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Urban radio impacts lives in Afghanistan


31 March 2009

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A new radio drama focusing on positive coping strategies in Afghan cities has struck a chord with urban listeners, especially urban migrants, helping them deal with the realities of modern life.

Old City, New Dreams an urban radio drama set in an Afghan city and targeted at audiences living in rapidly expanding urban areas is the latest production from the BBC Afghan Education Projects (AEP).

A street in Kabul
Image credits: BBC World Service Trust / A street in Kabul

Afghanistan is witnessing a rapid rural to urban migration, particularly among younger generations. Kabul, for example, is a city built for 300,000 yet even conservative estimates put the current population of the capital at 3 million.

Despite an increasingly diverse media environment, very few programmes targeted at youth offer more than music and news.

"New Home New Life drama focuses on the socio-economic and political issues"

This urban spin-off of the hugely popular and long-running New Home New Life drama focuses on the socio-economic and political issues specific to life in an urban environment and positive coping strategies for dealing with urban-based problems.

Initial audience reaction has been positive. Mahbub, a police officer, said: "[It] is unlike dramas made by local radio stations. It shows part of [our] real life." A taxi driver added "[I] want to hear this drama continually because it covers traffic and different urban issues."

Medium and message

Despite a significant rise in access to television in urban areas, 80% of urban dwellers still listen to the radio. Radio also remains the main source of news and information.

Since 1994, AEP has produced ‘edutaining' radio programming that is broadcast in Dari and Pashto on the BBC World Service Afghan Stream.

AEP's flagship programme New Home New Life has become an Afghan institution. Over 14 million people - nearly two thirds of all radio listeners - tune in to the drama.

"City dwellers are in desperate need of content that is based on their needs and reflects the reality of their lives"

In 2006 AEP launched City Voice to cater for returnees who tended to return to urban centres.

Old City, New Dreams aims to further engage with urban dwellers who face huge problems such as unemployment, high cost of living, lack of infrastructure and inadequate service provision.

Afghanistan Country Director Shirazuddin Siddiqi says: "Life has changed a lot over the past few years. City dwellers are in desperate need of content that is based on their needs and reflects the reality of their lives. Given its 15 years of experience, AEP is best placed to respond to this demand."

 
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