In Iran, what's forbidden is in -- and on Rupert Murdoch's Farsi1 TV channel / Thomas Erdbrink

TEHRAN -- A satellite TV station co-owned by Rupert Murdoch is pulling in Iranian viewers with sizzling soaps and sitcoms but has incensed the Islamic republic's clerics and state television executives.

Unlike dozens of other foreign-based satellite channels here, Farsi1 broadcasts popular Korean, Colombian and U.S. shows and also dubs them in Iran's national language, Farsi, rather than using subtitles, making them more broadly accessible. Its popularity has soared since its launch in August.

"The story is so beautiful," said Maryam, a West Tehran housewife who was using a secretly stashed satellite dish on a recent day to tune into Farsi1's latest hit, "Body of Desire," a steamy Spanish-language telenovela. Maryam, who asked that her last name not be used, said she feels awkward watching some scenes in front of her family. Still, she said, she is "hooked."

"It's all about forgiveness, desire and justice," she said, as Cuban actor Mario Cimarro, playing Salvador, rose from a blue sea, his muscular chest only partly covered by his long, dark hair.

Satellite receivers are illegal in Iran but widely available. Officials acknowledge that they jam many foreign channels using radio waves, but Farsi1, which operates out of the Hong K... >>>

recommended by Darius Kadivar