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Media and Public Sphere in Iran

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The Habermasian notion of the public sphere is an independent area free of government intervention. In the Iranian case, the ownership and management of radio and television is with the government. Therefore, no programme can harshly criticise basic government policies. There are news sections, news reports, political commentaries, and interviews with political experts, first, second, or third ranked politicians and government officials, or even interviews with the public in which administrative inefficiencies, commodity shortages and even people's complaints and grievances are discussed. However, television productions, whether political, economic or cultural, cannot be oppositional. To change national television from being (mostly) propagandistic in nature to more public sphere in orientation needs time and more economic and political changes. Unlike television, in Iran we do not categorize the function of newspapers as a monologtype or one-way communication. Reformist papers do present alternative political and economic views. Nonetheless, financial and political problems such as opposing expectations and demands from readers and the judiciary system, low readership figures, a limited advertising market, and the shortage of imported and domestically produced paper prevent them from functioning as an effective and influential part of the Iranian public sphere. Recently, however, there have been some changes in the broadcast policy of Iranian television in terms of more channels, more dialog-type content, and an apparently non-biased and neutral position regarding reformists and conservatives. To assess how this new policy may change national television from (mostly) a propaganda type to a public sphere type requires more time and reliable evidence still not available.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Communication, University of Tehran, Iran


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