BBC Audiences double in Iran, despite increase in censorship and intimidation

New figures published today reveal the reach of BBC Persian TV has nearly doubled in Iran – rising by 94 per cent from 3.1 million in 2009 to 6.0million – despite an intensifying campaign of censorship and intimidation by the Iranian authorities.

Overall global weekly audience estimates for the BBC’s international news services in Iran (including TV and radio) have risen by 85 per cent from 3.9million in 2009 to 7.2 million, according to independent research.

The figures reveal that more than one in 10 Iranians now watch BBC Persian TV each week. This rises to more than one in four amongst those with satellite at home (28 per cent).

These figures could be significantly higher if it wasn’t for the persistent and repeated blocking of BBC Persian TV, which returned to the Hotbird satellite of Eutelsat Communications last week, following persistent jamming.

The research also excludes those who come to the BBC Persian website from inside Iran – the internet is heavily censored and figures are difficult to measure.

In addition, the first ever significant audience survey in Somaliland and Puntland has found that the BBC has its highest reach in any international market – reaching more than 60 per cent of adults for its radio services.

The BBC also today announced a new target to reach 250 million people each week across all its international news services – current reach is at 225million – and the ambition to remain the world’s most trusted broadcaster.

The BBC’s Director of Global News Peter Horrocks says: “These figures are a tremendous tribute to the courage and dedication of BBC Persian journalists in the face of appalling bullying and intimidation by the Iranian authorities.

“Working for the BBC World Service can be a very hard calling. But our journalists do so in the knowledge that their reporting is trusted, respected and valued by audiences in Iran and by millions around the world.

“The figures underline how services like BBC Somali are a lifeline for those hungry for impartial news and information. As the BBC World Service turns 80, it reminds us of the strength of our journalism and the importance of our mission to provide balanced frontline reporting.”

The new data follows recent research that showed that BBC Arabic TV’s audience has also risen to 24.5 million from 13.5 million – up by more than 80% – as audiences across the Middle East turned to the BBC for accurate and unvarnished news during the Arab Uprising.

Commenting on the BBC World Service turning 80 years old, Peter Horrocks adds: “The BBC will continue to represent the voice of free media where there is no other access to fair and authoritative news – be it because of suppression and persecution of journalists, a growth in state-sponsored media or new technologies disrupting investment in international journalism.

“Despite the dramatic growth in media, access to independent and high-quality news remains scarce. In many parts of the world, impartial and trusted news is almost becoming an endangered species.

“A tight financial climate does not mean we need to shrink our ambition – we want to reach more people, deliver greater impact and remain the most trusted broadcaster in world.”

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