THE COMEDY series “Payetakht” (Capital) has been one of the most popular shows on Iranian state TV since it began airing in 2011. It follows a famil
THE COMEDY series “Payetakht” (Capital) has been one of the most popular shows on Iranian state TV since it began airing in 2011. It follows a family from the north who get into all sorts of trouble. In one season, for example, they take a balloon ride in Turkey—and end up in Syria, fighting jihadists. Such storylines allow the show to promote official policy, such as Iran’s support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. But in a more recent episode the shot of two newly-weds on a motorcycle (pictured) enraged conservatives. It seemed to emulate a film made before the Islamic revolution in 1979, a period they view with sanctimonious disdain.
Was the offending scene a result of negligence or the work of a “fifth column”? An internal probe aims to find out. But the row has already shed light on a larger struggle over state TV. Young hardliners think their pious and conservative older managers are not pious enough. The young hotheads want to use the airwaves to spread Iran’s revolutionary theology.
At the moment few people are watching. Viewership of state TV has been declining for years, according to IRIB, the state broadcasting monopoly. This is partly a result of a boom in satellite dishes. The government banned them in 1994, but that hasn’t stopped Iranians from watching Western entertainment on satellite TV channels broadcast from abroad. Iranian versions of Netflix…