BBC’s Persian television service blocked

A powerful jamming signal coming from Iran has blocked the satellite channel on which the BBC broadcasts its Persian television service into the country, the broadcaster said yesterday.

As a result, the BBC World Service has added broadcasts from three other satellites that are out of reach of the jamming equipment being used. The BBC said the jamming began on last Friday, the day Iranians went to the polls, rather than when popular unrest began to grow.

Eutelsat, the owner of the Hotbird 6 satellite that has been targeted, knows to within a city block where the jamming signal is coming from and is working with the International Telecoms Union, the global regulatory body, to stop it, according to BBC officials.

“It does not need incredibly sophisticated equipment,” a satellite expert said. “They just need a 7ft dish and they send a more powerful uplink signal than the signal we are using and it overwhelms it. It has only happened rarely before.”

He said it was unlikely that any ITU action could stop the jamming.

BBC Persian has been broadcasting Farsi news since January to Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The jamming signal is also affecting other broadcasts using Hotbird 6, including the BBC’s Arabic television service.

The BBC’s signal could now be received on the Eutelsat W2M Nilesat and Telstar T12, a spokesman said. These would be immune from interference because the Middle East and Gulf region was served by several satellites, many viewers had motorised dish receivers and were accustomed to switching from one to another, the expert said.