Rundfunk in Afghanistan

2001: Der Wiederaufbau beginnt

The £1 million project included journalism courses, policy development, producer and gender training, as well as the physical refurbishment of the Radio Afghanistan studios. As the first stage of planning, a BBC team flew to Kabul in January of 2002 to conduct a feasibility study and look at the damage. The BBC technical team was one of the first to conduct structural analysis in the region, visiting the Radio-Television Afghanistan studios, just north of Kabul as well as the Pol-e Chakri transmitter site, which fed programming to relay stations across the country. The BBC crew found that the 50-year-old Radio Afghanistan building was structurally sound, but much of the equipment available to the broadcasters was aged. While the hardware was in working order, there were few spare parts. Many of the pieces of equipment were made by Soviet and Hungarian companies that no longer existed. In addition, the engineers at the station had been isolated for five years under the Taliban and some had not seen a computer before. The technical staff at Radio-Television Afghanistan knew they wanted to upgrade to modern equipment. “They told us, we want something new but we have no idea what,” said World Service Trust project director, Tim Williams. The BBC World Trust hoped to introduce digital technology to the Radio Afghanistan broadcasters, but also wanted to make sure the studios were robust enough to last through heavy use and still meet the needs of the programming staff. After consultation with the engineers in Afghanistan, the BBC technical team drew up plans for two smaller, studios that would allow the broadcasters to learn and experiment, rather than one large, showcase studio. The two-studio concept would allow the Radio Afghanistan staff to handle both live and recorded programs, with one studio designated for production and preparation while the on-air hosts used the other. Studio 1, the production side, is a compact 4-meter by 3-meter room while Studio 2 is a larger 6-meters by 4½-meters. Simplicity and proven technology were key to the design plan. Roger Francis, BBC Technology project director, managed the equipment orders and logistics for the studio installations. All of the materials were ordered in the UK. The pieces were then collated and pre-fabricated at the BBC to simplify the installation and to minimize the time that would be spent in Kabul. Each of the two studios had the same equipment, reducing the learning curve for the operators as well as the complexity of the installation. The studios were laid out so the on-air presenter could operate the console. The custom built desks allowed two to three guests to sit at an extended table, allowing interviews to be conducted in the booth. Studio plans called for an Audionics 12-channel mixing console in each room. These were split into two six-channel audio control surfaces for maximum flexibility for the operator. Built into a freestanding desk, the consoles were wired by the BBC Technology team prior to shipment to Afghanistan. All the cabling was terminated in frames in the woodwork and all inputs and outputs are accessible through a patch bay. In addition to the 12-channel system, the studios featured digital stinger and promo playback systems. For digital production, Cool Edit Pro was installed on each of the PCs. Also standard in the studios are Tascam cassette players and Sony CD, and minidisk players. A telephone hybrid and ISDN codec were also included to allow outside broadcasts. Once the consoles were wired and assembled, they were crated for shipping and airlifted to Kabul in April 2002. “The biggest problem was we simply didn’t know what we would find when we got there,” said Francis, continuing, “we went off to B&Qs, an English hardware supermarket, and bought boxes of tools and supplies including sleeping bags and toilet rolls.” Transporting 2½ tons out of equipment from the UK to Kabul airport was no small logistical challenge. After arrival at the war damaged Kabul airport, three miles of bad road still lay between the shipment and the Radio-Television Afghanistan building. Several hundred boxes of cargo were unloaded from the plane and placed on rickety, old trucks. Eventually, every box made it to the final destination. Before the new equipment could be unpacked, the old equipment was stripped from the studios. Covered in thick dust from the bombings, the rooms and hallways had to be washed down before refurbishment could begin. After a thorough cleaning, the installation team began by reconfiguring the electrical systems within the studios. The ancient wiring was tangled and difficult to follow. Each studio had about 20 amps, but power availability fluctuated wildly throughout the day. Officially rated at 220 volts, the electricity could swing from 180 to 300 volts. To contain the fluctuating power a voltage stabilizer was installed and all PCs were connected to a UPS. Additionally, the studios have a standby generator that can be started manually to keep them on the air. At first, the generator had limited value, as the STL went through the main control room before it went to the transmitter. The master control room was not on a generator system. To resolve this problem, the new studios were set up with a patch system to allow direct connection into the transmitter line in case of emergency. The pre-wired consoles were set in place and the team made final adjustments. A peer-to-peer server LAN network was set up to connect the PCs for digital audio file sharing and playback. Existing tie lines in the building were used to connect the studio outputs to the master control and transmit lines. The telephone hybrids and ISDN codec were not connected as the building was lacking telephone service and ISDN is not yet available in Kabul. When the studios were finished, the BBC held three days of training for the engineers and presenters. A formal handover ceremony celebrated the completion, and the state broadcasters took control of the new facility. After a few years of stability, the station expects further funding from the United Nations Trust Fund. With the experience they have gained from the BBC built studios, Radio Afghanistan hopes they will be able to use this funding to expand and upgrade their digital facilities.
After decades of supression, a new, vibrant media is making its presence felt in Afghanistan. By Abubaker Saddique Newsline Half way between the western Afghan city of Herat and the Iranian border, in the dusty village of Ghoryan, the Afghan media is going through a reincarnation. Returning after two decades of exile in neighbouring Iran, Jamshid Nekjoo Azizi and his photographer friend, Hafizullah Haqdost, cobble together a television station with 7,000 dollars from their own money. With a borrowed VHS video camera, some cheap video cassette recorders and CD players and a rebuilt transmitter, they are now beaming three hours of broadcasting into 500 homes around Ghoryan. "We had an onslaught of Iranian TV broadcasts so we tried to create our own station as we were not receiving any transmissions from the central TV station in Kabul or the regional station in Herat," says Azizi. Earlier this year, in recognition of their efforts, an international media development organisation, Internews, helped them establish an FM radio station called Nadaye Sulh or the voice for peace. "Within our coverage area we have 100 per cent listenership but we have a long way to go. We need equipment and lots of training," says Haqdost. Around 20 enthusiastic students work on volunteer basis at the station with no renumeration. Radio Nadaye Sulh is part of an Internews-managed and United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded network of 15 independent community and commercial FM radio stations across Afghanistan. The network is expected to grow to 45 stations by the summer of 2005. This network is just one success story in the struggle of many eager Afghans and some international organisations to establish a vibrant and independent media in the new Afghanistan. Most Afghan journalists are overly optimistic about the success of such efforts. "In December 2001, after the fall of the Taliban, we started from absolute zero. Since then media development has been unparalleled in our history," says veteran Afghan journalist Habibullah Rafie. "The involvement of international actors in the post-war media development in our country is a good omen," he said, adding that although initially after the fall of the Taliban, it was the factional press associated with the victorious Northern Alliance that stormed the capital, but that has gradually changed. Today, close to 300 publications are registered with the ministry of culture. With a large chunk operating from Kabul, most Afghan cities and towns have their own modest publications often in the form of magazines. Catering to a wide variety of tastes, these publications include dailies, weeklies, bi-weeklies, monthlies and quarterlies. While some of them are mouthpieces of political parties and military factions, such as the Payam-e Mujahid and Afghan Millat, which are associated with Jammiat Islami and the Afghan Millat political party, others like the weekly Killid are more neutral and are often funded by international donors since the Afghan print media is a long way from financial independence. As only three out of 10 Afghans can read and write, circulation at best reaches a few thousand copies, while the lack of efficient distribution networks further limits readership. A vast number of Afghan publications are bilingual appearing in the two national languages, Dari and Pashto. Afghanistan is still steeped in a radio culture as the majority of the population, particularly in the remote rural regions, depend on radio for news and information. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and many other international stations broadcasting in Afghan languages provided the only reliable sources of news and information during the country's 25 year conflict. Most Afghans still rely on these radio broadcasts which led to stations such as the BBC, which is now broadcasting in 16 Afghan cities, to dramatically expand their programming, providing quality broadcasts around the clock. In addition to the projected 45 Internews community stations, the state- run Radio Afghanistan has 17 stations. Owned and managed by the business savvy young Australian-Afghan Mohsini brothers, Arman FM is the country's most successful commercial pop station. Starting in late 2003, the station soon captured the imagination of Kabul's four million people. Attracting around 80 per cent of the city's listenership, it's still the most popular station in the capital. Every week the station receives thousands of letters, while mobile phone networks crashed during its call-in shows. "We wanted to provide alternatives to the public. Our aim was to target the younger generation and we have been extremely successful," says Saad Mohsini, director Arman FM. The station is now extending its network to six major cities across Afghanistan. By contrast, the development of television in Afghanistan has been slow. According to most estimates, only one- third of the Afghan population has access to television, while all attempts at reforming the state-owned Afghan television have been abandoned. Many in the ministry of culture and information now believe that privatisation might be the last resort for white elephants such as Afghan TV and the Bakhtar news agency, another subsidiary of the information ministry. With USAID funding, Arman FM has started Afghanistan's first independent commercial TV channel, Tolo TV, in early October, although its success has yet to be ascertained. Media pundits believe that sustainability is the key challenge facing the nascent Afghan media sector. Says an international media consultant, "We not only had to create media outlets, we also have to create a media market." Compared to neighbouring countries, press freedom in Afghanistan has improved, but much more needs to be done to provide a lasting enabling environment to the media sector. Although international journalists often face little intimidation, scores of Afghan journalists have been threatened and victimised by various warlords and militia commanders. According to young Afghan journalist, Muhammad Nabi Tadbeer, compared to the Taliban era, the Afghan media has undergone momentous growth but its ultimate success hinges on political stability. "Over the past century we have had cycles of relative stability and development, but any development has always been destroyed by conflict and turmoil."

Credits: ¹Nach einem Beitrag von Erich Stegemann in der Zeitschrift "Welt-Rundfunk", ca. 1941; ²Stephanie P. Snyder; ³AP/PTI; 4Dominic Medley; Archiv QSL Collection

<< zurück | < zur Übersicht

QSL Collection - Dokumentationsarchiv Funk

Martin Thaller IT Dienstleistungen

Sponsor CMS

Martin Thaller IT Dienstleistungen