Telegraph, telephone, and radio broadcasting services are state-owned. In 1997 there were 6.3 million telephone lines in service. In 1998, there were an additional 265,000 cellular phones in service. In 1996, 25 regional telecommunications authorities were formed to oversee paging services and cellular systems.
Both radio and television were nationalized in 1980. Principal stations are located in Tehran, and other major stations broadcast from Ahvaz, Zahedan, Tabriz, Rasht, Kermanshah, and Bandar-e Lengeh. As of 1999 there were 72 AM and 6 FM radio stations and 28 television broadcast stations. Television of Iran, a privately owned station, began broadcasting in 1956 in Tehran and Abadan. The national radio organization and the government television network were merged in 1971 to form National Iranian Radio and Television (NIRT). After 1979, it became the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Company. In 2000, Iran had 281 radios and 163 television sets for every 1,000 people. In 2001, there were 250,000 Internet subscribers served by eight service providers.
Until 1979, the local press operated under a law enacted by Parliament in 1955. To obtain licenses, newspaper owners had to have a B.A. degree, good character, and funds adequate for publishing for a stated period. Suspension of publication, fines, and imprisonment resulted from such violations of the law as printing false news or attacks on the royal family, revealing military secrets, and printing material injurious to Islam. At the time of the Khomeini revolution, Iran had 39 daily newspapers with a total circulation of about 750,000. The constitution of 1979 strictly limited freedom of the press; a new press law required publications to be licensed, and their editors were subject to imprisonment for printing reports the religious authorities deemed insulting. Newspapers that had favored the shah were closed down, and others considered unsympathetic to the ruling IRP were banned. In 1985, Khomeini stated "constructive" press criticism of the government would be allowed, but the government severely restricted all media, punishing all instances of criticism against the government or of Islam by imprisonment and beatings. As of 1999, there were reports of continuing government infringement on freedom of the press. Among Iran's most widely read newspapers are Ettela'at (2002 circulation 500,000) and Kayhan (350,000). Alik (3,400) is an Armenian daily, Journal de Teheran (8,000) is in French, and Teheran Times (7,700) is in English. There are also several weeklies and special interest magazines. Most print media originate in Tehran.