Saturday, May 26, 2007

Is Demand for Media Increasing in Iran?

Last weeks witnessed re-opening of two daily papers in Iran: Shargh and HamMihan. Shargh had been shut down 7 months ago, while HamMihan was closed done 7 years ago. Both papers belong to the centre of Iran’s political spectrum; technocrats and reformers such as Mr. Karbaschi, charismatic former mayor of Tehran who owns HamMihan, who advocate economic reforms as well as political ones. The re-opening of these two newspapers is considered a positive step. It certainly has added to the diversity of voices heard inside Iran’s society.

Currently there are a number of reformist daily papers in Iran; among them one can name Etemad Meli, Hayat e No, Aftab Yazf and Kargorzaran. Etemad Meli belongs to Mr. Karoubi. Once a presidential hopeful and speaker of Parliament Mr. Karoubi established Etemad Meli party two years ago. Kargozaran is the tribune of Kargozaran Sazandegi, technocrats’ main party in Iran. These papers represent moderate reformers, leftists[1], technocrats and centrists. There has not been a substitute to newspapers such as Tous and Jamehe’ who advocated a more radical agenda, however many bloggers have filled the space left empty by their absence.

Reading Iranian bloggers’ notes during last weeks one can’t help noticing that some are worried that Shargh and HamMihan would reduce the number of readers of other reformist papers through substitution effect. Both daily papers have excellent editorial staff and some of Iran’s veteran Journalists[2] work as their correspondents. It has been said that HamMihan is hard to find and the first edition is often sold out. This exhibits an eager demand for these fresh additions to market, but has the overall demand for media increased in Iran?

Iranian media usually is full of reports about average time an average Iranian spends reading. The figure is not impressive at all. Latest report claims that Iranians spend on average an hour and half reading per year. However these reports usually do not take into account the average time Iranians and Iranian youth spend reading weblogs and online media. In fact today there is more to read in Iran than any other time in her contemporary history.

Weblogs, daily papers, online news and magazines provide Iranians with a variety of choices. Things that cannot be said in print are usually said online. Given the number of alternatives one could hardly doubt that demand for media has increased drastically. It seems for the first time Iranian audience have to budget their time regarding media. This certainly creates a substitution factor that connects demand for different types of media and publications in Iran.

There is no doubt that new additions will affect demand for other daily papers in Iran. That is after all what new entries do in a market. There might be less reader per newspaper for reformist media, but there will be an overall larger audience. There also is a positive side to this, competition always encourages and promotes quality. Even if one accepts that all reformist media advocate one political opinion, which is not true and they are diverse in their opinions and ideas, the increased competition encourages them to improve their quality and techniques. This will be a welcome externality.

[1] By using term leftist the author means the left side of Iran’s political spectrum; including organizations such as Sazman e Mujaahedin e Inqlab Islami and Majma’ Rohanion e Mobaarez. All are fundamentally Islamic and advocate political reform and social justice. This term does not include secular left or Marxists.
[2] Author would like to add that veteran journalists’ presence is not limited to reformist media; conservative papers also have a very professional and dedicated staff.

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