More than 40 percent of Iranians watch television channels beamed into Iran and accessible only by illegal but widespread satellite dishes across the country, media reports said Wednesday.
The figure was released by the research department of the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), in what the daily 7 Sobh said was a rare admittance of the popularity of satellite channels in Iran.
According to the report, 42 percent of more than 75 million Iranians spend approximately three hours watching these channels, which air movies, music and other entertainment programmes as well as news, mostly in Persian, including the BBC's Persian service and the US channel Voice of America.
Authorities consider these channels as part of a "soft war" waged by Western countries against the values and morals of the Islamic republic founded in 1979.
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Cooperation with these networks is considered a crime.
The authorities carry out regular crackdowns to seize satellite dishes, removing them from rooftops, and issue warnings against their use.
Iran's new President Hassan Rowhani, considered a moderate, has been critical of such crackdowns, saying it was a "violation of personal privacy" and a failed attempt to prevent Iranians from connecting to the outside world.
IRIB is allocated huge budgets to compete with the influence of these channels.
7 Sobh estimates the network's budget for this Iranian year, which began on March 21, at $420 million.
Under the constitution, the Iranian government has a broadcasting monopoly, and all television and radio stations are state-run and operate inside the country.