A comprehensive USAID-funded analysis of the Afghan media's impact on opinions and behaviour after three years of media sector construction shows that the sector has grown by an average of 20 per cent per year for the last five years, with around 50 new TV stations and 100 new radio stations, most of which have been created with little or no international assistance.
The report, Afghan Media in 2010, is based on 6,648 close-ended interviews in 107 districts, covering all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, a daily week-long audience survey of over 1,500 individuals, approximately 200 qualitative, open-ended interviews, and ten community case studies. It says that most of the new broadcasters are local TV and radio stations with small footprints and many of which are perceived by the larger, national broadcasters as promoting particular political, ethnic or religious interests.
The media sector has improved slowly, as has the regulatory environment, with little or no opposition. It has also become profitable, with around $50 million a year in revenues.
TV - which is now in 48 per cent of homes nationally - is replacing radio in urban areas, but the radio and telephone are the main forms of media usage in most of the country. Internet use remains low at four per cent, despite interest amongst university students. The report adds that "experiments in information dissemination via mobile phones show promise".
Just three companies - Tolo TV, Moby Group and Lemar TV - represent half the TV market, although the radio sector is more fragmented, with six stations sharing more than half the listening audience, with the rest divided between 112 other stations.
Interest in national news, drama and music and entertainment shows rate highest, followed by religious programmes, movies, political debates, international news and local news. People tend to have a lot of confidence in what they hear, although they always try to confirm by referring to a variety of sources.
For the future, Afghans want the media to act as a watchdog over government, provide education, promote national unity and Afghan cultural identity.