The Iranian regime’s media has acknowledged a concerning development: the global Jam-e Jam network, which catered to Iranians abroad, is teetering on the brink of closure. The state-run newspaper, Etemad, has even stated that this network currently lacks an ‘audience.’
The regime’s confidence has suffered a blow as the manager of Jam-e Jam confirmed a significant decline in the network’s viewership during a press conference last year.
Hassan Maleki, who assumed the role of Jam-e Jam’s manager by directive of Morteza Mirbagheri, vice president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), in the previous year, attributed the waning audience to ‘budget reductions’ during a press briefing. Nonetheless, these remarks led to the amalgamation of the three channels within Jam-e Jam’s global network into one, with the other two being shut down.
The inception of the Jam-e Jam network dates back to December 1997, during Ali Larijani’s presidency on the regime’s state television. Notably, this was the same period when controversial programs such as ‘Identity’ and ‘Cheragh’ were being aired. These programs entailed interrogations of political adversaries of the opposing faction in front of TV cameras.
In February 1999, a second Jam-e Jam channel was introduced for viewers residing in America and Canada. Subsequently, in June 2001, the third Jam-e Jam channel, targeting the Asia and Pacific region, commenced its operations. However, all three channels eventually transitioned to 24-hour broadcasting.
Etemad, the state-run newspaper, candidly acknowledged that the decline in audience isn’t solely restricted to the Jam-e Jam network; it’s a crisis that pervades the entire IRIB. This erosion in the regime’s radio & TV audience comes at a time when the IRIB’s share of the annual budget continues to increase.
To counter the dwindling viewership of this influential network, Etemad reported that Vahid Jalili, the cultural deputy of the head of the IRIB, dismissed several network managers. Their positions were filled by individuals from Basij bases in institutions associated with the arts, advertising organizations, Ammar Film Festival, and Hosseinieh art establishments. Surprisingly, in contrast to their expectations, this action only accelerated the network’s customer attrition.
Even the regime’s Minister of Guidance recently stated, ‘IRIB is losing its authority.’
According to a survey by the state-run Iranian Student Polling Agency (ISPA), IRIB’s authority in providing information and news has been declining since 2013. In contrast, the usage of social networks to access news has surged, escalating from nearly zero percent in 2003 to about 45 percent in 2022. Over the years, the authority relinquished by IRIB has been absorbed by the burgeoning influence of social networks.
In 2016, during his tenure as Speaker of the Parliament, Ali Larijani criticized the rapid expansion of IRIB’s workforce. He remarked that the organization could function effectively with 10,000 to 12,000 employees, yet the employee count abruptly ballooned to 36,000.
By the close of 2016, the tally of official, temporary, and contract employees at IRIB stood between 48,000 and 50,000.
Between 2005 and 2008, IRIB’s budget soared from 224.125 billion tomans to 406.488 billion tomans, marking a twofold increase. Similarly, from 2009 to 2012, the budget escalated from around 450 billion tomans to 840 billion tomans. Expenses for IRIB in 2015 surged from 872 billion tomans to just over one trillion tomans, signifying nearly a 14% growth in a year. The 2023 budget for IRIB has allocated over 8 trillion tomans—a staggering leap compared to a decade ago.
Despite its astronomical budget, surveys and societal feedback reveal that IRIB is trailing behind social networks and the internet. Paradoxically, the organization’s management is striving to sustain programs like ‘Pavaraghi’ with an audience in the single digits.