"In an unprecedented video message released Friday on the celebration of the Persian new year, President Barack Obama speaks directly to the Iranian people and government, saying his administration 'is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us' and that that the process 'will not be advanced by threats.' ... The video was distributed with Farsi subtitles to news outlets with a regional reach, including BBC Persia, Al Jazeera English, the Voice of America and others, but also was to be posted on the White House Web site and You Tube, aides said late Thursday. The video goes significantly beyond the standard practice of U.S. presidents issuing statements in celebration of Nowruz - and enables Obama to communicate directly to Iranian officials in a way he couldn't in person or in the context of a policy discussion." McClatchy Newspapers, 20 March 2009
"President Barack Obama, whose use of the Web helped catapult him into the White House, turned to the Internet again to launch the first major diplomatic initiative of his young presidency. In recording a video message to the Iranian people marking the Iranian New Year Nowruz and distributing it online, Obama seized one of the Web tools he used so effectively during his presidential campaign. ... The 3min 35sec video entitled 'A New Year, A New Beginning' was posted on the White House website at whitehouse.gov/Nowruz with captions in Farsi and also on the White House YouTube channel at youtube.com/user/whitehouse. It had rung up nearly 150,000 views on YouTube some 18 hours after its release and generated a stream of more than 1,300 mostly favorable comments." AFP, 20 March 2009
"Mr Obama’s speech was broadcast with Farsi subtitles on Middle Eastern satellite channels beamed illegally into four million Iranian homes. News of it was reported by two Iranian press agencies yesterday, but few would be paying attention. They were busy gathering in family homes or travelling to the coast to enjoy the holiday. The speech has been widely covered on foreign-based Farsi radio, such as the BBC and Voice of America Persian services. VOA’s evening news has an audience of ten million. The video’s dissemination on YouTube, unblocked only last month, will help it to reach Iran’s 23 million internet users – if the deliberately meagre bandwidth can withstand the strain. It is appearing on blogs that dissidents avidly update, even on holidays." Catherine Philp, The Times, 21 March 2009
"Obama's Norouz message, broadcast on Voice of America television, received a warm reception from listeners of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which broadcasts in Persian." RFE/RL News, 20 March 2009
"Obama made the remarks in a broadcast with Farsi subtitles by Voice of America's Persian News Network, which is widely viewed by satellite in Iran." Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 20 March 2009
"I was thinking there was no way former Pres. Bush would have issued Nowruz greetings. But I googled, and I was wrong. The Bush Nowruz messages were of a different tone, some years more focused on Iranian-Americans, some years coupled with a Voice Of America Persian news service interview blaming the Iranian leaders for making life worse for their people. But hey." Eric Black, MinnPost.com, 20 March 2009
. Full text of both messages. Washington Post, 21 March 2009
"'This is huge,' said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, a group that supports U.S. engagement with Tehran. 'First of all, he is addressing the people and the government, which has not been done before. At one point he talks about the Islamic Republic. He's signaling he’s not looking for regime change; he’s recognizing Iran’s system. You always heard Rice and Bush say "Iranian regime,"' Parsi noted. 'It's a big difference.' That doesn't mean Obama doesn’t support Iranian democratization, Parsi said. 'But he recognizes the government that exists in Iran right now.'" Laura Rozen, Foreign Policy The Cable, 20 March 2009
"Obama's direct message to Iran, however, reverberated with the rhetoric of the Bush era. Acknowledging the 'serious differences' between the two countries Obama said that Tehran has 'a choice' to abandon what Washington considers as Iran's effort to sponsor terrorism throughout the world." Press TV, 20 March 2009
, with link to the video at White House website.
"Interview Mehrnaz Samimi, a television broadcaster with the Voice of America’s (VOA) Persian News Network (PNN) about why Nowruz, the beginning of the calendar year in Iran, is a significant holiday in her native country." VOA press release, 20 March 2009
"Moon Sun Flower Game, a documentary film about world-renowned Iranian poetess Forough Farrokhzad and the son she adopted from a leper colony in 1962, was shown for the first time in Iran by the Voice of America (VOA). VOA's Persian News Network (PNN) broadcast the 90-minute film on Saturday. It included a PNN interview with Hossein Mansouri, Farrokhzad's son who now lives in Munich, Germany." VOA press release, 17 March 2009
It is interesting that archrival RFE/RL, as well as DPA, gives VOA credit for the Obama video. Actually, it was distributed to many news organizations whose content gets into Iran.
Some inside US international broadcasting are concerned that President Obama did not make this an exclusive for VOA's Persian News Network and/or RFE/RL's Radio Farda -- just as his administration earlier opted to reach Arabs via an interview on Al Arabiya rather than Alhurra.
The distribution of this video is actually a good thing for both US public diplomacy and for US international broadcasting. From a public diplomacy standpoint, the Obama administration wanted this message to have the widest possible distribution. There is no better way to do this than to make the video available to a large number of news outlets. These redundancies of distribution are especially important given the vigor with which Iran blocks and jams information from outside its borders.
It also worked out well for US international broadcasting, because it showed that VOA Persian News Network and Radio Farda are not President Obama's personal intercoms for reaching Iran. These stations will establish their all-important credibility not through presidential exclusives, but through the objectivity and reliability of their news, week after week, year after year.