“Twitter Revolution” in Iran aided by old media — TV, radio
Media outlets covering the street demonstrations in Iran have devoted plenty of coverage to the so-called “Twitter Revolution” and the role social networking Web sites like Facebook have played in circulating photos and video taken by protesters using cell phones.
But several of the Farsi-language satellite TV and radio stations based in Southern California, with its population of as many as 500,000 residents of Iranian heritage, also have become a bulwark of opposition to Iran’s controversial president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his disputed re-election last Friday.
Los Angeles-based satellite station Channel One TV, which is run by expatriate Iranians, has made contributions — some of them not so old, either, as one might think from an “old media” provider of satellite TV coverage. Shahram Homayoun, the president of Channel One TV, said that before the demonstrations — although not in preparation for exactly that occurrence — it mailed out thousands of camera pens to citizens in Iran to help them document events the government wants to keep quiet. The pens pull apart to reveal a flash drive for plugging into a computer and uploading video.
Officials with Channel One said they do not know how widely the James Bond-style pens are being used in the current demonstrations in Iran. But the fact that the station even shipped them out is an indication of how much pressure stations like Channel One are putting on the Islamic Republic’s government, which has worked to block their satellite signals.
In 2006, former U.S. President George W. Bush poured $75 million into “promoting democracy” in Iran, in part by funding satellite broadcasts. But Homayoun said his station does not take any money from the U.S. government, relying instead on constant televised appeals for funds, even during his high-voltage, excited coverage of street protests.
Officials with Channel One said that their station operates on a budget of nearly $2 million a year, with a staff of 40. Beverly Hills-based satellite radio station KRSI is a decidedly smaller operation, and one host there said the donations it receives are paltry.
On Wednesday, KRSI carried an interview with Reza Pahlavi, the former crown prince of Iran (pictured at left), who over the airwaves urged on the protesters and said the demonstrations were the biggest tumult to hit Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted his father.
Listeners able to hear the programming in Iran occasionally call into the studio. Every now and then, the Iranian-American broadcasters say they receive calls from supporters of Ahmadinejad, who accuse the journalists of being traitors to their home country. “They say we are the people for America, for Israel,” said show host Hossein Mohri, who has lived in the United States for 18 years.
Farrokh Javid, 67, who left Iran in the 1980s and now hosts a morning show on KRSI called “Follow the Sun,” said he tries to make his show non-political, but that has been impossible in recent days.