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BBC to launch Farsi language television

The BBC is to launch a Farsi-language television service in Iran and Afghanistan from next week, it announced on Thursday, less than a year after it launched its Arabic TV channel.

world Updated: Jan 08, 2009 21:46 IST

The BBC is to launch a Farsi-language television service in Iran and Afghanistan from next week, it announced on Thursday, less than a year after it launched its Arabic TV channel.

BBC Persian TV will begin broadcasting next Wednesday at 1330 GMT, aimed at around 100 million Farsi speakers in the region -- 70 million in Iran, 20 million in Afghanistan and 10 million in Tajikistan and central Asia.

It will provide "high-quality accurate and impartial news, information and analysis from a global perspective," and "cover the political, social and cultural issues of interest to its diverse audiences," the BBC said.

"Our target is to get seven millions viewers by 2011 in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan," BBC World Service director Nigel Chapman told a press conference to announce the service.

The BBC has had a radio service in Farsi since 1940 and has a Farsi-language website used by 700,000 people worldwide, the British public broadcaster said.

The decision to launch the Farsi, or Persian-language, television service is part of the BBC's long-term strategy to "have the right services in the right media for each part of the world," Chapman said.

It will be the BBC's second television service in a language other than English, after the launch of its Arabic service in March 2008 aimed at the Middle East and north Africa.

The British government is providing 15 million pounds (17 million euros, 23 millon dollars) a year for the Farsi service.

Behrouz Afagh, head of the BBC World Service's Asia and Pacific region, said the new service "is contemporary in its style, and independent and penetrating in its journalism".

He added that it would give "an opportunity for Persian speakers worldwide to debate common issues, bring to the foreground diverging viewpoints, and promote greater understanding through dialogue."

The BBC has a bureau in Tehran, but Iranian authorities have refused permission for BBC Persian TV to have a permanent presence there.

"I didn't sense any hostility (from Iranian officials), but a wait and see attitude," said Chapman, when asked about an article in the Guardian newspaper suggesting that Tehran fears the new service would be used to recruit spies.