The Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader is expected to name a new chief for Iran’s national broadcaster, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Broadcasting organization (IRIB) which he supervises. He might just as well reinstate the organization’s current chief Abdulali Ali-Askari, but observers in Iran say this is less likely to happen as Khamenei is aware that the IRIB’s middle managers, some of them his own relatives, do not like to work with Ali-Askari.

IRIB insiders have said that the change in management was expected much earlier, but Khamenei waited for the 2021 presidential election to make an appointment, in line with his general policy of unification of the political system, in which IRIB is a key part.

Apart from the three branches of power, the Majles (parliament), the Presidency, and the Judiciary, the IRIB and IRGC are the main pillars of Khamenei’s government. The IRIB is the pillar that keeps telling the nation Khamenei is powerful and invincible and that the rest of the world envy his position and are constantly conspiring to topple him against the will of the nation. It is a propaganda machine rather than an information dissemination entity.

Ali-Askari was not Khamenei’s initial choice for the post in 2016 when he appointed him. The organization’s former chief Mohammad Sarafraz suddenly resigned over a dispute with IRGC about their shares of advertising revenues, and Khamenei appointed the organization’s technical manager, Ali-Askari, as the new chief for five years, probably a transitional period.

Under Ali-Askari, the IRIB lost more of its declining popularity because of what his colleagues believe is his political naivety and lack of managerial skills. Some of IRIB’s “stars” such as a producer and sports commentator who brought millions of viewers, were alienated, and forced to leave the organization.

At the same time, a rise in the number of satellite TVs beaming programs into Iran, and the breakthrough in Internet penetration put an end to the IRIB’s supremacy in the Iranian media landscape. Based on official figures, the Internet influences nearly 50 million Iranians only via one platform, Telegram, and 22 million via Instagram.

Out of the broadcasters’ extraordinarily large fleet of over 50 national and provincial TV channels, most viewers turn to Channel 3, the Sports Channel, and Nasim Channel where they can watch live international football (soccer) matches albeit with some censorship, as well as light entertainment including sitcoms that do not cross the Islamic Republic’s social and political red lines.

The intrusive censorship pushed many artists who made TV series to the home entertainment networks that sell sitcoms on DVD or offer on-demand video on the Internet (VOD). Soon, however, Ali-Askari took advantage of legislation that gave the IRIB exclusive right to broadcasting and his officers started to censor those videos. The obvious result was the falling popularity of private videos on demand.

Speculations about a change in the management of the IRIB, started during the final year of Ali-Askari’s term. Former Majles Speaker Ali Larijani was one of the big names frequently mentioned as a possible next IRIB chief. Larijani had already chaired the IRIB for 10 years from February 1994 to May 2004. However, his disqualification as a presidential candidate in the 2021 election may have put an end to his career, although Khamenei has said twice that he did not approve of the decision by the Guardian Council.

The next big name as a candidate for the post of IRIB Chief is Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli who was Larijani’s deputy at the IRIB. Another previous IRIB chief now named as a possible appointee is Ezzatollah Zarghami who unlike Larijani maintained a very good relationship with producers and artists.

Some observers in the Iranian press have said that deputy IRIB Chief Ali Darabi and Channel 3 Chairman Ali Foroughi are choices from within the IRIB. But the same observers rule out Foroughi as part of the IRIB’s problem rather than a man who can offer solutions.

Former Majles Speaker and father-in-law of Khamenei’s son Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel has always been mentioned as a possible candidate for the post during the past 30 years, but Khamenei probably would not agree, as he is an insider, and Khamenei would have to take the blame for the organization’s shortcoming.

Khamenei’s last resort would be reinstating Ali Askari for another five years, although five years is a long time and would probably cover big events such as succession and upheavals. Ali-Askari would not be the right man.

Source » iranintl