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"BBC Farsi Radio" has been one of the effective factors of British policy in Iran since its launch in 1319 until recent years. Recently, the BBC World Service announced that it will close several departments, including its Persian and Arabic radio, to save about 30 million pounds. Although the BBC Persian television and website continue to operate, the history of the performance of the BBC Persian radio as the first media steps of the UK in Iran is an important issue, the review, and re-reading of which will have lessons and instructive points for Iran today and tomorrow.
Publish Date : 09:23 - 2022 November 14 The article "British public diplomacy in Iran; A case study of the Farsi section of the BBC World Service" written by Mr. Majid Tafarshi, was presented in October 2007 at the conference on Iran and British colonialism, which was organized by the Institute of Political Studies and Research and was published in the first volume of the book of articles of this conference in 2008. In this article, based on the British archive documents, the author deals with the history of the establishment of BBC Persian radio and its role in the historical events of Iran. The full text of this article is as follows:

Examining the history and performance of the BBC World Service and its Persian section requires attention to the concept and goals of the British government's long-term public diplomacy programs in Iran and the Middle East. So far, several short and long reports, more or less valuable, have been published about the Farsi section of the BBC World Service, most of them written by former or current colleagues of this institution. This article is a short report of more detailed research that is being prepared about British public diplomacy in Iran with a case study of the BBC World Service and its Farsi section's approach towards Iran.


The story of BBC Persian radio's roles in the history of Iran


First of all, it should be noted that the unavailability of the BBC World Service archive in London to the public, which, in an unusual move, has not transferred many of its documents to the British National Archives, has caused many of the existing files about the BBC In various public archives in the UK, it is still withheld and not available to researchers. Therefore, studying the record of the BBC World Service is very difficult for independent researchers, especially because the poverty of oral history and the lack of recording memories among Iranians and British people who are informed and related to the Persian BBC is another obstacle.


Public Diplomacy

Public diplomacy" (in other words, people's diplomacy or, in the words of Hossamuddin Ashna, people-centered diplomacy), stands against standard or conventional diplomacy and is a term that has been used since the mid-1990s during the Cold War in the United States and other countries. Western Bloc countries were raised. The general concept of public diplomacy is to establish good relations between governments and nations instead of relations between governments to win the hearts and minds of all or selected sections of the people of the target countries through cultural and social policies.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office's official website definition of public diplomacy is "the achievement of political objectives by working with the public in foreign countries". A more recent official definition of British public diplomacy is as follows: "Working to achieve the objectives of positively influencing the views of foreign individuals and organizations towards Britain and their cooperation with Britain".

Conventional and classic contemporary historiography considers the American government and the "United States Intelligence Agency" to be the founders of public diplomacy in the world. This American policy in Iran also has a relatively serious and long-term function, which, despite its great importance, is beyond the scope and scope of this brief article.


The British government and the history of work on public opinion in Iran

Although the topic of public diplomacy in its official western sense is new in Iran and has a history of at least forty years, similar policies by the British authorities in Iran began at the beginning of the 19th century with the serious and continuous beginning of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and especially from Half of that century expanded with the establishment of different British diplomatic circles in different cities of Iran.

In general, the largest volume of unconventional communications of British officials in our era was before London's public diplomacy in Iran, between the middle of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th century, that is, since the activation of British diplomacy in the region of the 28 August 1332 coup d'état and the gradual division of British influence in Iran with America has been.

During this period, which lasted for about a century, in Tehran and other provinces where British diplomats were stationed or used to travel, they were in constant contact with ordinary people and non-governmental figures.

These relations were mainly carried out in two separate axes but coordinated with each other: on the one hand, in Tehran, through the "Oriental Secretary" and the "Oriental Counselor" of the embassy and his colleagues who are in charge of contacting various people They were important in Iran, especially the capital, and on the other hand, in the provinces through their consuls, consular officers, and internal officials. In the provinces, the British local officials had a wider relationship with the Iranians. Through a large number of mutual correspondences in Persian and English between Iranian nationals and British diplomats, it is possible to understand their extensive social, economic, political, cultural, and even personal relations over a long period of at least a hundred years.

These correspondences include things such as whistle-blowing, requests to solve problems in unusual ways, complaints against officials and influential domestic figures, and, in short, requests to open unsolved groups in the hands of British agents and their local Iranian colleagues. The general belief in the 19th and 20th centuries was that the consuls and the eastern secretaries of the British Embassy in Iran had a lot of authority and influence among Iranians and were usually directly or indirectly related to the military and security circles of their country.

The most famous case is "Alan Charles Trott" who in the early years after Iran’s invasion in August 1942, first worked in the southern and central provinces of Iran as a consul, then in Tehran as the Eastern Secretary, and Sir Reeder Bullard, the former ambassador of London in Tehran, in his memoirs He mentioned him as one of the important elements of British diplomacy in Iran.

Later, other British security-diplomatic officials in Iran continued Trat's way, among the most well-known of them in the years 1339 to 1332, we can mention "Robin (Robert Charles) Zinner" (1976-1913), the next famous orientalist in the Oriental Institute. Oxford University 13 and "Samfall"; A former soldier and later senior diplomat in the countries of Northern Europe.

One of the most important cases of the relationship between British diplomatic officials and Iranians in Tehran and some other cities can be seen in the case of squatting in the summer garden of that country's embassy in Qolhak in the summer of 1985. Through the transmission of telegraphs, local British diplomatic officials were for a while the mediators of conveying the message of Iranian constitutionalists to others.

From this point of view and considering the range of conventional and unconventional activities of local British diplomats in Iran, perhaps London can be considered the pioneer of public diplomacy of foreign hegemonic governments in the history of Iran and perhaps other Middle Eastern countries even before the term and policy with this name became popular.


Current tools of British public diplomacy

The implementation methods of British public diplomacy in Iran and other countries in the years before World War II have undergone many changes and developments in recent decades and have been applied in different ways. In 2006, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finance of the United Kingdom jointly commissioned a commission headed by Lord Patrick Carter to investigate and revise the public diplomacy policies of that country. The clear result and summary of this research, which was published in 2005, has in recent years become the executive guidance and style book of modern British public diplomacy in the 21st century.

In fact, after several decades, British politicians and politicians realized that without a fundamental revision of their traditional public diplomacy programs, they would not be able to compete with other powers present on the scene in the world today.

Since the compilation and publication of Carter's report, the Public Diplomacy Department in the Foreign Policy Commission of the British Parliament has been active considerably more than before, the legislators of that country have interacted with the BBC World Service and the British Council and the officials of those institutions in the direction of transformation. And the skinning of those two institutions has become traditional and official.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom has declared the current basic axes of public diplomacy of this country as follows:

1) BBC World Service

 2) British Council (British Cultural Council)

3) "BSN" satellite news channel (British Satellite News)

4) Organization of British International Cultural and Commercial Exhibitions

It is obvious that there is no scope to examine all these cases in this brief, and only a little will be addressed to the BBC World Service and more to its Persian section.


BBC World Service

A few months after the end of the First World War, the first wireless public service called radio began in March 1919 in Great Britain, but the authorities of that country did not feel the need to establish an international radio station until late 1932. The international division of the BBC was launched in December 1932 under the name "BBC Empire Service" in English only and mainly to attract English-speaking audiences outside that country's borders. An impressive and meaningful name in the era of colonialism and imperialism, which of course today's network officials prefer to forget completely and have replaced with the new name "BBC World Service" since 1988.

The official website of the BBC, in explaining this old name, explains that this name was not chosen to promote imperialist goals, but to "unite the English-speaking people of the country that was called the British Empire at that time." In the space of a few years, this service expanded its scope of activity from English to other languages, especially due to the conditions close to the beginning of World War II and the need to advertise and influence the people of warring countries. In 1938 and a few months before the start of the Second World War, the Arabic and Spanish sections of BBC World started working.

From the beginning of the establishment of the Global Service and its Persian section until now, this network has faced two different and even hostile perceptions among its audience in Iran and other Farsi-speaking countries: one as a media affiliated and continuous with the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs or as a Global possibility to expand the free flow of media. This contrast is well seen in the official history of the BBC written by "Andrew Walker".

While he refers to this network as "a sky full of lies" according to Burmese government officials, in response to this accusation, he calls the global service and, accordingly, his book "a sky full of freedom".

In fact, from the very beginning of its establishment in the different charters and statutes of the World Service, the British senior executive officials, including in the instructions approved by "Clement Attlee", the then minister from the Labor Party in 1946, while confirming the need for this media to follow the policies of the empire and The national interests of that country should be independent in doing their work.

Historical experience in different countries has shown that if there is a difference between these two slogans, i.e. commitment to British national interests and independence of action, the officials of the BBC World Service will not hesitate to advance the first case.

This independence of action in daily affairs can be accepted to some extent about the internal networks of the BBC because the huge budget of these networks is provided by the direct and annual tax of the people called "License Fee/TV Tax", but the budget of the global service comes directly from The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of that country provides security and the global sector is officially considered a subsidiary and under the diplomatic system of London, and its macro policies are always directly or indirectly under the supervision of government officials or their representatives.

The officials of the BBC insist on the independence of their global service in a situation were to approve and implement their various programs, they need to submit their plans to the legislative and executive authorities for direct review, plus approval by the parliament through the public diplomacy department of the foreign commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of that country.

The report of the British House of Lords in the review of the proposed charter of the World Service in the parliamentary term of 2005-2006 states: "Since the establishment of the BBC World Service, its independence has been the basis of its success. However, because the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is the funding agency for the World Service, there is a formal relationship between the BBC World Service and Her Majesty the Queen's Government.

The media agreement between the BBC and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs determines the strategic goals of the BBC World Service. The agreement commits the BBC World Service to adjust its production and broadcast programs and media priorities according to its contract with the Foreign Office. Also, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have a decision-making role regarding the functioning of the BBC World Service..."

Since then, this interaction has continued with minor changes and developments, and a specific department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has always supervised the medium and long-term policies of BBC World. For example, "Sir Nicholas Barrington", an elderly British diplomat, was a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and copulative with the World Service in the early and middle years of his service, which can be followed up in his written memories.

Another noteworthy point in the review of the BBC World Service is that even if, the assumption, the freedom, and independence of the officials and employees of this network are taken seriously by the British Foreign Ministry, still based on the experience and available information, it can be said that The establishment of this entire network and its numerous sections related to its various languages ​​is precisely based on the overt and hidden international and extra-regional goals of the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This case is more true than any other part about the establishment of the three Persian departments (radio, television, and online), which we will discuss.


The establishment of the Farsi section of the BBC World Service

Most researchers, even the official and unofficial historians of the BBC, do not shy away from mentioning that the establishment of the Farsi section of BBC Radio was originally to neutralize the propaganda activities of the Farsi section of the Berlin Radio among the Iranian audience and to put pressure on Reza Shah Pahlavi in Following the war policies of the Allies and in the next stage, the military occupation of Iran was justified by the military forces of Britain and the Soviet Union.

The establishment of the Farsi section of BBC Radio was desired by the London authorities almost from the beginning of the war. Apparently, for the first time, the proposal and the necessity of this was sent to London by Bullard in a report on December 29, 1939 (three months after the start of the war). This proposal was approved forty days later on February 9, 1960, by London, and Bullard was notified that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Treasury had prepared the necessary funds for the establishment of the Persian department.

Before the establishment of BBC Farsi Radio, the British Embassy in Tehran and especially Miss "Anne Catherine Lambton" (1912-2008), the embassy's press attache, repeatedly warned in her reports to London about the continuation and increase of Nazi Germany's propaganda influence among Iranian officials and people. gave and spoke about the necessity of some kind of initiative in London's war propaganda machine, such as the translation of news and war commentaries.


On December 23, 1319/23, 1940, fifteen months after the start of the Second World War and at the time when the Allies were planning a military attack on Iran (eight months before the 3rd of Shahrivar 1320 and the occupation of Iran), the Farsi section of BBC Radio started working. did This was while "Victor Goldening", the first head of the Persian department, was selected for his position with the recommendation and direct supervision of "Roger Stevens", the then head of the eastern department of the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the next ambassador of that country in Tehran.

By learning from the experience of Bahram Shahrokh and his other Iranian colleagues in establishing the Farsi section of Radio Berlin, the BBC laid the foundations of the newly established Farsi section with the help of several Iranians, among whom two were more prominent than the rest: Hassan Moqar Baliyozi and Mojtaba Minavi Both Baliyozi and mainly had specific religious or political views and goals, which contrary to the BBC's claims of media neutrality, their writings and radio productions were suspicious.
Baliyozi, one of the famous Baha'i figures, got married and stayed in Britain after continuing his studies, but Minawi was not able to return to Iran due to political reasons and probably due to the traditional sabbaths at the end of Reza Shah Pahlavi's reign. According to Minawi's son, Saayat Badkhahan, his nine-month research trip turned into a fifteen-year stay in London.

In fact, both in the issue of the foreign ministry's involvement in determining the head of the Farsi department and in the selection of a well-known Baha'i leader, the BBC showed how far it was from its claim of neutrality. Some employees of this network believe that all these cases were exceptional and the product of the special and unrepeatable era of the Second World War and cannot be ruled as a rule.

But experience has shown that the issue of the influence of the Baha'is in the politics of the Persian sector, the attraction of desperate Iranian political dissidents, and the interventions of the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs with revisions and ups and downs, the story remains.

It should be noted that the current debate is not related to the permissibility of using political dissidents in international media and their specific political and ideological orientation or the rejection or approval of following the absolute Baha'i teachings, but the issue of the contradiction of using fanatics and with Political or religious views and prejudices with the claimed standards of the global service to observe neutrality in its news and reports and the need to use impartial programmers and personal assumptions will be pointed out.

The issue of attracting and selecting Minavi as a writer familiar with the current developments of the country, the target of propaganda, was important and decisive for the establishment of the Persian section of the BBC and especially for its initial work until then, which was recorded in a confidential report about this selection as follows: "Now we are ready to launch the Farsi section."

Minavi was not the only disgruntled Iranian writer living in London during the war who was employed by BBC radio at the beginning of his Persian career, but others such as Masoud Farzad and Majaduddin Mirfakhrai (Golchin Gilani) also collaborated with Minavi. Among these, Minavi and Farzad separated from BBC in the early years of the nationalization movement of the oil industry and went their separate ways.



Minavi returned to Tehran and was employed by the university, Farzad stayed in London and pursued his literary and research work, and later worked as a local employee and cultural consultant of the Iranian embassy, ​​and Mirfakhrai was employed by the same embassy as a translator, local employee and medical consultant.

One of the remarkable points in the history of the Persian section of the BBC, which the author has encountered in many cases in recent years, is that most of the Iranian researchers and writers who, for any reason, political or economic, in some part of their lives, Named or not, they have given their full-time cooperation with the BBC, they have not been interested in mentioning this point in their careers, memories, and biographies, or they have not mentioned it with pride and kindness.

Although this group of Iranian writers and elites who have collaborated with the Persian section of the BBC at some point in their lives have often had a great and undeniable effect in increasing the quality level and presentation of the program, they have less effect in terms of large-scale influence. In the medium or long term, that network is found. According to one of these people in an interview with the author, "By abusing financial and political desperation and sometimes immigration problems, contrary to the slogans of the BBC, their abilities have been used as a tool."

On the contrary, some who, unlike others, were not completely absorbed into the main administrative and executive body of the BBC, were under the microscope of the British political and security authorities in some cases, a detailed and long example of which can be seen in the case of the twelve The year of the pursuit and covert operations of the "MI5" organization - the British internal security organization - and the filing of a case against Masoud Farzad (from the beginning of 1943 to the end of 1954) can be found. It was believed that he was working with his brother Homan (Homayoun) Farzad, a translator and fellow paratrooper of Hitler's Germany in Iran during World War II.

One of the cases in that both the officials of the BBC World Service and the history reporters of its Persian section, intentionally or unintentionally, have passed by it or have shown it very little, the presence and influence of Hasan Muqar Baliyozi (1908-1980). And other Baha'is have been in the serious and policy-making levels of this media for a long time.

Baliyozi was the first person who spoke to the audience at the beginning of BBC Persian. He was a member of the Afnan family and a close relative of Mirza Ali Mohammad Bab and the son of Mohammad Ali (Mahmoud) Muqar al-Doulah Baliyozi, the former ruler of Bushehr and the Minister of Public Works and Trade in the coup cabinet of Seyyed Ziauddin Tabatabai in late 1299 and early 1300. Balyozi was hired by the BBC in a situation where a few months before, he had become a member of the Baha'i National Assembly known as Rezvan.

In 1956, a few years after the establishment of the Persian section, Baliyozi became a member of the highest administrative and religious council of the Baha'i (almost equivalent to a senior cardinal) in the Catholic religion) In addition to writing about ten works on the history and propagation of Bahá'íism, Baliozi was for many years the president of the "National Spiritual Assembly of Bahá'ís" of the British Isles, as the general administrative and executive directorate of Bahá'ís in Britain. He practically became one of the keys and highly influential people of this network during his two decades of work in BBC Persian.


During this time, Baliyozi was busy with his media responsibilities and religious affairs with all his might, to show that BBC officials, at least in the Farsi section, are not so worried about the implementation of the Charter, that they are concerned with the necessity of preserving the partiality and self-restraint of the teachers, producers, and staff in the political and religious field was specified and emphasized.

The significant presence of Baha'is at various levels of the BBC World Service, from the top management of that network down, along with their subtle and hidden influence in the lower layers of this network, sometimes also has obvious manifestations, among which one can see a completely promotional interview with "Mary Maxwell" (nicknamed Mrs. Spirit) widow of Shoghi Effendi, former Baha'i leader, noted on August 18, 1981. In the BBC, the preparation of reportage or commercials has a long history and is not limited to distant years.

The publication of numerous news and reports on the issue of Baha'is shows the continuation of this policy and the use of the Baha'i card against Iran. In this regard, for example, it is possible to refer to the series of numerous, biased, and advertisement-like reports by BBC Farsi correspondents sent to Israel about various Baha'i centers in Acre and other Palestinian territories. In this report, the Iranian government is accused of anti-Bahá'í and anti-Semitic.

By examining the topics, titles, and content of such writings, we will not be surprised if we know that all the dispatch reporters and senders of such report ads from Acre and other cities of that region have quickly progressed in BBC. All of them have not only been promoted in the recent changes and developments of this network but from now on, a high position has been considered for them in the Persian Press of BBC.

In any case, from the beginning of its establishment until the end of the summer of 1320, BBC Farsi carried out a non-stop advertising campaign on three fronts:

Making Iranians pessimistic about Hitler's Germany and its allies

Creating pessimism about Reza Shah as a German cooperation

And finally, preparing the public mind for the occupation of Iran and its strategic justification.

To achieve these goals, a former employee of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company named "Laurence Paul Elwell-Sutton" (1912-1984) was hired by BBC Persian Radio as a consultant and senior supervisor. In the last years of the war and after Lambton, Elwell-Sutton became the press and publicity attaché of his country's embassy in Tehran. Then, like Lambton, he got a professorship of history and Persian language (of course, at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland).

During World War II, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and senior officials of the BBC had a silent fight with some employees of the Persian department to publish propaganda and orders dictated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This issue was initially resolved in such a way that the submitted material was prepared as an independent reporter, the disagreement ended as follows: "The BBC accepted that the British government can legally accept the full and public responsibility of broadcasting anything. Ask BBC Farsi.


In a situation where writers who support the independence of the Farsi section of the BBC have spoken about the victory of the independent vote of the employees of that media over the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the issue of interference in the content of the programs, Abbas Dehghan, who is one of the first generations of reporters of the Farsi section of the BBC, About the issue of the independence of that media, he said: "We read exactly what was given to us. We were not allowed to make any changes. Two English people were monitoring what we were broadcasting. They spoke in Farsi and listened carefully."

The years 1320 to 1328 were the period when Persian BBC became popular among Iranians. During this period, British Foreign Ministry officials decided to indirectly and imperceptibly exert their influence on the global service and the Persian department. However, with the beginning of the movement to nationalize the oil industry in Iran, the BBC once again "exceptionally" and based on British national interests, openly went along with the policies of its financiers: First, by preparing reports and interpretations to present a positive image of the performance of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, then by fully synchronizing with the London government in confronting the nationalization of the oil industry and maintaining this policy, and finally by fully cooperating with the plan to overthrow Mossadegh on 19th of August 1953.

The last curtain of the show was the synchronization of BBC Persian with the British government against the nationalization of the oil industry in Iran, the direct cooperation of this network in the coup d'état on 19th August 1953, and the overthrow of Mossadegh's government. On August 22, 2005, BBC Radio Four broadcast a program from the Documentary series entitled "A Very British Coup".

In this program, which was produced by Mike Thompson, the famous presenter, and producer of this network, it was announced that the BBC reporter by announcing the sentence "It is now exactly 12 o’clock midnight" instead of the usual sentence "It is now 12 o’clock midnight"; this was a coded message. This message was for the Shah and his companions to reassure them and show London's readiness for the coup operation.

No wonder that in the report prepared by the BBC for the Public Diplomacy Department of the Foreign Relations Commission of the British Parliament, in explaining the current and future programs of that network for Iranians, the following is mentioned: "Many in Iran consider the BBC a tool for "The intervention of the British Empire... [they know] and many nationalists criticize BBC reporting for playing a key role in favoring the Shah and opposing Mossadegh."

At the beginning of the Islamic revolution in Iran, the BBC first tried to show this movement in a weak light, but over time and with the height of the revolution, this media was forced to reflect the events and demands of the revolutionaries and their leaders. Until the publication of confidential documents related to 1978 and later, it is impossible to accurately judge the role of the BBC in the events of that time in Iran, and it is impossible to pay attention to the baseless claims and evidence based on the popular conspiracy theory among some Iranians.


In the years after the revolution, for various reasons, the Persian BBC became safe for the activities of people who were incompatible with the post-revolutionary government and even actively and regularly were members or supporters of political and paramilitary organizations. An action that in any case is in clear contradiction with all the old and current charters of the BBC and the claim of neutrality and non-partisanship of that network.

The lack of sufficient knowledge of several officials and moderators of the Persian section in practice has caused this network to become more and more in need of the parent network and the main English-language BBC, and as in the early days of BBC Radio, the Persian section even talks about issues related to Iran, Islam and the Middle East have acted like Dar al-Tarjmeh, and reflecting on the writings of English-speaking reporters has reduced the independence of their opinions and actions even more than before.

The officials of the British Foreign Ministry and the BBC World Service have concluded for years that the wheel of strategic propaganda and public diplomacy of that country does not turn with the direct and continuous spreading of lies. Therefore, the BBC does not need to lie continuously.

For years, to gain the trust of the audience by presenting correct reports, this network has been trying to present wrong and incomplete images to foreign audiences on special occasions. In other words, to place its reports and news and instill the necessary information at the necessary time among foreign audiences, the BBC World Service must first make them believe that it is an honest and impartial media.

In this context, the discussion of the official historians of the BBC, including Walker, about the opposition of the BBC's opponents' claim about "one sky of lies" of the programs of this network against their policy of "one sky of freedom" is baseless, because the BBC World Service Not completely free and not completely false. Rather, if it is intended to implement British policy and secure the country's long-term interests, this demand will not be met by systematic lying and untruths that lead to the loss of the audience's trust.

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