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VOA says Iran viewership soars.

The number of Iranians watching Voice of America's Farsi television grew dramatically this past year, VOA reports.

VOA Persian's share of the weekly Iranian television audience grew to 21.4 percent, up from 6.5 percent in 2011, according to a March Gallup poll of 2,000 Iranians conducted in all of the country's 31 provinces under a VOA contract.

Combined with VOA's radio and Internet audience in Iran, the service captures 22.1 percent of the Iranian media audience, VOA said.

The rise in VOA Persian's TV viewership is attributed in large part to the resumption of its transmission on the Hotbird satellite. VOA's transmission had been taken off the satellite feed in mid-2010, causing a dramatic dip in viewership.

The Gallup survey also revealed the deep penetration of broadcast media in Iranian society: 100 percent of all respondents said they had a working television set in their homes.

VOA's popularity is in part because of hit programming such as the political satire show, Parazit, and the new show, OnTen, meaning Antenna, which has a humorous and parody take on the week's political events.

It is television of all kinds that dominates the news in Iran, with few people any longer bothering with radio news. Some 86 percent of those polled said they used television as a source for daily news. But the poll showed Iranian television viewers to be sophisticated and suspicious consumers of state-owned media. One respondent said viewers follow state-controlled news media "to evaluate what they're reporting" and "to see what the policy of the government is."

The Gallup Poll also showed tremendous penetration by modern communication technologies in Iran. About 90 percent of the respondents said they had a cellphone and 67 percent said they had a computer. Yet only 53 percent said they owned a radio, relegating that technology to history.

Forty-three percent of the respondents said they had access to the Internet, with a surprisingly large proportion--80 percent--saying they have it at home.

Despite the government's efforts to ban the use of satellite dishes, 26 percent said they use one at home, nearly a twofold increase since 2008.

The poll was commissioned by the US Broadcasting Board of Governors and was conducted between March 3 and 30. The USBBG is a government-owned corporation that handles all of the US government's international media outlets. It oversees the operations of VOA, Radio Farda and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), among others.

The poll found that while no single media outlet in Iran enjoyed unqualified trust, the younger generation is more open to non-traditional news sources, preferring the Internet as its main news source.

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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Jul 6, 2012
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