In Afghanistan, the fifty strong team at iMedia’s affiliate organisation Media Support Partnership Afghanistan (MSPA) has been busy on a number of fronts – launching three major new projects and moving office – and coping with a five fold increase in its annual budget! iMedia has provided support with an international editor, and financial and technical experts. A state of the art studio suite is being constructed, and internet connectivity improved – with some difficulty as costs in Kabul are about 30 times the price in the UK! A new newsroom for the Mahaal News Support Project has been set up, with all the necessary networking of computers and the installation of sound editing software. Over twenty new staff have been appointed. Gordon Adam and Emrys Schoemaker, iMedia Directors, have each visited Kabul twice to provide support to the MSPA management team. In all, MSPA will deliver the following by the end of 2011:
- A Pashto language radio news feature service called “Mahaal” – up to five stories a day putting the news in context and providing informed comment on its importance, for rural radio stations in information-poor areas. Delivery of the news features through a mobile phone network will also be piloted
- Fifty works of world literature ranging from classics such as Oliver Twist and the Count of Monte Cristo, to Animal Farm and the Diaries of Anna Frank, to modern and classic works of Afghan and Persian literature – all abridged and adapted for radio serialisation and broadcast on at least 15 radio stations throughout Afghanistan. The broadcasts of each book will be followed by a radio phone-in programme to discuss the novel. The aim of the project is to broaden the cultural horizons of Afghans many of whom live very isolated lives with little to stimulate their minds
- Fifteen radio stations will be assisted in producing educational series of programmes for their audiences with grants and production assistance. The purpose of this project is to put radio stations in closer touch with the needs of their listeners, and to be responsive to audience feedback. Ultimately this will help the process of strengthening radio’s role as a champion of civil society in Afghanistan
- A radio soap opera focusing on the dilemmas facing young men in Helmand, caught between a life of under employment or joining the insurgency. The 104 x 15’ episodes will be broadcast over a year, and are being written by a team of Helmandi writers following a two week workshop in Kabul, where the storylines and key characters were sketched out
- The Straight Talk youth programme – a hour long combination of drama or feature led topical discussion with listeners – has been revitalised and will shortly be broadcast live on a radio station with a greater national reach, as well as by 20 local radio stations. Issues featured will be relevant to young people such as internet scams and SMS harassment
- Fifteen journalists in Helmand will be given basic training and job experience over a six month period, and the Helmand Journalism Association strengthened through improved internet connectivity and computer upgrades
- The radio based distance education to teachers programme “Its Great to Learn”, will come to an end after eight years in April. At present, MSPA staff are archiving over 3,100 programmes that have been broadcast in Dari and Pashto, so the Ministry of Education and all those interested in developing teacher education in Afghanistan can easily access radio programmes on different topics.
Funding for these projects comes from USAID, the American Embassy Public Affairs Department, and the British Embassy in Kabul.