Sixty percent of Iranians favor the general use of satellite television, although the government has banned this media for four years, according to a recently released survey.
And while there is strong support for its use, only 29 percent of those questioned said they had a satellite connection, which is illegal. Still only 6 percent of respondents said that the reason they do not connect to this medium is fear of consequences and punishments.
The Iranian government's fear of a Western cultural invasion has long been cited as the reason for blocking the popular cross-border television and satellite programming.
Certain officials fear the programs on such media may damage Iranian cultural identity because watchers may become prone to adopting non-indigenous values, behaviors and habits espoused on the programs.
The four-year satellite prohibition, legislated in 1995, has been a frequently contested issue in Iran between regime conservatives and reformist supporters of moderate President Mohammad Khatami. The ban was imposed as a government initiative to battle against "the assault of Western culture."
Currently, public satellite use is still illegal in Iran, with the exception of use by government buildings and certain organizations. The prohibition, however, has failed. Illegal satellite dishes have sprouted from wealthy northern Tehran balconies and rooftops in past years, despite hefty fines and confiscation.
The opinion survey (Source: Iran Newspaper, Dec. 13/99) regarding access and use of satellite television network programming, in which 54% of those surveyed were women, was conducted in Tehran by Iran's newspaper research group. The opinion poll shows that most people think there should be access to satellite television (30 percent strongly) and most are interested in watching series and shows.
Nevertheless, 40 percent of those asked said they did not have such access because of moral and educational reasons.
The survey findings may raise eyebrows for Iranian television producers, since public opinion suggests dissatisfaction with the quantity and quality of local programming. Iranian officials and legislators may take some satisfaction that 40 percent of respondents said their reason for not getting satellite television was because of moral and educational deficiencies in programming, not out of fear of punishment.
Another consideration for Iranian lawmakers is that foreign programming may not be destructive, and can in fact be educational and constructive. The legal prohibitions and consequences are "weighing significantly less" in the minds of Iranians. The reality that legal prohibitions often lead to smuggling, hidden usage and increased curiosity, is a veritable one in Iran. Iranian legislators must decide whether to "give in" and give a "green light" to an era of people wanting information and entertainment from around the world. Intensifying the issue is that Iran's young people (constituted 20 percent of those surveyed) are the biggest fans of satellite television. These people are also the strongest supporters of the moderate President Khatami. The current legality of the internet in Iran, also provides some food for thought, since Iranian surfers can access foreign sites and news. The bottom line: Despite the law, Iranians increasingly desire and access satellite television technology. While Iran's lawmakers and local television producers struggle to find solutions to the satellite usage issue, thousands of Iranians continue to click enjoyably between M.T.V, C.N.N and H.B.O.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )