Screen capture from this video, filmed during a police intervention near Isfahan in July.
Iranian police have launched a new crackdown on satellite dishes, which many Iranians, especially in the capital, use to watch TV channels broadcasted from abroad. The police do this on a regular basis, but, despite changing tactics, our Observers in Tehran tell us this is a losing battle.
Though satellite dishes are banned, Tehran’s rooftops are littered with them. The police regularly confiscate them, and, approximately once a year, launch a major crackdown. This year’s campaign began in earnest on Sunday, according to our Observers in Tehran. Usually, uniformed police – and sometimes even special operation forces that propel down the sides of tall buildings – carry out these operations. This time, however, police are in plainclothes, and instead of taking away the whole dish, they’re only taking the “low-noise block downconverter”, or LNB, a little box that receives signals from satellites and amplifies them. This effectively renders the dishes useless. The police sometimes hand out fines, too, but not systematically.
Authorities in Iran see foreign channels as a threat, especially those broadcast from the West, like BBC Persian and dozens of other Persian-language channels. Hard-line cleric Ahmad Khatami has said these channels are used by the country’s enemies to “fight against Islam, the Islamic Revolution, and the great Iranian nation.”  While no exact figures are available, an Iranian researcher recently told attendees of a seminar on the “harming effects” of satellite dishes that about 65 percent of the capital’s residents use them, and about 30 to 40 percent of other cities’ residents do.
The narrator of this video says: “Today is December 17, 2012. Today plainclothes officers attacked this building and destroyed the dishes. They took the LNBs, and put them in a bag – perhaps to sell them somewhere nearby. They’re wasting their time fighting against satellite dishes. They know people will replace them immediately. The most interesting point is that they’re now jumping from roof to roof, without any notice or permissions.”

“The police didn’t even introduce themselves”

Sasan (not his real name) is a journalist who lives in west Tehran.
On Tuesday, plainclothes police officers came to my apartment complex, and asked one of the residents to open the door, without even introducing themselves. They immediately went to our roof and ripped all the LNBs off from the satellite dishes, including mine. They broke about 20 dishes on our roof and then hopped over to neighbouring roofs, where they broke about 50 to 60 more. When they were gone, I spoke to some of my neighbours, who all said they would call [illegal] satellite dish installers to bring them new dishes.
Here, getting an installer to hook you up a new satellite dish with a LNB costs about 100,000 Toman [about 61 euros], so most people can afford to replace their broken dishes. Many people in Iran believe the rumour that Revolutionary Guards are actually behind the importation of satellite equipment to Iran, and that they profit from the mass destruction of dishes.

“Most people just watch entertainment channels”

Shabnam (not her real name) is an artist who lives in west Tehran.
Though many people in my neighbourhood were affected by the latest raid in the past few days, the police had already come to our apartment complex last month. We just bought a new dish the next day and continue to watch our favourite shows. Most people don’t actually watch very political shows or even the news – over the past year entertainment channels have grown in popularity. To get the news, we might switch to BBC Persian for a few minutes, but then return to entertainment channels, like Manoto or GEM, which shows the popular Turkish series Harime Sultan [a drama about intrigues at an Ottoman sultan’s court] and even American TV series, which are very well-dubbed into Persian.
We depend on satellite TV for entertainment. Nobody I know watches state-run channels, except for some sports talk shows. We don’t waste our time going to the movies, either, because tickets are expensive and the movies are of low quality.