UK to fund BBC Persian and Arabic TV channels

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LONDON, Oct 10 (Reuters) Britain is to give 70 million pounds of extra funding to the BBC World Service to help fund a Persian-language television news channel aimed at Iran and enhance a forthcoming Arabic channel.

The two channels are the first television news services to be launched by the British Broadcasting Corporation in a decade and the first time the Foreign Office has given money for a specific TV service.

The World Service will receive the 70 million pounds over a three-year period. The funding was announced by Britain's Finance Minister Alistair Darling yesterday.

The corporation said last year that it planned to start a Persian-language television news channel and the confirmed funding from the government will allow the launch to go ahead next year. The channel will be editorially independent.

It will be based in London, broadcasting for eight hours a day at peak Iranian viewing time, and freely available to anyone with a satellite dish or cable connection in the region.

Satellite dishes are officially banned in Iran but the rule is widely flouted, despite sporadic crackdowns.

The BBC said the television service would complement its existing Persian radio and online services although Iranian authorities have partially blocked the BBC's Persian-language Web site after accusing it of an ''anti-Iranian tendency''.

The extra funding will also allow the World Service to enhance plans for its forthcoming Arabic language television news and information channel, moving it to a 24-hour service from the originally planned 12 hours a day.

BBC World Service Director Nigel Chapman said the channels would provide increased opportunity for dialogue and debate which could be a valuable asset ''for audiences in this troubled region''.

Reuters TB VP0430

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