State-Run TV Takes a Hit
12 Jul 2009 22:57
Dispatch from Tehran | 12 July 2009
Iranian news outlets noandish.com and tabnak.com report that Iranian state television has been hurt by falling advertising revenue. Several companies have reportedly either canceled or not renewed their contracts to broadcast their commercials through the IRIB, or the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. Some analysts quickly concluded that boycotting products advertised on IRIB's TV channels, a tactic suggested after the election by Mir Hossein Mousavi's supporters, is working. Others see it differently.
In Iran, there are no small-town FM radio stations broadcasting listener-requested music and local news. The state has a monopoly on both TV and radio. Even the smallest relay station is a government property, and its technicians are government employees. The Supreme Leader appoints IRIB's chief directly. A parliamentary panel is supposed to monitor its activities, but neither it nor the president has the authority to remove its chief. Thus, IRIB is the mouthpiece of the establishment.
During the recent presidential campaign, IRIB provided the candidates with live debate time on national TV and ended up giving an extra 20 minutes to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to defend himself. After the election, it followed the official line, refusing to cover rallies and demonstrations or to voice other candidates' concerns. It used all its resources to increase the entertainment meant to distract or placate the populous, broadcasting the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in one week. Its newscasters reminded people of the benefits of calm and peace. It labeled protesters as "foreign agents" and "hooligans." These tactics did not endear IRIB to the public.
In an attempt to voice their criticism of IRIB's conduct, Mousavi's supporters and several related Web sites called for a boycott of all products and services advertised on IRIB. Today, this boycott seems to be working.
Although spring and summer is generally the down time of TV commercials, the number of commercials broadcast has been declining, particularly during the popular shows such as Jumong, a Korean TV series. In response, IRIB's advertisement department has offered discounts and extra run time to advertisers. Unconfirmed reports suggest that as many as a dozen advertisement agencies have canceled their contracts with IRIB. Mousavi supporters are celebrating their success in their boycott campaign.
But is this success due to the boycott?
The boycott call is still in its earlier stages, and it does not seem consumers' response to it has been massive. Furthermore, companies and manufacturers are facing an uncertain future due to the global economic downturn. Under these circumstances, reducing expenses is always the first step, and the most likely candidate for budget cuts is often the advertisement and marketing departments. Thus, skeptics hesitate to attribute the decline in IRIB TV commercials to the success of the boycott.
This does not mean that the protests or boycott have not played a role. The fact that businesses and advertising agencies are canceling their contracts with IRIB and preparing themselves for the uncertain post-election future means that the rules of the game have indeed changed in Iran, which is a much more significant event than a mere fall in commercial activities.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau