a furious rate. People are borrowing and in some cases even stealing money to be able to watch satellite TV. To make things worse, satellite TV has become a popular cultural phenomenon and a hip and cool thing to have in your household, almost like a status symbol.

For many of the youngsters who spend 4 to 5 hours a night, glued to the satellite TV, the tasteless and often superficial content of NITV, IranTV, Melli TV, etc. has become an introduction to the culture and life in the Western societies. This is what they perceive the advancements of Europe and America to feel, look and sound like.

The limited and shallow discussions presented on most of these TV channels lead the people inside of Iran to perceive the Iranian expatriate communities as a corrupt, drunk and party-hardy bunch of lost souls. These same channels offer very little insight into the real life of people in their host countries. This is not only bad television, but it's a cultural crime.

As if things were not bad enough, there are recent attempts to introduce one or more of these satellite TV outlets as a legitimate voice for the anti-government sentiments and political aspirations of Iranian people, even calling for their financial support by the US government. The U.S. Goverment doesn't have to research very hard to find out whether or not these sattelite broadcasts, at their current level of sophistication, can persuade and cause political change in Iran.

Iranian satellite TV programs are the farthest thing from a true representation of Persian culture, or any culture for that matter. They waste the expensive communications technology they use, the supportive funds sent to them by the unsuspecting and well-meaning Iranians, and the precious and countless hours that are spent by the bored and frustrated youth of Iran looking for inspiration and entertainment.

Of all the damages listed here, perhaps none can be deemed as tragic and irreversible as the corrupted image of the outside world, especially American society and the expatriate Iranian community that is being introduced to the people of Iran by these TV outlets.

The irony of the Persian satellite TV programming at the moment is that of all the TV outlets beaming down on Iranians outside and inside of Iran, the programming that is broadcasted by the theocratic system in Tehran and often blamed as the reason why people of Iran would turn to foreign-based Persian programming is by far the richest and most descent Persian content available on Satellite.

As much as I despise the dictatorship and censors that characterize almost all of the news and political coverage by the IRIB broadcasts, I believe if you are raising a family abroad and need a realistic view of what it means to be an Iranian, what Iran looks like and what our heritage and family values are all about, then your best chance is perhaps the IRIB satellite broadcasts versus the shallow circus acts coming out of Los Angeles.

If you were to rate the overwhelming majority of the content on the broadcast outlets such as Iran TV, NITV, Pars TV or Melli TV, based on the accepted programming and entertainment standards in all major television markets in the world, they would be classified as "dead air" at worst and third rate amateur programming at best, like what you see on public access cable systems. Here's an idea about what you can see on Iranian satellite TV.

Due to the shortage of funds for elaborate productions, a large portion of these networks' time is filled with simple call-in shows. Early in the life of this industry, the talk show hosts were typically famous Iranian entertainers but nowadays, there is an abundance of very young and hip-looking hosts who just take calls and say "thank you for calling".

The ones that I have seen are almost all not-trained-to-be-on-tv and often very rude to the viewers and the callers. Even the shows with political themes are mostly void of a constructive message or solution to any problems. They are mostly filled with profanity and accusations against the Tehran regime, opposition leaders abroad or the owners and hosts of the other satellite networks or all of the above. Other shows are often completely out of touch with the majority of their viewers who are Iranians living in Islamic Iran.

For example, entire talk shows are dedicated to discussing the Persian girls' dating habits and their attitude in the nightclubs and how they manipulate the poor guys. This must be so superficial and phony to the 90+ percent of the viewers who are watching this show from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

There have been talk shows that offered interesting guests and some decent content, like Mr. Meybody's show on NITV. But that show ended due to a much-publicized rift between Mr. Maybody and the owner of the NITV network, Zia Atabay, who is a neurotic ex-musician with a bad hairpiece.

There are general characteristics that you can expect to see on all these networks. What comes across immediately is that none of the people running these outfits have much experience in high grade and serious TV production. Almost all of the people behind these networks have been involved in LA-based Persian TV programming and music specials but their previous work gives you a hint that their working environment has never been very demanding as far as quality goes.

While there are good creative works being done by some music video producers who feed these networks, generally, very little consistency and artistic sophistication is visible in the content. Design considerations that are learned and observed by a first year design student or a home-based video production hobbyist are completely absent in these networks' programming.

For example, the network's little logo bug is at the upper left corner of the screen today, in one font size and color but at the bottom right the next day and all together missing on the third day. The editing and special effects so easily done on a home PC are either completely absent or horribly misused. In some cases, the talk show host is also the camera operator who gets up from the chair from time to time and adjusts the camera angle.

Another aspect of these Persian satellite networks' operation is the fierce competition over the very few advertising dollars and viewer donations. This competition often makes for strange (but often entertaining) fights and name calling by the hosts and network owners against the rival channels.

For example, one of these networks, which happen to be one of the most popular, has refused to cover politics and has no political talk shows or news coverage. This network is also the only foreign-based broadcasting outlet that is able to sell advertising time to businesses inside of Iran. This has caused other networks to accuse the network's owner of being in cahoots with the ruling regime of Iran and selling out to the dictators.

Incidentally, my editor hand wrote the following side note next to this section "I think the owner of this satellite TV network is a smart business person." Having pointed out all the negatives, I should also add that Iranian satellite TV holds great promise. Like any other industry in its youth, the Persian commercial broadcasting will no doubt evolve and mature over time.

An almost certain part of this transformation will be the consolidation of numerous broadcasters into the strong few who will have more resources for a higher quality content. A big factor in the success of commercial Persian satellite television is whether or not they can benefit from their viewing audience by selling advertising inside Iran. This depends on whether or not satellite TV will be legalized in Iran.

I have no doubt that legalization will come but how soon, we don't know. In any case, as the number of satellite receivers increase in Iran, making satellite TV more mainstream, the broadcasters will have to come to terms with the importance of their cultural mission and will have to increase the depth and quality of their programming. More children and family programming is needed.

On the other hand, since the majority of satellite broadcasters will be foreign-based, they need to introduce the Western and non-Islamic culture and societies to the millions of Iranians who will be watching with enthusiasm.

Good TV is great. Bad TV is criminal.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment Farhad Radmehrian


Popular for the wrong reasons
Poor satellite TV programming
By M. H. Eslami, MD

TV teddy
The adventures of a TV man
By Manou Marzban

Magical mystery man
Thank you. You are not hypocritical or condescending
Assal Badrkhani

Pointing fingers
Iranian TV stations trade accusations
By Ashkan Ardalan

Media village
Multicultural analysis of the impact of increasingly globalized Western media
By Yahya Kamalipour

Diverse ownership, diverse media
You own it, you control it
By Majid Tehranian

By Farhad Radmehrian

Good god.
Anatomy of urban chaos

Double standard
Because of its lack of fairness, the US administration will not and cannot be a mediator

Human nature
The one reality that drives the Middle East mess is "occupation"

Gedaa Ahani
The metal beggars of Tehran


* Recent

* Covers

* Writers

* Arts & lit

* All sections

Copyright © All Rights Reserved. Legal Terms for more information contact:
Web design by BTC Consultants
Internet server Global Publishing Group