News Corp channel rejects Iran shutdown
December 8th, 2010 - 16:31 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

A television channel partly owned by News Corp today rejected Iranian reports that a Tehran office it ran or worked with had been shut down, saying it has no presence in the city and does not contract projects there.

The satellite entertainment channel Farsi1, which broadcasts soaps and sitcoms dubbed into Persian, has no office, employees or contractors working in the Iranian capital, chief executive officer Zaid Mohseni said. “We have never contracted out any dubbing in Tehran or had any production or employees of any kind based there,” he said by phone from Dubai, where the channel is based.

Farsi1 is operated by Broadcast Middle East, a 50-50 joint venture between News Corp and Afghanistan’s MOBY Group. The semi-official Mehr news agency on Tuesday quoted Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi saying that the Tehran office of Farsi1 had been shut down and five employees arrested for “helping the anti-revolutionary movement”. A report about the raid posted on the website of state broadcaster IRIB said the targeted office was “related toFarsi1″ and dubbed programmes for them.

But Mr Mohseni said Farsi1 was certain it did not even haveany subcontracted projects being handled in Iran. “If we were dubbing something and contracted it out to a company that contracted it out again to someone in Tehran, there is no way that we wouldn”t know about it,” he added. Mr Dolatabadi was also quoted saying that the office was filled with advanced equipment, and hinted that it might have been illegally shipped into the country.

“This office was shut down and five people were arrested in this regard. There were advanced machines and equipment inthis office and we wonder how this equipment was imported and installed there,” he said.

The Iranian state has a monopoly of broadcasting in Iran. Mr Dolatabadi, who did not say when the unidentified office was closed down, could not be reached for a response to Mr Mohseni’s comments.

Launched in August 2009, Farsi1 is popular among many Iranians with its range of entertainment shows from the United States, Latin America and Asia. Iranian authorities were in the past critical of the channel, saying its programmes were contradictory to Iran’s Islamic and revolutionary values. There are a number of other Persian satellite channels broadcasting entertainment programmes. Many of these channels operate from the United States and oppose Iran’s clerical establishment.