On September 27, 2021, Amir Hossein Shamshadi, the head of Public Relations of the state-controlled media company, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), disclosed perplexing information through his personal Instagram. The statement refers to a recent "audit" performed by the IRIB, which resulted in a new broadcast directive. This audit prohibits the depiction of men pouring tea for women.
Women are also not allowed to be depicted on-screen eating pizza, sandwiches, or wearing leather gloves. To ensure compliance with these new directives, all TV programs must be reviewed by the IRIB before being broadcasted.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting controls all broadcast media, including television, radio, and cinematic releases. World Is One (WION), an India-based online news channel, scrutinized IRIB's audits. According to WION, the IRIB did not release details about the audit. The unreleased information included the location and who were surveyed by the auditors.
Iran's broadcast television has become notoriously censored. In 2019, a video went viral on Twitter showing a televised World Athletics Championships in Doha where female sprinters are covered in black rectangles and asterisks.
Aside from controlling broadcast media, IRIB's regulatory arm Satra is also responsible for licensing theaters and online streaming services. This gives IRIB complete control of all television, movies, and other online video streaming services.
IRIB's new directive became immediately apparent. Amin Tarokh, a veteran Iranian, complained on Instagram about an episode in Pishgoo. During the episode, the guest Elnaz Habibi was not shown on screen. Tarok said, "I wish the guest's name had been subtitled, at least." "Because we didn't see her face at all, had the host not mentioned it, we'd have no idea which artist was being talked about," he added.
Online streaming websites agreed to perform self-censorship to avoid the ire of IRIB and Satra.
On the same day, Shamshadi posted on Instagram; the Iranian Students Polling Agency also released a report showing a decrease in the overall reliance on IRIB as a news source. IRIB's popularity as a reliable news source dropped from 57.7% to 42%.