Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication

The Situation of Foreign Satellite TV Channels 1 in Iran: A Research in Ardabil Province

Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication

The Situation of Foreign Satellite TV Channels 1 in Iran: A Research in Ardabil Province

Article excerpt


Iran is a multi-ethnic society with a variety of cultures and languages, but Iranian radio and television are state-owned, and their national networks broadcast all programs in Persian which is a limitation within a diverse society. This paper discusses the popularity of satellite TV viewing among Azerbaijani Iranians in the north-western province of Ardabil. The Ardabil region shares borders with Turkey and the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan and audiences view satellite broadcasts from these countries. The purpose of this paper is to identify the primary reasons for the use of Turkish and Azerbaijani TV channels by the people of Ardebil. It is hypothesized that Ardabil audience preferences are based on the common culture and language between Turkey, Republic of Azerbaijan and Iran's Azerbaijan region. A survey conducted by the author indicates that 68% of owners point their satellite dishes toward the Turkish satellite; more than 94% of the viewers with satellite TV choose Turkey and Azerbaijani channels; and 57% of them spend more than three hours per day watching these programs. Nearly 70% of the viewers said that if a Turkish channel was established in Iran, they would watch. In addition, 65% declared that common cultural ties influence their choice of channels.

Key words: Media; Common cultural aspects; Turkey and Azerbaijan


Iran is a country famous for its diverse ethnic communities, most of who live m border provinces and share ethnlc and linguistic ties with Iran's neighboring countries. In spite of this language and racial diversity, the Shiite religion and Persian language are endorsed by the state and have become powerful cultural forces that officially unite all Iranians. The reason for the use of Persian language at the exclusion of other languages on Iranian radio and television is that the language and religion are synonymous with national unity (Mohsenianrad, 2004, pp. 19-26).

This is not the case in many other multi-ethnic developing countries. For example, Indians speak 15 identified official languages including: Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati, Telegu, Tamil and so on (Ranga, 2002, p.315). According to Indian law everyone has the right to choose any one of these languages for his/her official or educational activities, Every citizen is allowed to present his/her petition before the court in any official language (Janet, 1995, pp.12-15). Some developed countries also have several official languages. Switzerland has four official languages including French, Italian, German and Romansh, which is spoken by a relativity small number of the Swiss Citizens. These countries successfully manage the diverse language requirements of their populations.


Iranian Azerbaijanis are passionately interested in satellite TV from abroad for a variety of reasons: cultural and linguistic preferences and interests (Ghaffarzadegan, 2001); easier access to scientific and recreational channels; limited variety in Iranian TV programs (Nabaei, 2000); Iran radio and television station managers' disregard for the interests and preferences of the audiences; and censorship of local and global news by Iranian television (Panabadi, 1996).

While these reasons have been given for interest in satellite TV from abroad, researchers have not been able to conduct direct investigations into the reasons why the public in Ardabil have turned away from Iranian television. The reticence has been explained as apprehension about responding to questionnaires and concern about being identified as a satellite dish owner, which is not allowed in Iran. Researchers have therefore had to use indirect questions about the entertainment value of satellite TV programs to measure the public's preferences.

Approximately 300 satellite channels broadcast in Turkish language and all of them are available in Ardabil. Some 200 channels are based in Turkey, most of them private. …

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