Channel 4 has opted to end the year on a controversial note by inviting the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to give the broadcaster's alternative Christmas message tomorrow.
But the channel has shied away from scheduling the president's address against the Queen's Christmas speech at 3pm. Unlike most years, it is not airing its alternative Christmas message at the same time as the Queen, but is instead scheduling Ahmadinejad's message at 7.15pm.
Channel 4 has said that the Muslim president, who has a hostile relationship with many western countries, will deliver a spiritual address that will feature a message of seasonal goodwill.
It will be preceded by a short introduction designed to place his speech in context, the broadcaster added.
Ahmadinejad will argue that the world is in its current predicament because people have lost spiritual faith.
He will also make thinly veiled criticisms of western powers in a reference to the "tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems".
"If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers," he will say. "If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over.
"If Christ was on earth today undoubtedly he would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as he did in his lifetime," he will say. "The solution to today's problems can be found in a return to the call of the divine prophets."
The Channel 4 head of news and current affairs, Dorothy Byrne, argued that the selection of such controversial figure was in line with the broadcaster's policy of providing an "alternative world view" and reflected the extensive coverage it has given to Iran in recent times.
"As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential," she said. "As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view.
"Channel 4 has devoted more airtime to examining Iran than any other broadcaster and this message continues a long tradition of offering a different perspective on the world around us."
However, when the president makes his address on Christmas night he will speak to a nation more likely to be tuned in to TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and Coronation Street.
Since it launched in 1993, Channel 4's alternative Christmas message has been delivered by a varied selection of presenters including an injured veteran from the war in Afghanistan, Quentin Crisp, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, Genelle Guzman, a 9/11 survivor and The Simpsons.
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