Syria is believed to have joined Iran in jamming satellite frequencies of international broadcasters, affecting not only Arabic and Persian language broadcasts but also 25 broadcasters, who had to make contingency plans.
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has described recent interruptions to news delivered by satellite into parts of the Middle East as “an attack on media independence.”
The targeted jamming cut off radio and television content by broadcasters including the BBC, France 24, Deutsche Welle and the Voice of America. European satellite operator Eutelsat reports that the “deliberate and intermittent interference,” originated from Syria and Iran.
But the interference caused by the jamming also affects other channels making reception of some channels carried on the Eutelsat Hot Bird position impossible in Western Europe. This includes up to 25 chnanels Spanish broadcaster TVE and Eurosport. As a result, at least one Dutch cable operator, SKV Veendam has ceased distributing TVE and Eurosport 2 to its viewers for a couple of hours.
Most platforms were able to change the feed in order to continue to distribute the channels. Eurosport, for instance, became aware of the Eutelsat signal issue on Tuesday October 16 and by Wednesday October 17 had proactively set up a dual-operation from the affected Eutselsat Hot Bird satellite to Eutelsat 9. Eurosport was in regular contact with its partner platforms and advised them to switch to the Eutelsat 9 signal to ensure continuity of broadcast of the Eurosport content, which many did.
In an email to Broadband TV News, Eurosport’s head of international media relations Matthew Horler wrote: “Eurosport broadcasts its main Eurosport channel to the majority of its Western European markets via fibre. This is the case for UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Therefore the impact of this satellite jamming did not affect our markets in this area and was limited to platforms in Eastern Europe, and Eurosport 2 in the Netherlands.
“The jamming itself was particularly bad on Sunday October 21 and it was for this reason SKV Veendam in Holland stopped broadcasting the Eurosport 2 signal, this was rectified in “a couple of hours” and the signal returned.”
Last week, the BBC also issued a statement on the deliberate jamming of its satellite services. “The BBC, together with a number of other broadcasters, is experiencing deliberate, intermittent interference to its transmissions to audiences in Europe and the Middle East. Impacted services include the BBC World News and BBC Arabic television channels and BBC World Service radio services in English and Arabic.
“Deliberate interference such as the jamming of transmissions is a blatant violation of international regulations concerning the use of satellites and we strongly condemn any practice designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information.”
Commenting on the jamming EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre said in a statement: “Access to information is a universal human right and an essential component for democracy. We deplore this attack on media freedom.”
The most recent episode may link to a Eutelsat decision to stop carrying 19 Iranian channels operated by Iran’s state media organization, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).
Eutelsat said it had taken Iranian state television and radio channels off air to comply with tougher EU sanctions on the Islamic state.
In recent years, Iran has jammed the reception of a variety of broadcasters, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
UPDATE – Satellite operator Intelsat has taken a number of Iranian channels off the air in Europe based on an order by the US, according to the Iranian international English language channel Press TV.
The US Office of Foreign Assets Control has ordered the international broadcast services provider to shut down the Iranian channels, including Sahar, Jam-e-Jam, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network and al-Kowsar.
Intelsat started to broadcast the Iranian radio and TV channels on the Intelsat 20 satellite at 68.5 degrees East, following the removal of the broadcasters from the Eutelsat Hot Bird position.
As Intelsat is headquartered in Luxembourg, the operator also needs to comply with the European sanctions against Iran.