The role of local radio has seen significant change through the past 15 years as dynamics in the wider media landscape have shifted, and new forms of media have been introduced and become increasingly widespread while other forms have withered. Several developments in the media sector highlight concerns about the sustainability of local radio stations. These developments include decreasing international support to media, television diverting radio audiences wherever it is accessible, and audiences increasingly focusing on national rather than local media outlets. As a result, some stations have had to cease their activities while others operate below profitability.
Yet rural Afghanistan has historically had limited access to information through media, and radio remains a primary information source for many households in rural areas where 75% of the population relies on radio broadcasts in order to meet information needs. Low literacy rates, insecurity, and poor infrastructure restrict access to print media, while a lack of electricity, limited broadcast areas, and the cost of equipment and subscription services keep television ownership and usage relatively low.
Accordingly, the historical resilience of radio and its future prospects within Afghanistan’s fluid media landscape, and in particular the viability of local radio stations’ efforts to guarantee a minimum level of access to information for even the most remote communities, warrants in-depth analysis.
This study assesses the role and impact of the local radio station network as well as its sustainability prospects, focusing on four pillars of sustainability, including financial, organizational, political and cultural, and audience.