Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Monday, June 16, 2003

Having fun with Afghanistans first commercial radio station.

Surrounded by posters of Western and Indian pop stars and footballers, Massouda Zalmai, 18, and her co-host Abdul Azim, 23, present Radio Arman FM’s lunchtime show with a mix of friendly banter, gossip about rising Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi and more serious discussions on the dangers of smoking, interspersed with music.

Radio Arman (“Hope”) FM 98.1 went on air April 16 as Afghanistan’s first ever private radio station, serving up a mix of entertainment, information and education for the capital’s millions.

The station broadcasts Afghan, Indian, Tajik, Uzbek and Western music 24 hours a day, with bilingual DJs using Dari and Pashtu, Afghanistan’s two main languages.

Arman FM’s format of music, gossip and chat has long been the staple of radio stations elsewhere, but the presenters’ informal approach and use of colloquial Dari has drawn criticism from some listeners unused to hearing young men and women chat together on air even 19 months after the toppling of the puritanical Taleban.

Others among those who aired their views on state-run TV last week have accused the fledgling radio station of being unprofessional in recruiting young presenters with little or no training. And initially there were even complaints about the girls’ laughing on air.

Arman FM director Saad Mohseni shrugs off the criticism, saying the response from listeners has been overwhelmingly positive since the station started broadcasting two months ago. The station receives 500 letters and 2,000 calls a day” of which less than five percent are critical, says Mohseni, an Afghan-Australian former stockbroker who set up the station with financial help from his two brothers and assistance from the US Agency for International Development.

“The most interesting thing was that the majority of Afghans who are illiterate wanted the colloquial banter rather than the more formal way that presenters nowadays talk on the radio,” he says, referring to a survey carried out by the station.

< email | 6/16/2003 01:02:00 PM | link

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