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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 programs 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 programs 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. Khaleej Times

Iranian opposition

In a related development Iranian opposition activists have also started a new satellite TV channel, RASA TV, from Belgium as an alternative to Iran’s increasingly state-controlled media. The channel is also available online. One of the channel’s organizers, Ebrahim Nabavi, said in an interview with Radio Free Europe that the goal was to break the government’s “monopoly” on information and fight censorship in Iran. The opposition leader and cleric Mehdi Karroubi appeared on the channel and praised it on Thursday, just hours before pro-government crowds surrounded and attacked his house, clashing with his bodyguards and preventing him from attending the annual Jerusalem Day rally on Friday.

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