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Popular for the wrong reasons
Poor satellite TV programming

By M. H. Eslami, MD
May 14, 2002
The Iranian

I live in the US and so far I have resisted the temptation to subscribe to the satellite programs that would allow me to watch the Iranian program fed from Los Angeles. I have come very close to ordering the dish and the programs as I miss the Iranian humor and music, I miss watching soccer games, I miss Shajarian and Googoosh, I miss Samad, etc.

But I have resisted it, as I am leery of those who own the TV stations in California. I guess one should always be careful of the people who claim benevolence and altruism while they are running a commercial enterprise. I have to say that recently I realized that I was absolutely correct in not wasting my money.

I was in Spain for a short vacation. My uncle with whom I was staying is an avid fan of the Iranian satellite programs. I was subjected to watching these programs. And let me say that it was not fun. Now I am wondering who finances these "shows"? Whom are the target audience and what are they planning to achieve with the non-stop talk shows?

Currently, by my count, there are at least three satellite channels that are not sanctioned by Iran's government. Apparently these all started when people who worked for one group, the former singer Zia, broke up with him and started their own programs/stations. Their programs mainly consisted of several call-in talk show programs ala Larry King, very poorly made music videos and very old Iranian movies.

The callers were mostly Iranian expatriots who sincerely believed that Shaban Beemokh was a national hero and it is a real shame that we have not made a statue of his infamous club with all the nails sticking out. The kind who still believes that the Revolution would have failed if General Oveisi had killed much more than he did.

This is the group that believes Iran was just "an ounce" away from becoming a new Japan when the Revolution was imposed on us by all those bad people who did not wish to see Iran becoming the new Japan! The kind who believes that the best way to control Iranians is by "keeping them hungry". (az sar-e seeree enghelaab kardan!)

One caller was actually talking about the conversation that an "executed" - i.e. no more living - prisoner in Iran has had - in private - with his executioner just before the latter killed him. There were actually several calls addressing a rich 40ish spoiled brat the "Alaahazrat" this and that "Iran's future". You know, the one who lives in Maryland, and isn't qualified to run a Dairy Queen and enjoys living the good life with the money his father plundered from Iran.

Another group of callers called the TV station to just say how stupid are the people running the other Irannian station! For example, a twenty-minute segment would start when a caller would call:


"Baleh, befarmaayeed."

"Aghaayeh Kardan, salamm arz kardam."

"Ghorbaan shoomaa, befarmaayeed."

"Aghaayeh Kardan, man aval mekhaastam begoyam keh cheghadr man az Morad Barghi khosham meyamad."

"Lotf daareed, lotfan soaa'letaan raa befarmaayeed."

"Baleh, aan Morad Barghi behtareen barnaameh bood keh dar Iran neshaan meedaadand".

And on and on it went! The question was then finally posed to an "expert" on Iran's history who was adamantly claiming that the1953 coup was a popular "uprising" and all of Iran's problems were because the Shah's family and associates, i.e. the mysterious "dor-o-bariaa".

This was then followed by a music video of some Iranian singer who was wearing some sort of stylish scarf with platinum blond hair - which I am sure you all know is very common among us Iranians. The technology used in this video - both audio and video - was so bad that I rushed to get my scolpamine patch to combat nausea.

My uncle would then change the channel and we had to watch none other than the estimable Zia. This icon of liberty and freedom was fuming and spent almost 70% of the time blasting the other programs. 15% of the time he was asking people to pay up as his subscribers were quite delinquent. He was also entertaining callers with their questions. The Iranian answer to Larry King was fielding questions for which he had either no fair answer, as his opinions are clouded by his royalist bigotry, or really no expertise.

This "talk show" was then followed by another music video by an Iranian guy dressed like a cross between Michael Jackson and Santana singing a song that would have made one cringe. This one even had incoherent lyrics in addition to poor music and horrible video. The guy, with one syllable fake pseudo-Persian name, was letting his long hair flap in the wind and every now and then his diamond earrings would catch a ray of sunshine.

What exactly is this supposed to be? Is the message here that if you go on the streets in Iran, loose your lives and risk everything and bring us back to power in Iran you be able to do these gyrations to some pseudo music? What kind of incentive is that? Why not show a quality music video of a singer whose Persian is at least correct/interesting?

It appeared to me that these shows were particularly directed towards Iranians in Iran. I guess the hope of the people who finance these shows is that people in Iran - who are suffering from all different kinds of hardship and censorship - would get to watch these shows and decide that they should do a revolution to bring back these expats just to watch their pseudo-music! I mean why listen to some beautiful Persian music when you can watch pseudo-Santana sings for you?

In all honestly, I've heard from some people in Iran who watch these programs. To my chagrin, these programs are popular for all the wrong reasons. The folks in Iran mostly watch these shows because they are taboos -- not because of the quality of the shows. The government's ban is the best endorsement for them.

Unfortunately, these programs are empty, have no message and the delivery conduit is very poor. Is there any wonder why the Iranian government is not doing an all-out war against these satellite dishes? Do you sincerely believe that they do not have the machinery or will to go after these dishes if the programs really threatened them? Why should they be scared of a group of rich, spoiled and sulking middle-age men and extensively surgically modified women who do not see the reality?

The reality was and is that the Shah's regime was corrupt. The reality was and is that the Revolution was a necessary popular cleansing process that went wrong. The reality was and is that people in Iran have suffered through more than 100 years of fruitless struggle for democracy because we have never had a true democratic leader. The reality was and is that the country is in dire need of significant democratic and social changes but this will not happen by the "Alaahazrat"in America and his "nochehs".

These programs do not need to be educational and do not need to preach Iranians. They should stop being self-congratulatory or demeaning of the other group with a different voice. They need to show what the alternative would be in a free society. If they mean to be altruistic, these programs should provide hope and happiness; two ingredients sorely missing in Iran.

Iranians do not need to get lulled by the mirage of the past 2500 years of despotism. They need to hear how well it will be if we all get together and strive for liberty. Folks in Iran do not need preachers. Iranians need visionaries and a vision of a future in a society where people are happy; where there is no tax on laughter, or hindrance of personal expression.

Iranians need an Iran where liberty is not measured by your wealth, your degree, your family pedigree, your religion and/or political affiliation.

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M. H. Eslami, MD


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