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SOAS scholars provide a critical history of BBC Persian Service in latest book

Persian Service

12 February 2014

SOAS, University of London scholars, Annabelle Sreberny, Professor of Global Media and Communications, and Dr Massoumeh Torfeh, Research Associate, both of the Centre for Media and Film Studies, provide a critical history of the BBC Persian Service in their recently published book.

Persian Service: The BBC and British Interests in Iran (I.B.Tauris, 2013) challenges both the assumption that the BBC World Service is a standard bearer for objective reporting as well as the representation of the World Service as a simple tool of British government interests.

The book examines the history of relations between the Foreign Office and the BBC Persian Service through five critical moments in Anglo-Iranian history. The scholars demonstrate that these relations have never been pre-defined or rigid. Instead, they explore how both institutions have moved from an interest in what can crudely be called state-orchestrated 'propaganda' to a more subtle advocacy of fair and balanced journalism as the best agent of British values and influence. The authors also examine the responses to the Persian Service by different regimes in Iran, including the recent contestation over the development of BBC Persian television.

Professor Sreberny said: “Rumour and speculation in Iran have been rife for generations that the BBC has had a hand in every political upheaval in the country. Thirty years ago, the Shah of Iran regarded the BBC Persian Service radio as his 'enemy number one' and held it responsible for promoting the revolution of 1979. Only a couple of decades earlier, the BBC Persian Service was widely accused of having been complicit in the CIA-led 1953 coup against Prime Minister Mohammad Musaddiq. A decade earlier, the BBC Persian Service was strongly linked to the British-planned removal of Reza Shah in 1941. The BBC Persian service has frequently been perceived as an entity which was not simply a vehicle to record the changes occurring in Iran and throughout the Middle East, but rather an active agent of change.”  The book tries to shed some historical light on its actual purpose and role.

The book is available to order on the I.B.Tauris website.