A new Iran-funded satellite TV channel that began broadcasting in Syria on Saturday night (November 25th) provides Iran with another way to penetrate the region and promote its agenda and ideologies, media experts warned.
This initiative is in keeping with the policy of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and serves as a means to exert influence and control, they said.
Al-Alam TV-Syria began a test broadcast Sunday night with three hours of air time, and is slated to increase its broadcasting hours in the upcoming period.
The Tehran-based channel will eventually establish offices in Syria, Syrian media outlets reported.
"The new channel will give the IRGC a way to further its penetration of Syrian society," said professor Hassan Afifi of Cairo University's faculty of media.
Media outlets and the content they broadcast are among the most important means to influence people, operating in tandem with military, security, political and economic control of the area, he told Diyaruna.
Although the channel broadcasts Syrian content, it is out of the control of the Syrian regime and its content is not subject to Syrian monitoring, Afifi noted.
A tool for recruitment
"For this reason, the content it will broadcast will certainly contribute to the IRGC's recruitment process," he said, noting that the IRGC's goal is to establish local groups along the lines of Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Afifi said he expects the new channel will be used to incite sectarian strife.
This will increase tension in the Syrian interior, he said, noting that this internal conflict is one of the contributing factors to the IRGC's "survival and expansion".
The channel's launch was accompanied by the launch of an affiliated website, which will enhance the dissemination of its political messaging, he said.
This strategy is similar to the IRGC's establishment of the Hizbullah affiliated Al-Manar TV channel in Lebanon.
Soon after Al-Manar was launched, Afifi noted, a media organisation was established that includes websites, newspapers and radio stations.
"These have contributed to the dissemination of the IRGC’s ideology and to its recruitment process in Lebanon," he said, and has helped Hizbullah to expand.
Countries fighting extremism should block the new channel and its website, Afifi said, and must step up counter-media efforts directed at the Syrian interior.