Iran launches free entertainment channel in Arabic

Iran has launched a 24-hour satellite television entertainment channel to broadcast serials and films to audiences in the Arab world, media reported on Friday.

The state-run iFilm channel will broadcast programmes dubbed into Arabic for viewers in Lebanon, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, reports said.

It will show "documentaries on making of films, film reviews, feature films, and short films," Iran's English-language Press TV said, adding that the channel will be broadcast via the Arabsat and Nilesat satellites.

The channel's launch comes three years after the start of Press TV, which the Islamic republic says is a bid to break the "stranglehold" of the West over the world media.

Iran's state-run broadcaster already operates Al-Alam, a 24-hour Arabic-language news channel whose slick programming has won a loyal following from Shiite Muslims in Lebanon and Iraq.

It was launched at around the time of US invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The state broadcaster also runs Jam-e Jam, which airs Farsi programmes for Iranians living abroad, and the Arabic Al-Kawthar which broadcasts a mix of news, religious talk shows and Iranian soap operas dubbed into Arabic.

Although Tehran uses satellites to broadcast its programming abroad, it is still illegal to have satellite receivers inside the country, where officials frequently denounce the "cultural decadence" spread by foreign channels.

In recent years, many Iranians have discreetly installed satellites in their homes, but these can be the target of sporadic crackdowns by the police who confiscate illegal dishes.

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