Focus: The Media

Pressing the Point

Pressing the Point

May. 14, 2013

The Iranian media sector is divided into privately and publicly owned organizations that are all under the regulation of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Islamic Revolutionary Court. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance is also responsible for granting licenses for the import and export of visual, audio, and print media.

While the majority of newspapers are published in Persian, a number of other languages exist, including English. These include Iran Daily and Tehran Times, while the most popular Persian-language daily and weekly newspapers include Ettela'at, the oldest newspaper still in circulation in Iran, and Kayhan, under the Office of the Supreme Leader.

Iran's largest media corporation is Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Active in radio and television, it is one of the biggest media organizations in the Asia-Pacific region and a member of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. With offices in 45 countries, it broadcasts eight national television channels, four international news television channels, six globally accessible satellite channels, and 30 provincial channels around the country. Around half of the IRIB's provincial channels are broadcast in local dialects, such as the radio and television programs broadcast in the Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, and Baluchistan regions, which are in Azeri Turkish, Kurdish, and Baluchi. The IRIB also boasts Arabic, English, and Spanish channels around the world.

Iran's other major news agencies include the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the Fars News Agency, the Mehr News Agency, Press TV, which is a 24-hour English language news network owned by IRIB, and a variety of others that focus on issues such as women's affairs, agriculture, and education.

Iran has also been quick on the uptake ofmodern media. The country was the second in the Middle East to be connected to the internet and it was available publicly to students through dial-up in 1995. While connection speeds have vastly improved since then, the impetus is now on boosting local content. “Currently more than 90% of all of our traffic is being routed to hosts outside the country, and what we need to do is to entice Iranian content owners to host their content in the country," said Abdollah Fateh, Managing Director of Pars Online, highlighting why the government seems so keen to promote domestic innovation in the IT sector. Iranians have embraced the online medium as a means to both consume and create news. According to Fateh, “Farsi is the third largest language in the blogging world," yet “not everybody speaks English here, and for every English website idea, there needs to be a Farsi equivalent available."

Moving forward, despite the rise of modern media outlets, printed media shows no sign of decay. Indeed, IRNA has recently launched the School of Media Studies to provide education to young Iranians interested in journalism. The program contains a significant international focus. IRNA is also in negotiations with UNESCO's regional bureau in Tehran to launch an MA course in international journalism. This is in addition to collaborations the school has enjoyed with Reuters and the Thomson Foundation.