U.S. plans TV assault
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON - Adding a new dimension to its support for pro-democracy activists in Iran, the Voice of America is planning a nightly half-hour TV news show tailored for viewers in that country.
"By reporting what's happening in Iran today, we can help further the struggle for freedom and self-determination in Iran," said Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees most U.S. government-sponsored broadcasts overseas.
Recent U.S. statements in support of Iranian anti-government demonstrators have prompted charges of interference by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.
He has insisted the U.S. stance has had the welcome effect of generating "greater national solidarity" in Iran.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the White House does not consider U.S. television news broadcasts into Iran to be interference in Iran's affairs.
"We think it is important for everybody there and everybody around the world to be as well informed as possible, and this is a case where we can help out with that," Boucher said.
The administration has become increasingly concerned about Iran's nuclear programs and sees widespread opposition in Iran to Islamic fundamentalist rule as a sign that change may be possible.
Boucher said U.S. officials remain convinced that the solution to many of the difficulties facing Iran are found in the reformist, democratic agenda backed by the protesters.
President Bush paid tribute last month to "those courageous souls who speak out for freedom in Iran" and urged Tehran to treat protesters with "the utmost of respect."
"They need to know America stands squarely by their side," he said.
The first VOA broadcast of the Persian language "News and Views" show will be Sunday from 9:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Scheduled to run through Sept. 30, the show will cost $500,000 to produce and will feature original news reporting from Iran. It will include world news roundups, analysis and cultural features.
The broadcasts will complement VOA Persian's daily radio service and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth-oriented radio program.
Originally published on July 4, 2003