By Caitlin Pike
Channel 4 News has been issued more visas by Iran than any other western news organisation, enabling it to achieve a broadcast news first and anchor a week of live programmes from the country.
RTS television journalist of the year Jon Snow is in Iran heading a team of a dozen journalists, cameramen and technicians who will be producing the week’s programmes, starting on Monday under the banner "News from Iran". The series coincides with the meeting of the International Atomic Energy Authority in Vienna to make its assessment of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Channel 4 News deputy editor Martin Fewell told Press Gazette that Channel 4 was going to Iran because it had become the "world’s number one diplomatic story". He said realising the programme’s aim of broadcasting from Iran had involved considerable effort to persuade the Iranian authorities that they should allow them an unprecedented level of access.
"There is no question that Iran does allow journalists in — the BBC has a stringer based there. But I am conscious, as I have been with previous weeks of news we have done from India and Africa, of how narrow a picture you get of a country from the normal day-to-day reporting that we, and everybody else, are able to do.
"I wouldn’t say it is a closed country, but it is not a country that allows free access to journalists in a way that India and Africa do and Iraq did immediately post-war, before security issues overtook it. It’s a real issue for Iran having to accept that it is not going to have total control to dictate what we say and film. It is not an easy place to operate."
Fewell added that he was aware that Snow and his colleagues would not be able to give a total picture of Iran, but believes the series "will contribute to people’s understanding of what makes Iran tick as well as the dispute on nuclear power and the geo-political issues surrounding Iran".
Snow said: "I hope and feel the Iranians are as keen to see it work as we are. There will be a culture clash in the way we do things, but they are enthusiastic about us coming. They have given us an unprecedented number of visas, the largest number they have given a western organisation.
It is a fantastic country, vibrant, with a huge population, rich in mineral resources with amazing potential."
Snow will be joined by Channel 4 News’s international editor Lindsey Hilsum and science correspondent Julian Rush in compiling nightly location reports. A series of films has also been commissioned with independent Iranian film-makers and which Channel 4 hopes will open up aspects of the country not seen before on British television.
The BBC has a permanent presence in Iran with Frances Harrison based in Tehran. Its coverage of the country included the first television pictures of a secret nuclear facility last year.