IRIB launches English newcast

Network plans to 'to bridge cultural divisions'

Iran’s pubcaster IRIB is launching a 24-hour English-language newscast to challenge existing Western news outlets in the battle for the airwaves.

Tehran-based Press TV will preem Monday. The satcaster will be staffed by both Iranian and foreign journos, including Americans, with bureaus in London, Washington, D.C., New York, Baghdad and Damascus, in addition to the Tehran HQ.

“The news has mostly been in the custody of the Western world,” said Nader Rad, Press TV’s head of live programming. “We have got to have our own say. I think we need to say many things, which maybe aren’t possible through the Western media. Iran is at the core of events right now.”

IRIB already runs an Arabic-language service, Al-Alam, in addition to its terrestrial Iranian services. While satellite TV is still officially prohibited in the country, dishes can be seen with increasing regularity in Tehran and other major cities.

The Middle East has seen its news market become ever more saturated. Al-Jazeera launched its English-language service last year, while France, Germany and Russia all have launched their own Arabic-language news channels in recent months. The BBC is due to bow its own news channel later this year.

Press TV execs say the channel won’t be a mouthpiece of the government. “We’re allowed to be critical of the government,” Rad said. “We’re a state-owned channel, but we’re not governed by the government.”

While the channel’s website claimed it wanted “to bridge cultural divisions” and Press TV execs claimed it would be aimed at all English-speaking auds across the world, the new service seems certain to rock the news boat. Even Al-Jazeera’s editorial policy, a source of frequent gripes from certain sections of the U.S. government, came in for some criticism ahead of Press TV’s preem.

“There are some stories which Al-Jazeera is ignoring in Palestine and Iraq. They’re too neutral,” said Rad. “We’re not going to be anti-Western, but we are going to be critical of Western media and policies in a way.”

Press TV’s sked will be a mix of news bulletins, chatshows and documentaries.

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