This week I come to you with another example of public diplomacy that, like OMG!Meiyu, does not conform to our expectations of what public diplomacy looks like, but has become very successful. I am referring to the show Parazit (“static” in Farsi). You can read this Washington Post article for the full story, but in brief Parazit was created by Kambiz Hosseini and Saman Arbabi, two Iranian immigrants working at VoA. The show has a similar format to the American Daily Show, except it has Hosseini and Arbabi as the hosts, and they satirize Iranian politics. Production on the show began in 2008, but it really caught on during Iran’s “Green Revolution” and it is still produced to this day.
In this video on washingtonpost.com, one of the VoA producers admits that Parazit is not the norm for VoA programming. Despite this, it seems Parazit is doing something right, judging by its popularity. Given that the show is being watched in Iran in defiance of the government, by means of contraband satellites and the internet, gauging the exact number of viewers is impossible, but given that the show garners 45,000 views weekly on YouTube and has almost 700,000 Facebook fans, it seems that is quite popular. According to the hosts, the Irani government has created its own
In researching this topic, this quote from a PRI article really made me think:
“I don’t watch Voice of America,” he says. “Nobody watches Voice of America. Voice of America is the Voice of United States Congress. But I watch Parazit very regularly. The fact that it comes from the VOA is almost irrelevant.”
As I have stated previously on this blog, I am a big supporter of US public diplomacy and of our international broadcasting efforts. But as this quote indicates, we need to keep up with the times and find ways to truly engage the audiences that we are trying to reach (and yes, influence).
Here’s the guys’ appearance on the Daily Show! (it won’t embed, sorry!).