I'm just back from 4 days in Iran - a great trip. I've long wanted to visit and wasn't disappointed. Four days is not time enough to understand anything about this most complex of societies - but I've returned with some vivid snapshots.
I gave what I thought was a broad and moderate, perhaps even bland, speech on the impact technology is having on broadcasters all over the world. (text here). However some problems with the translation and, I think, a predisposition to assume the worst of the BBC, meant it was greeted with press reports suggesting the BBC wanted to dominate Asia, that I had in some way belittled Iranian broadcasting and that I had changed my speech at the last moment in defiance of the ABU and organisers. None of this was true. To be fair, the Farsi news agency which ran these reports later accepted I hadn't said such things, although I'm not sure anything was corrected. (UPDATE: surprisingly, they have now run a correction and a longer item reporting what I actually said. Other reports here.)
The hardline Khayan newspaper also apparently reported my comments about the need for a global conversation.
For me it was an opportunity to show the BBC as a straightforward professional broadcaster - most in Iran regard us as a propaganda arm of government. I was repeatedly reminded of Britain's role in the coup of 1953 and how BP grew from the Iranian oilfields. They have long memories .
It was also an opportunity to explain what we try to do with our Farsi Radio and internet service and the forthcoming Persian TV channel. Of course, I recognised that discussion of the importance of openness, transparency and allowing the voices of the public to be heard would not necessaarily be a welcome message.
One of the snapshots I return with is a society of contrasts. Government officials would take a very stern line about the BBC formally, but then informally show great warmth and hospitality.
I flew in to Isfahan in the early hours sitting next to a young woman dressed in strictly islamic fashion with a modest chador and headscarf. But the book she was reading was "Why men love bitches: from doormat to dreamgirl", a woman's guide to holding her own in a relationship.
Iran is, as a colleague noted, a country of young people ruled over by old men whose pictures adorn the streets. And some of those young people would privately confide in losing faith with religious law and hoping for change. It struck me as a nervous country (perhaps for good reason) with deep frustration running through people wherever they sat on the political scale. But no-one, it seems, expects change soon.
Ethan on homophily and journalism - important post: "t’s my contention that living in the 21st century requires understanding what people think, feel and want in different parts of the world, given that both the challenges and opportunities of next seve