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Iran’s State Media (IRIB) Devours Dirty Money and Airs Propaganda 

Inside the IRIB conference room

Now and then, a state-affiliated corruption case comes into the spotlight in Iran. After the recent astronomical embezzlement in the Mobarakeh Steel Company, Iran’s state media is now reporting billions of dollars looted by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

The IRIB receives a huge budget, but because it is under the supervision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei it is exempt from paying taxes. Yet, amid the regime’s recent infightings, it was revealed that this organization earns a massive amount of money through commercials, and these additional earnings have never been audited.  

According to the state-run Jahan-e Sanat, “The IRIB receives roughly 50 quadrillion rials,” or $166 million based on the current exchange rate at the free market.   

“Yet, the IRIB’s estimated income from soccer advertisements is between 160 and 310 quadrillion rials. In other words, the IRIB’s total income from commercials is expected to be at least 500 to 600 quadrillion rials per year, only from the advertisements of the Esteghlal and Persepolis derbies,” the paper added.  

In other words, the IRIB earns around $1.6 billion a year.  

“The IRIB’s unprecedented budget increase in 2021 made headlines as it was three times bigger than Tehran University’s budget and equal to the budget of several provinces. Shortly afterward, it became clear that this organization was not satisfied with this budget; thus, it received an additional 150 million euros from the National Development Fund,” Jahan-e Sanat reported.  

The IRIB, with 48,000 employees across Iran, is tasked with spreading the regime’s propaganda and hate speech. Recently, the IRIB has aired dozens of political prisoners’ forced confessions obtained under torture. Additionally, the IRIB uses its technical facilities to jam foreign and independent broadcast signals, further undermining the freedom of speech in Iran.  

In February 2013, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned IRIB for “restricting or denying the free flow of information to or from the Iranian people” and “censoring multiple media outlets and airing forced confessions from political detainees.” 

So, it is safe to say IRIB has been making headlines rather than broadcasting news. Like other state-affiliated organizations, the IRIB is corrupt to the core, and its embezzlements are not limited to those recently revealed by Jahan-e Sanat.  

Allowing its managers to accept luxurious gifts from different institutions, managing several businesses, receiving massive loans with low interests while many Iranians are deprived of these loans, and earning millions of dollars from advertisements while the organization is governmental, show just the tip of an iceberg of corruption in the IRIB.  

In addition to government budgets, IRIB has many other sources of income. “Radio Pension Fund” is one of these sources. This fund has six affiliated companies, which include “Simaparvaz,” “JamJam Travel and Tourism,” “JamJam Saba Advertising Center,” “JamJam Omranpars Construction Investment,” “JamJam Bazargan Pishrow Import&Exports” and “JamJam Shatabgostar Info Hub.” 

Jam-e Jam Trading Company was on the list of companies receiving the preferential rate of 42,000 rials per dollar from the Central Bank in 2018. This company received 162,000 euros from the Central Bank and imported corn for animal feed using the government exchange rate.  

In addition, Ayman Tejarat Jam-e Jam Trading Company, another IRIB economic enterprise, received 1.1 million euros of government currency to import cars. 

Shockingly, in spite of all this, IRIB officials have been complaining about their budget. For example, in 2013, the IRIB’s debt was announced as 4.3 trillion rials. Abdul-Ali Ali Asgari, then IRIB’s CEO, claimed in 2016 that the organization has only 7,000 stations, including those in the highlands, which are expensive to maintain 

In March 2018, Mohammad Ali Abdollah Zadeh, the IRIB’s Legal Deputy, announced the allocation of $250 million to the organization, claiming this support would solve many of the organization’s problems. A year later, the IRIB’s budget was doubled in the 2019 budget bill.  

Receiving Money from the IRGC Credit Institutions  

In 2018, protests spread across Iran as many credit institutions plundered the life savings of many Iranians. These credit institutions, some still operating, are affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). One of these institutions was Thamen-ol Hojaj.  

The customers of Thamen and several other Iranian financial institutions lost billions of dollars worth of investments in past years and have been continuously protesting to reclaim their life savings. 

Thamen-ol Hojaj gave massive loans and luxurious gifts to some IRIB employees, including several TV hosts, in 2018.  

Ehsan Alikhani, a TV host whose name was mentioned in the list of recipients of large loans and gifts from Thamen, admitted on television in 2018 that this program funded his programs from 2012 to 2014.  

He mentioned that six TV series were produced with funding from Thamen, including the Nowruz program of the Persian year of 1397 and the Honeymoon program.  

So, why is a governmental organization that receives a vast budget implicated in several businesses utterly unrelated to its task, such as importing corn and livestock feed or receiving large amounts of money from credit institutions? Why is there no control over its huge income?  

A closer look at this case reveals the answer. As all strings lead to Khamenei’s role as the head of the regime’s “hydra of corruption,” the corrupted financial transaction inside Iran is aimed to fund the regime’s illicit and malign activities to obtain its goals.