BBC (Persian)

BBC’s Persian-language Internet content, radio and television broadcasts all operate under BBC World News. The BBC Persian website was launched in May 2001.

BBC’s radio programming in Persian dates back to December of 1940, when programming lasted only one hour per week. The broadcasts were made during the early days of WWII in order to compete with Radio Berlin. Programming consisted mostly of pro-British Monarchy and Nazi Germany news. Some believe that BBC had a hand in the 1953 coup d’état that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government and its Prime Minister at the time Mohammad Mosadegh.

It is said that in one of the broadcasts, a coded message was sent to the Shah of Iran assuring him of Britain’s support in the coup against Dr. Mosadegh. The running theory is that on August 15th, 1953 Britain declared its support for “Operation Ajax” (the name of the CIA operation to overthrow Mosadegh) by broadcasting the phrase, “It is now exactly 12 midnight” instead of the routine time check “It is now 12 midnight.”

BBC has never officially acknowledged the code word plot, and Sadegh Saba, the current head of BBC’s Persian-language networks, has said in response to this theory: “The answer is very simple. With a little bit of research one can see that BBC Persian didn’t even have programming at midnight during that time, for it to even announce a codeword.”

BBC Persian radio currently airs 20 hours of programming per week. In addition to airwaves, links to the real-time radio broadcasts are available on the BBC Persian website. Satellite television broadcasts of Persian programming began airing on January 14th, 2009. Currently there are 8 hours of broadcasting per day for Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.

BBC Persian has frequently been subject to satellite jamming by the Iranian government. The IRI has often criticized the media outlet for its coverage of the 2009 contested presidential elections in Iran. According to a report by the New York Times, BBC Persian reaches a daily audience of between 6 and 8 million Iranians.