Iran today hacked BBC Persian TV. The move is part of a broader attempt by the government to disrupt the BBC's Persian service, according to BBC News. The BBC's London office was inundated with automatic phone calls and the company's satellite feeds into Iran were also jammed – while this only affected owners of illegal satellite dishes, these are of course the only ones that can receive the BBC signal in Iran.
The media organization released extracts from a speech confirming the attack, to be spoken by Director-general Mark Thompson tomorrow. Thompson is expected to use Wednesday's address to the Royal Television Society to accuse Iran of trying to undermine the service. While he will stop short of explicitly accusing Tehran of being behind the hacking, he will strongly suggest the country's government is to blame.
"It now looks as if those who seek to disrupt or block BBC Persian may be widening their tactics," Thompson will say, according to Reuters. "There was a day recently when there was a simultaneous attempt to jam two different satellite feeds of BBC Persian into Iran, to disrupt the service's London phone lines by the use of multiple automatic calls, and a sophisticated cyber-attack on the BBC. It is difficult, and may prove impossible, to confirm the source of these attacks, though attempted jamming of BBC services into Iran is nothing new and we regard the coincidence of these different attacks as self-evidently suspicious. We are taking every step we can, as we always do, to ensure that this vital service continues to reach the people who need it."
The BBC has previously accused Iran of attempting to jam its broadcasts by eliminating VPN networks for example, as well as intimidating its staff. This recent attack follows various tactics by the Iranian government, such as harassment, arrests, and threats against the relatives of BBC Persia correspondents who still live in Iran, in an effort to force the journalists to quit the Persian news service. Since few Western journalists are permitted to work in Iran, as the Islamic government is suspicious of foreign media, all BBC Persian service staff work outside the country.
BBC Persian is available via TV, radio, and online services in Farsi. Despite an intensifying campaign of censorship and intimidation by the Iranian authorities, BBC Persian TV's audience in Iran almost doubled between 2009 and 2011. Last month, BBC News reported that the channel's audience had grown from 3.1 million three years ago to 6 million last year. Overall global weekly audience estimates for the BBC's international news services in Iran (including TV and radio) have risen from 3.9 million in 2009 to 7.2 million in 2012. In other words, one in 10 Iranians watch BBC Persian TV weekly.