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The New Arab Staff

Iran to lose foreign-language TV channels over financial crisis

The government has been accused of 'negligence' [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 June, 2020

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Press TV, Hispan TV and Al-Alam could soon be forced to shut over government 'negligence', the head of Iran's state funded network said.
A number of state-funded Iranian television channels could soon be forced to closed due to financial difficulties in the sanctions-hit country, a senior official said.

The English-language Press TV, Arabic-language Al-Alam and Spanish-language Hispan TV could all go off air over over “negligence” from President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, Payman Jebelli, the head of the external services of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Broadcasting organisation [IRIB] told Fars news agency on Wednesday.

"The administration has refused to allocate foreign currency funds to the state broadcaster,” Jebelli said, accusing Tehran of "negligence and deliberately exerting pressure on the state TV”.

That has left IRIB in a difficult financial position which has seen it unable to pay fees to “radio relay stations and satellite service providers” Jebelli said, without revealing the amount IRIB owed.

Iran’s Al-Kowsar TV network, as well as the Dari radio service have already been shut down due to the financial strains.

"We thought the administration would do something to solve the problem after Al-Kowsar network was cut off,” he added, though he fell short to clarify accusations of negligence from the administration.

Tensions have been rising between the network and administration since May when Jebelli revealed the shuttering of Al-Kowsar TV, which was also at the time blamed on the government. The official also said the budget for the state network had been reduced to one sixth of its previous funding prior to Rouhani’s inauguration.

Authorities shortly responded to the May accusations with documents to prove payments were made in full toward the IRIB’s budget, though insiders say the funds were paid in Chinese yuan and other currencies, not US dollars or euros, Radio Farda reported.

IRIB operates at least 24 channels in Tehran and more than 30 provincial channels, often being accused of propagating messages from the country’s hardliners. The network also employees thousands abroad where it hosts offices to produce programmes from around the world.

Radio Farda’s report noted IRIB channels have lost substantial viewership since 2009 when it lost credibility and popularity for its biased coverage of the elections and protests that followed.

US President Donald Trump imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran in 2018 when he walked out of a nuclear deal under which Tehran drastically scaled back its atomic activities in exchange for promises of economic relief.

The sanctions have struck the heart of Iran’s economy, which has in turn affected millions of Iranians on the ground.

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