Jewish Journal


by Karmel Melamed

March 20, 2007 | 2:08 am

By Karmel Melamed
March 2, 2007

Since their arrival in Beverly Hills nearly 30 years ago, local Iranian-Americans have kept in touch with current events, social activities, and their culture by tuning into various local Persian language media outlets.

One of the most popular local radio stations for Iranian-Americans here is KIRN 670 AM, which broadcasts various Persian language programs round the clock and is also the only such station on the A.M. dial in the free world

“We’re on the air 24-hours and also on satellite, and folks that understand Persian [Farsi] can pick us up on the Internet elsewhere in the world,” says John Paley, Vice President and General Manager of KIRN.

Based in Hollywood, KIRN is owned by the non-Iranian Lotus Oxnard Corporation. The company first reached out to the local Iranian-American demographic about 8 years ago. With no competition, they successfully tapped into a previous unexplored revenue source from advertising dollars coming directly from their well-to-do listeners.

“It is the first time in my life that I’ve ever been around a station where the audience has supported the station in terms of advertising dollars,” says Paley. “KABC, KNX, KIIS—the people who listen to those station don’t buy advertising on those stations, but our listeners are our advertisers”.

KIRN offers a wide range of shows including news, music, and talk. Middle-aged listeners say they tune in during their morning commutes to work for entertainment purposes while the older generation of Iranian Americans listens in order to better understand current events discussed on the air in their native Persian language.

“This Iranian station is a real pleasure to listen to because they share different sides of the issues and not just a one sided bias, they give commentary on the events and present it in a more intellectual way,” says Joe Sushani, a Beverly Hills resident and businessman.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau records, more than 6,000 Iranians live in Beverly Hills and approximately 72,000 live Los Angeles Country. Yet many Iranian Americans dispute these figures and say their numbers are greater in L.A. because some in their community incorrectly identified themselves as Caucasian or Asian rather than Iranian.

One of the station’s most popular shows is “Waves of the Morning,” which is hosted by the Iranian media personality, Sassan Kamali, with co-host Azita Shirazi. Kamali says his program and other KIRN shows have not only brought the local Iranian community together but has also drawn in non-Iranians who understand limited Farsi. “We have quite a few American listeners that somehow understand Persian [Farsi] because they worked in Iran or learned it from their boyfriends and some who totally don’t understand it but say they love listening because they believe we’re having fun,” says Kamali, who also operates his L.A.-based Persian language satellite television program called “Tapesh.”

With the recent increase in tensions between the U.S. and Iran, many program hosts at KIRN, who had fled Iran’s extremist regime more than two decades ago, say they were grateful to be able to express themselves freely. “I think one of the great aspects of America is that it is a country that has always respected other cultures,” says Parviz Kardan, host of “A Spoonful of Sugar” on KIRN.

While KIRN primarily provides Persian language programs, the station has not forgotten the younger demographic of Iranian-Americans who may not be as fluent in Farsi. Shows permit young Iranian American guests and callers to speak both English and Farsi. “I felt like our young people and the future generation were being ignored, says Suzi Khatami, host of the bilingual “Javanan” youth program and “Live From Hollywood.”

Her co-host, 27-year-old Mayar Zokaei, says young Iranian Americans across the country and overseas specifically listen to the bilingual shows on the Internet because they would like to retain their cultural identity even though they may not understand Farsi very well.

Not surprisingly, KIRN has also given its audience a new voice in by educating listeners about the American democratic process, says Hossein Hedjazi, KIRN’s program director and show host. “After 9/11, we had a fundraiser for the victims and in less than seven hours, we raised $135,000 for them,” he says.

Six Beverly Hills City Council candidates recently went on-air to share their views with the station’s Iranian-American listeners. Three of the election’s candidates- Beverly Hills Vice Mayor Jimmy Delshad, businessman Shahram Melamed, and attorney Maggie Soleimani - are all Iranian-Americans.

“I think people tend to lump everyone from the Middle East together and Persians receive the bulk of that prejudice directly,” says station General Manager Paley. “I don’t think anybody has any idea of the tremendous contributions the Persian community makes on a daily basis to our community here in the United States and here in L.A.”

This article was originally published by Beverly Hills 90210 Magazine:

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Karmel Melamed is an internationally-published freelance journalist based in Southern California.

Since 2000, Melamed has specialized in covering the growing influential...

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