TV Broadcasts Bound for Iran Intentionally Jammed

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Egypt’s Nilesat satellite operator has suffered repeated intentional jamming from at least two different sources in recent months, starting with attempts to block entry into Iran of new broadcasts from the BBC Persian television service and then jamming of Nilesat’s World Cup soccer and music broadcasts, Nilesat chief executive Salah Hamza said Sept. 8.

Addressing the World Satellite Business Week conference here, Hamza said Nilesat has suffered periodic interference for the past four years. Until recently, he said, it concerned only news broadcasts, particularly those from BBC Persian. But this summer, the company’s broadcasts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup also were jammed, from a different source.

In August, he said, jamming of a Nilesat-carried music station began.

“First it was news, then sports, and in August it was music,” Hamza said. “The jamming is aimed at one program but it affects broadcast customers sharing the transponder.”

As was the case with recent jamming of Eutelsat satellite signals, the BBC Persian interruptions were thought to be caused by the Iranian government. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a Geneva-based United Nations affiliate that regulates satellite slots and broadcast frequencies, was asked to tell Iran to stop, with no apparent effect in Eutelsat’s case. Paris-based Eutelsat subsequently moved the BBC Persian programming to different transponders that were more difficult to jam from Iranian territory.

Hamza said Nilesat, like the French government, had filed a protest to the ITU, with no result.

“We need a government body that can regulate this, and we don’t have one,” Hamza said. “We have been playing a cat-and-mouse game with the jammers, giving our affected customers the choice of several transponders to make it harder to jam. But this is a problem the international community needs to address.”

One official familiar with the Nilesat situation said the jammed music broadcast was in Persian, making it likely that the interference is Iran-based. Hamza said he had no proof of that and that Nilesat has been unable to geo-locate the source of the jamming.

The official said the World Cup issue appears to be a commercial dispute between Nilesat and World Cup broadcasters in an Arab country that do not want Nilesat to compete. This case, the official said, appears to have no relation to Iran.