Technical issue likely to blame for Iranian news channel outage, says Eutelsat

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TAMPA, Fla. — A technical issue likely knocked Iran’s Press TV temporarily off the air last week, Eutelsat said as the French satellite operator calls on partners to stop broadcasting the news channel to comply with European sanctions.

The Iranian state-owned news network lashed out at Eutelsat Dec. 7 via Twitter and an article — which has since been updated — after losing service for what it described as an attack on free speech.

Press TV initially said Eutelsat had “taken Press TV off air” before updating the article’s text to instead focus on a notification about plans to drop the channel without mentioning the service outage.

Daphne Joseph-Gabriel, Eutelsat’s corporate communications officer, said the service interruption was likely caused by “a technical incident on the feeder signal” and therefore not in its control.

“In the case at hand, Eutelsat does not have any direct commercial relationship with PressTV,” Joseph-Gabriel told SpaceNews via email.

“It is therefore up to its distributors and partners to comply with the sanctions-related provisions of its contracts.”

Eutelsat sent out an official request to immediately cease broadcasting Press TV after the Council of the European Union singled the channel out in a Nov. 14 round of sanctions against Iran.

The Council said the EU holds Press TV “responsible for producing and broadcasting the forced confessions of detainees” amid widespread unrest in Iran following the death of a woman while in police custody.

Depending on how a channel is uplinked, Joseph-Gabriel said in some cases only the broadcaster has the ability to discontinue the service of a specific channel.

“In such cases, Eutelsat is not able to remove the channels without impacting other legitimate channels on the same transponder that are not targeted by sanctions,” she said.

She said the French operator “is closely monitoring the situation” and will “consider further action accordingly.”

Satellite broadcasters straddle a fine line between facilitating free speech and promoting propaganda. It is an issue that continues to play out in Russia, where Eutelsat is under pressure to curb broadcasts of pro-Kremlin content amid the country’s war in Ukraine.