Sun, Jun 24, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Feature: Iran launches its answer to CNN and BBC World

AFP , TEHRAN

An increasingly crowded market for 24-hour news is facing a new rival -- a channel from Iran whose self-proclaimed aim is to break the "stranglehold" of the West over the world's media.

Iran's state broadcaster is to launch "Press TV" on July 2 at a time of mounting international tension over its nuclear program, complete with international journalists brought in from foreign countries including Britain.

The Tehran-based channel is promising the usual diet of on-the-half-hour news bulletins, talk shows and documentaries familiar to viewers of established names like CNN and BBC World but with a distinctly Iranian spin.

"To break the global media stranglehold of Western outlets," is the number one goal listed on the new channel's website.

Mohammad Sarafraz, head of international services of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), said the main aim of Press TV was to present "an alternative view" on global news.

"Since September 11 [2001], Western bias has divided the media into two camps: those that favour their policies make up one group and the rest of the media are attached to radical Islamic groups like al-Qaeda," he said. "We want to show that there is a different view."

The channel, which has a total of more than 400 staff, says it has 26 reporters employed at different locations worldwide, including Jerusalem, Gaza City and Ramallah on the occupied West Bank as well as New York and Washington.

Its features will include documentaries on aspects of the Islamic world and culture as well as live talk shows broadcast from Damascus, New York and Washington.

"Iran and the Shiites in particular have become a focal point of world propaganda. From the media point of view, we are trying to give a second eye to Western audiences," Sarafraz told a news conference to mark the channel's launch.

Sarafraz says its Web site has already received millions of hits but it remains to be seen how Western audiences will respond to the channel during a period when ties between Iran and the West are distinctly frigid.

Press TV is far from Iranian state broadcasting's first foray into international rolling news.

It already runs al-Alam, an Arabic-language rolling news channel whose slick programming has won a loyal following from Shiite Muslims in Lebanon and across the border in Iraq.

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