Afghan Local Radio Station

The word local radio presupposes the outlet to be connected with locale, perhaps first we should take a look at what Mahala (Locale); it’s the residential area of peoples’ social life. it is known with different names in different part of the country; such as mahala or mahal, guzar and simma. Mahala or locality has mostly been a forum for communication where men and women (separately) gathered to talk. Mahala in a Qarya or a city would unite residents irrespective of their social position and ethnic origin. It’s a unitary name of an Afghan community.
The local neighborhood residency has traditional inherited values; based on a number of principles the community developed and has been preserved by passing it over through generations. These are the commonly known traditions of loyalty to authorities, respect to the elders, and high moral obligation and respect to the family.

Local radio station is a community outlet without a formal structure which will integrate it’s neighborhood into programs for solving social and economic issues significant for the coverage area. The locality ‘is a group of people living within the same geographical locality, sharing common needs and resources as well as desires to collaborate for the solution of common problems and the improvement of living standards.’

Local radio stations could be set up either under a civic initiative or international organizations assistance or by the influence of local authorities.
Local radio doesn’t engender a vision of uniform institutions. Local radio stations in Kabuli neighborhood takes a more populist and tabloid approach, not only for economical reasons of attracting commercials, but it’s also based on audience preferences; while the local station in Hirat is more educational oriented; and it’s owed to the tremendous student participation in the station.

This is exactly where the controversy starts; if local radio varies so widely then can one generalize about the existence of such a sector; it even gets further complicated when we look at their relation to their localities; the diversity of the local radio station is matched by the socio-economical diversity of their coverage area and this in turn shapes it’s potential to contribute for community and radio development. with so little insight and understanding of peculiarities of Afghan society to anyone, how could the outlet ensure any objective? And finally when sector recognition for representation, lobbying and promotion is required how could an overall strategy be formed? And how would it affect its commercial orientation? And finally how long would it take for afghan local radio stations to establish themselves local and then nationally.

‘In local radio, skills, sound, music and speech can be recorded, edited and produced using software tools with an intuitive user interface. Computers become devices for achieving creative production goals rather than tools for business and public administration.’
The use of personal skills and the creation of interfaces locally by individual skills is a more viable approach. Local stations established through civic initiatives are using technology appropriate to the economic capability of the people; this reduces both technical and economical dependence of the radio station on external sources.
One of the crucial questions asked about the future of most of local stations, set up by international organizations is whether they are going to technically sustain once foreign assistance dry out, or they will go off air because they wouldn’t be able to maintain the complex technology.
While there is no need for having high tech equipment to produce quality programs or expand stations’ signal. Sophisticated program might alienate the audience who are to initiate Communication and participate in program making, management and ownership of the station.
Another characteristic of the local radio I would like to mention is the promotion of problem solving; this requires a drastic shift in the programming tone and contents from those of the mainstream populist media whose objective is to attract audience at the cost of oversimplified contents.
What also distinguishes local radio from other media is the high level of people’s participation, both in program production and management aspects. Furthermore, individual community members and local institutions are the principal sources of support for its operation. Often the community according to their own criteria chooses someone to own and run the radio station on their behalf, for example Mahrajuddin is the manager and founder of Qarabagh local radio; Qarabagh local Shura appointed him to be the manager.
Local Radio Functions:
One of the major questions remains the characteristics of the platform media offers for promoting democracy; so that citizens’ privilege seems warranted. As prominent local radio scholars see it, these stations should encourage participatory media and democracy; provide a discussion forum for diverse ideas of locality. When we talk about participatory media and democracy in the modern Afghan society there are two conflicting perceptions I put forward for discussion.

Participatory media expectations are based on the assumption that ideal form of government is democracy and ideal democracy is participatory democracy, where politically well-informed citizens play an active role in government. This assumption, based on American system is questionable on multiple grounds. Is participatory democracy really feasible when Afghan mass public has a totally different idea, experience and expectations of the government?

National government hasn’t been questioned; state policies were not publicly debated, partially because rural Afghans didn’t value their opinions as a way to respect elders and people they saw in power; and also because of the mass being inaccessible in the rugged terrain and complex social structure to ensure gender equal access.

Warlords who proved their ability to influence political processes after parliamentary election is still practically ruling big parts of Afghanistan. Their power to control local institutions still remains unchallenged; much is not known about their political influence on local radio stations.

Today those challenges are multiplied, and practically post war afghan societies have complex public policy issues; and often require insights based on high-level technical expertise. That is why foreign interference was needed to resolve the two decade war, and exactly why we have thousands of foreign experts helping the country in all fields. It is not exactly democracy to have foreign experts tell the public what to tell when public policy is formed. And finally is it realistic considering the disinclination of modern citizens to engage in such debates?

The second view is more in favor of the political local radio. A local radio station causes political life to circulate through all the parts of isolated, destroyed and disintegrated territory. The ongoing war and conflict has brought up a generation which was part of the conflict and has been very politically engaged in the process. Throughout the war the country was following the chains of incidents through international broadcasters and awaiting for their distention to play with their locality, lives and homes.
This very same people need an arena to pose their conflicting opinions which will form policies in a new style of government which came to existence after an interval of hyper-chaos and without much commonality with pre-war state composition and perception.

The whole concept of warlord is arguable in Afghan society. Quite some number of Afghan oppose the title and is doomed less constructive if the country is to build a brighter future and forgive and forget. Some ‘warlords’ are productive in their region while preventing crimes and enforcing state authority. They have even fought some extreme religious myths to protect rights.

Experience indicates that warlords and waring functions haven’t used locally owned radio stations for political reasons. Radio millies which propagated hatred ahead of Rwandan genocide and broadcasted information which led the genocide was not locally owned, it was supported by Tutsi regime and extremists.

Local radio is the eye and informer of the locality which follow development and policy issues and detects the secret springs of political designs and informs the coverage area. ‘It rallies the interests of the community round certain principles and draws up the creed of every party; for it affords a means of intercourse between those who hear and address each other without ever coming into immediate contact.’ (Tocqueville 1984, p 94).

If we move on from political participatory local radio, there are other functions of local radio. Local radio promotes and reflect local culture, character and identity; this is especially important while we want to build a society with a spirit of self understanding and value which differentiates between real issues that concerns individual and locality as whole and politically oriented religious metaphors which steams hatred and terrorism.

To ensure public engagement in reconstruction, local radio stations could assist in creating a diversity of voices and opinions and encourage individual expression. In addition, following issues are at the focus of local radio discussion. ‘A) Increase access to a diversity of voices on air; B)Assist in creating a diversity in broadcasting ownership; C) Be responsive to the needs of their community; D) Encourage members of the relevant community to participate in programming and production matters; E) Encourage innovation and experimentation in programming.’
I want to reemphasize the subjective view that all these are perspective programs and it really depends from place to place. As communities are paradox and different they offer different functions for local radio stations, and the station is to discover it’s function; and this is exactly the beauty of local radio; the emergence of a broadcast sector which has different functions.
In a meeting of all radio stations managers in Kabul when discussing the function of each of their stations, each wrote down a list of things in order of priority what they have achieved and has become their function by default. It’s as following:
• Interviews with agricultural experts
• Radio theatre, poetry, history, story telling, …
• Music and entertainment programs
• Local experts provided education about health care and traditional medicines
• Discuss priority reconstruction and development projects .
• Support and extend community-level campaigns in an almost infinite variety of subjects such as environmental awareness, tuberculosis or malaria prevention and treatment, land mines awareness, reintegration of former combatants, refugee issues, human rights…
• Personal, funeral, community … announcements broadcast, allowing the radio station to serve as a community bulletin board
• Interviewed local authorities regularly to present their activities and receive feedback, thus promoting good governance and transparency
• Discussion programmes examining the roles and rights of women and the changing nature of the family.
• Provided a place for cultural exchange between communities, thus promoted understanding and peace

Access and Participation:

‘The fundamental claim that one of the major roles of new media is not to deliver predigested information to individuals, but to provide the opportunity and resources for social debate and discussion… Many social and technological innovations are limited to provide primarily better access, leading to “consumer” cultures.’ [Ernesto Arias, 1999]

Historically in Afghanistan we have had a very structurized participation and access scheme.
Defining a pragmatic access and participation method to media in general and radio in specific is hard, as the outlets are controlled by a parent organization that might have an underlying agenda. It’s becoming increasingly hard to answer the purpose of access and to whom. In Afghanistan there is a very narrow model applied for access in the state run media as well as private; which is limited to access to the output.
Participation and access to media has become a very structurized concept; participation to program formation, the media outlet, self expression and facility is deliberated beforehand. while the nature of participation and access is basically to allow further activities that can only partly be specified in advance.

The emergence of alternative broadcast facilities such as local radio is the key step toward the democratization of the radio sector and media in general. In a basic society like Afghanistan, proximity also plays a major role in promotion of participation and access to radio stations. when a radio stations is situated in a close proximity the feedback mechanism is always open and the familiarity of the content to the audience is important in ensuring interaction between the producers and receivers of radio content.
The facts and characteristics of the assumed mediating role participation in local communication plays is unknown; as it’s a new phenomena and the nature of it hasn’t been explored and understood. Its assumed media participation plays a role, close to which traditional social forms of participation does (maybe explain what traditional participation is). However the details and practices of the relations between individual participant, society, civil institutions and radio is not quite clear. The whole idea behind participation is to reshape existing conceptions and social discrepancies between the motives, experiences and understandings of community.
Participation in the radio production and management is a second step after access. By bringing production to the rural areas, radio is demystified for the people of the locality; many forms of cultural programs and village activities may be adopted and accommodated in radio programming.
Audience research result suggests there is a great deal of difference between local knowledge and the content of media, however the audience still follows it and different social groups have their own understanding of media output, this varies between the more and less educated, men and women, as they vary by the quantity and style of programs. My assumption is that the difference between higher and lower education groups are significant for understanding radio content than light or heavy radio contents; this means diversified and localised media increase understanding, as Mahalas have a common knowledge of issues. Understanding of the radio content is directly linked to participation; by increasing the margin of understanding the chances of participation is becoming greater.

Participation novelties involve extending direct and indirect involvement of other institutional, social and cultural organizations, as well as mass psychology. Obvious, macropolicies must be improved at national level and the policies should extend behind words especially when they are to support the outlets and reporters, and macropolicies should be designed to stimulate microchanges. However, it is evident that these are not the only causes that stimulate freedom of expression or that enhance participation and access.

As highlighted by many authors, participatory communication is a cornerstone to all sorts of community development and community economic development. In order to make this cornerstone functional, a sense of consensus, or at least significant majority support, is very necessary. This includes in all radio programs, it’s up to the managers and radio staff to consult the programs and radio operation to the locality.

Localism and self-management:

Localism is an interpretative communication which enables individuals and groups to come to terms with the forces of change that they feel they could and cannot control.
The ability of Afghan Karyas (villages) and towns to identify what influences their life and what doesn’t, is crucial for reconstruction and if there is to be a future democracy. Clearly, localism is not a space-bound concept, it’s culturally and politically outlined interpretation of soical changes and it’s shaped by personal experience as well as social networks; it’s firmly linked with communication, rational community consensus of terms with the changing forces could be achieved through communication.

The ability of radio stations as the medium to promote a variety of sources and opinions is crucial for the creation of a pluralistic environment. Localism is the approach to deal with the disparate needs and unique interests of various different localities.

‘Community mandate is the inevitable result of the process of democratizing the communication system. Community mandate encompasses not only management but also ownership of the radio.’ [How to do community radio, 2002]
Local management is the basis for civic identity, which is the concept of connecting the individual to the locality, and thus influencing judgments and decisions on any possible way towards sustainability.

The management of radio station is going to be extremely difficult if it’s not lying in the hand of the manager – mandated by the community. This is a very challenging part for most of the stations support by international media development organization. To ensure multilateral local interest in the station, especially ones operated by a certain social group, too many parties were made involved in the station.
It does serve the propose sometimes and they groups provide constructive advise and participation, but often it may cause clashes which will undermine people who run the station on daily basis. This is partly because the ability and judgments of the manager is not trusted; therefore there is no clear line of authority for him.

Licensing and legitimization of local Radio:
there are two main instruments to be secured from government, which are (1) a media license issued after an assessment and evaluation of the programming, technicality and staff by the independent media commission and (2) a license for frequency from ministry of communication according to the instruction from the independent media commission.

The licenses granted for 30 local radio stations so far has been granted for a period of one year, and the renewal has also been for a term of one year. It’s not clear if one year is the term of policy or it was granted because the process was not explained. Although, there is no real risk of losing the license after one year but the logistics of renewal continue to be a problem, especially for remote stations. and annual renewal of license requires an application process which burns an extra cost on the applicant.

Policy regulation of the information and communication commission which would preclude a station from license renewal hasn’t been introduced to the radio stations.

The amount of information for the renewal of the license is not clear it’s not known if previously filed information is required to be updated or not. This impedes action on applications for renewal of broadcasting station.

Something to be put forward for the information and communication commission consideration is the license requirement for low power stations (20watts and below) that are set up for education and training. the Commission may by rule authorize the operation of radio stations without media license, only a license that will allocate a frequency and help to determine the kind of equipment.
I would also suggest the commission review the licensing and renewal requirements as well as the codes and regulation of broadcaster. The requirements and codes should be relevant and clear. They should also be widely consulted especially with the radio sector, in order to enhance sector wide input and understanding or regulations.

Sustainability of Local radio
Local radio stations have most commonly two strategic approaches to business and sustainability:
A. Raising funds centrally for the radio station: 2004 advertisement and sponsorship figures shows big funds lies centrally in Kabul from National commercial advertisers numbering three at the moment with another three entering the market. As well as international non-profit public service announcements.
B. Raising advertisement revenues locally. This involves analyzing potential sources of revenue and then forming a revenue target over a certain period of time. There are three main sources of ads at local level, in order of money available.

a) international community – PSAs, sponsored social messaging,
b) local classifieds (funeral, birth and death announcements, etc )
c) commercial brand advertising – not very substantial at the moment

Stations needs assistance on how to promote itself cheaply on and off air; identify it’s audience and use it to promote advertisement revenue.
Contrary to popular assumption regarding the operation of a commercial station, local radio is not an expensive operation to maintain for the following reasons:
• The operating cost is very low, mostly related to electrical consumption, spare parts, maintenance and office supplies.
• Volunteers, who receive, if any, minimal honorarium, staff the station.
• Since a local radio serves the interests of the community; people easily assume responsibilities in the operation of the station.
• Management is trained in how to raise money from local, national and international sources for example through donations other fundraising activities.
Local radio programs
Local radio’s program format is similar to that of a mainstream radio. However, in local radio, there is a heavy emphasis on local contents; the quantity of program and its format appeals to the test of the community.
‘Discussions centers on issues of local concern such as ordinances, bridges that have to be completed, or the setting up of a power plant/generator in the village. Broad participation by community members is encouraged. There is a dominance of local language, color and personality in the manner in which programs are presented.’ [How to do community radio, 2002]
Not only the regular production group produces programs. Cultural and neighborhood programs are prepared with a wider involvement from community groups who may not have formal training introduction.
Popular radio formats

Musical public and the Culture of Music:

Taliban were exercising strict band over all kinds of music for around seven years. The movement was design to bring rapid political and military changes and to sweep away Mujahideen warring factions. To accomplish the mission the movement had to be extremely radical which is as much a social tool for gripping a control over chaos as it’s political.
The social aspect of hyper radicalism is deeply rooted in Taliban’s sense of pride and desire to introduce radicalism as a new way of life which will cast off rationality and even social and religion moral order. Radicalism is a way of religious interpretation, where you don’t perceive good or bad anymore, and the answer to inferiority is negative radicalism. This means a worsening social situation which also applies to music.

With the collapse of the regime a perfectly enormous public has been awakened to music by radio. The quality of the reintroduce music has always been argued. But then music being such a tremendous and powerful culture, it’s usually argued. I believe radio is educating a new musical public in Afghanistan, most of who didn’t listen to music a few years ago.

Public resentment to music is to what seen as the invasion and domination of foreign music; which includes, Indian, western and Iranian.
The second resentment toward music in the early post Taliban days was caused by what was perceived by the public and religious figures as too music in comparison to talk based programs.
the state radio and TV has had some music programs but in comparison to what local radio was offering it was for too less, although its’ hard to determine the percentage of state media music broadcast.
This seems to be changing dramatically in the last year or so. public sensitivity to music has been reduced and removed in most cases by dissemination of musical interest. The radio helped a generation to embrace music, something which was formerly connected with fear and guilt.

State radio as a national broadcaster has been mostly playing classical music which is typical enough. However this is not encouraging musical interests and variety. Then again like every other programming it’s the local radio station which brings variety. This same element of variation and plurality in musical content made local music broadcasting a controversy. Classical music broadcasted by media is not argued anymore.
Classical music has a slight portion in comparison to popular forms in the overall amount of air time in the local radio stations. today “light” and “variety” music programs dominated the airwaves.
Many came to feel that local radio is not the medium for “proper” music.

The nastiness of the attack on local radio and its music can to some degree be explained by the fact that the medium combined a number of Afghan social antagonisms of post conflict period. It was a reminder of a known fact that if people want change they better bring it and ask for it and even then there is going to be resistance and obstacles thrown on the way.

Afghan Rural Radio brings a rather strange audio afflictions and this is mostly caused by maximum broadcast of popular and various musical programs. This weird audio distress will perpetuate the use of an auditory box in the neighborhood which is named radio receiver. This radio receiver endeavors to disseminate music maximum hours possible and RE-reproduce the most variety of messages with a significant amount of noise. What you hear is a new generation of music, which doesn’t necessarily interest all audience. Only and only the fact that Afghans do not rebel against it anymore can explain the fact that afghan ears and nerves is not any more sensitive to noise and unfamiliar sounds and this is something which has been achieved in the last two year.

1. Slogans:
Slogans are short simple messages of between 30 seconds and two minutes that can feature a short dialogue, announcement or interview; it’s usually mixed with music and sound bites to make more appealing to the audience. Spots convey relatively simple concepts of a broad and complicated issue which immediately concerns the Mahala. Spots commonly air on local radio are designed to address broad social, development, educational, health and cultural issues.
2. Mini-dialogues and dramas:
Mini-dialogues and short dramas are used to convey one or two key messages and are longer than slogans; usually they are between 2-5 minutes.
They may comprise a single dialogue/drama which represents real life and may discuss several issues at the same time in a series, but a single episode may contain resolution for one topic. in which an initial drama positions the listener into a dilemma and another resolves the issue.

The BBC Afghanistan Service has used the ‘dilemma’ and mini-drama format, called new home – new life, to good effect and address social and village issues in both in rural Afghanistan.
The program is widely known which in turn has resulted in an increased social impact.

Soap Operas and serials Radio has been well documented in terms of its ability to engage the imagination and here, the connection between innovative radio formats and the creation of positive community dialogue emerges strongly (Crisell 1986; Skuse 2002b). For example, radio soap opera is broadly accepted as one of the best mechanisms for broaching complex and socially sensitive issues, most of the crises we encounter are sensitive before it takes place, but people deal with them when they have to. By presenting a sensitive issue as a potential crisis we stimulate local imaginations to first accept it and then find out a way out.
Galavotti et al. (2001) suggest some of the most effective behavioral interventions have been linked to existing social and cultural contexts through ‘edutainment’ formats such as soap opera. These formats articulate with community dialogue on hot topics and use existing cultural narratives and resources to and localize new concepts.

Soap operas and serials are used extensively to promote aspects of human development. Productions are typically broadcast between 1 and 5 times each week and are generally between 10 and 30 minutes in duration. Soap operas tend to be open-ended or continuous, whereas serials have a defined run of episodes (i.e. 10-20 episodes). Radio soap operas usually have 4 or 5 scenes within each episode; and each will address a certain storyline that unfolds over the course of time.

‘Edutainment-type soap operas tend to focus on a broad range of development issues, though health, family and social relation, education and development naturally constitutes major focus. Evidence suggests that sensitive topics, cultural constraints and norms are best approached through formats that ground such issues in familiar contexts and which use believable characters. The episodic nature of soap operas allows time for listeners to mull-over the diverse range of positive and negative outcomes that are embedded in the dramatic storylines’ (Rigbey 1993).
Typically, a radio soap opera will employ a format that features characters that are for and against an issue or practice and another that wavers between both options, but who ultimately chooses the more positive course of action. Because radio soap operas and serials are fictional, they are able to open a neutral and recrimination free social space in which public debate can occur about sensitive issues and choices such as discrimination, rights and stigma.
Though popular with funders and listeners, soap operas can be expensive to produce, require extensive organizations, and creative capacity.

The cost of soap operas makes them largely unfeasible as a local program. Stories and testimony are used widely to promote social issues.

3. Qisa Gawiye or Story telling: the program is often a monologue reciting folktales. Most of the traditional stories are about good values, respect and sacrifice of ordinary people. The stories are passed over through generations by community members recognized as qisa gawi – story tellers. Story telling like every other tradition is evolving and expanding. The creation and birth of new stories is part of the daily life; the stories glorify aspects of social life, they are also from a person affected by a specific problem. Stories are most often serious, but the story teller is most often comic and entertaining. Radio programs are usually designed to be serious enough to emphasize on the points of the story, at the same time these monologues are a settled comedy easy to listen.
Traditional story telling happens within families and as social events with mixed age groups. The success of a qisa qawiye program would be to cut across age barriers and will hold the interest and reach its listeners.

Editorial control over the quality, content and accuracy of the story presented, like other formats is critical. Careful selection of oral testimony segments must occur to ensure that incorrect or unhelpful messages are not broadcast. For example, testimony that details a negative experience, such as ethnic problems, may not send a very helpful message. Similarly, the producer might want to make an effort to bring various opinions so to increase the credibility of the story. Efforts should be made to engage experts in the specific topics. This will also make the program much more interesting.
Qisa Gawiya program follows the common shared format of simplicity for a local radio station. the folktales generally are simple concepts in simple words, the radio program will maintain this element and will add the humor element to it too.
Commonly a good story telling program has the following characteristics:
 A single theme, clearly defined
 A well developed plot
 Style: vivid word pictures, pleasing sound bites, music and rhythm
 Characterization
 Dramatic appeal
 Appropriateness to listeners
[Baker and Greene, pp. 28]
Most importantly a good qisa gawiya program is produced by experience, to use the above mentioned characteristics in a personalized and skilled way, and when – and how – to use them most effectively.
4. Magazines, talk shows, phone-ins:

Magazines, talk shows, and phone-ins are the basis of local radio broadcasting, broadcasting included.
Magazine formats provide an often eclectic mix of features, interviews, competitions, music and drama and are designed to be pacy and topical. Related talk shows come in a number of guises, but most use studio based interviews as a means of addressing relevant issues in detail.
Often such formats can be overly didactic, especially if experts are used to provide over-complex specialized information on a given issue. Of perhaps more relevance is engagement with CSO, NGO and CBO staff working with people who are at affected by particular theme.

Interviewing people with social problems around which high levels of self-stigma, social stigma and discrimination are created can be a first step towards their social acceptance.

A related format is that of the phone-in, which uses a studio based presenter, as well as professionals working in the field (doctors, nurses, NGO, CSO, CBO fieldworkers), to answer questions from people that have phoned-indirect to the studio. This approach, one favoured by local radio stations, often uses a local ‘agony aunt’ or ‘agony uncle’ character to give instant responses to callers.
Despite their popularity, their impact, in terms of the quality of the information that they provide has yet to be sufficiently examined and risks are evident.
With regard to related interviews radio presenters often feel they should be able to answer every question asked of them and that a very real risk lies with the provision of ‘misinformation’ resulting from a presenter being out of his or her depth. From this perspective: training of local radio staff in information gathering and adaptation for broadcast represents an urgent need; similarly, supporting networks that provide informational and training support for broadcasting more broadly could help to raise the quality and accuracy of information contained in radio broadcasting.

Box 1. Features a call-in program on Takharistan radio station in the north east of the country.

5. News, documentary and ‘community-journalism’:

News, from short items regarding community issues to documentary and investigative radio journalism regarding topics from discrimination, to national policy to service delivery, represents a mainstay of radio broadcasting at all levels.
Regular exposure to news – frequently the most popular of radio formats developmental issues is important because it can help hold the issue in the public eye. Also, news and short documentaries items can be used to provide positive features relating to the overcoming of issues-associated stigma.

Investigative radio journalism can also bring issues of corruption to light, highlight poor service standards, the withholding of services for the vulnerables, issues of local and ethnic conflict, and also highlight inadequacies in national policy. As such, radio news represents an important advocacy tool with which to target policymakers and legislators and an important accountability mechanism. The key challenge is to work with reporters not to oversimplify and sensationalise issues that require sensitive handling. The importance of obtaining a good story for the journalist will often outweigh any educational objectives. Therefore, journalism capacity needs to be built throughout the local radio sector.

Box 1. Parliamentary election call-in program:

Content of Program:

The above schematic diagram is the program format. The program format is designed to attract the attention of the listeners, with the added excitement and incentive of competition. This program is interactive as listeners call in or write letters.

The program begins by introducing a relevant topic and the listeners are informed that if they pay attention and follow the topic they will have a chance to win a prize by answering a simple question. The topic begins with a discussion with a guest (an election expert) regarding a specific election related theme. Each discussion will focus different issues. The discussion will be about 5 minutes

This dialogue is followed by a question and then the listeners can call and answer the question while there is a song on air. During that time, calls (answers) are recorded and edited. After the song or songs the presenters play the answers and comments on them with corrections of common problems or acceptance and by announcing the names of the winners. The winners will receive their prize right after their names announced. Telephone top-up cards, prizes are easy to transfer as the top-up number can be passed over the phone.

Next are the voxpops: The purpose of this part is to reflect some common misunderstandings about the parliamentary election procedures or mechanism among the public and comment on them and also air a few samples of what people on the streets think about certain topics. Key messages will be repeated (e.g. you only need one registration card to participate)…

Local radio in general is expert at presenting complex ideas to illiterate people. Illiterate people prefer simple language. Even serious programs such as news magazine and current affair could be absorbed if in simple language.

Box 2. ‘Az Safahai Internet’ radio browsing:
In a radio browsing program the presenters browse the web in response to listeners’ queries and discuss the contents of pre-selected websites on air with studio guests. This formula offers indirect but mass access to cyberspace.

The idea is to give the audiences access to these online resources as part of their everyday lives?

Radio browsing uses broadcasting as the interface between the internet and marginalized communities, providing indirect access to those who do not have computers, electricity, computer literacy and may not understand the languages most used on the web.

To use the internet as an interface for further integration of radio into people’s daily life; some local radio station managers tend to control the station and community participation and access; problems have been experienced with community participation in the radio. In addition to everything else this program ensures the participation of at least one community group; the professionals and researchers.
Raising awareness about the use of the internet amongst marginalized communities helps to demystify the world of information and communication technologies, include the excluded and breakdown the digital divide.


Using local radio as an interface between the community and the Internet helps raise awareness about the Internet among those who do not have access to computers and connectivity.

Radio browsing programme and the Internet access facility will overcome language barriers to accessing information available on the Internet. Moreover, being a participatory radio programme, radio browsing of the Internet has taken in to account the desires of rural communities to assimilate knowledge collectively, in contrast to the prevailing mode of individual access to the Internet.

During a radio browsing programme, the presenter searches the Internet in response to listeners` questions. With the help of a local expert, the findings are discussed on air. In this way, the entire community has access to online information, explained in their own language.

Radio Program Summary
To preparation, First, it’s the selection of a specific audience for the radio browsing session.

Ideally, these sessions should be broadcasted every day, integrating use of the internet into people’s daily lives.

For instance on Mondays the program could target women on Tuesdays the program could concentrate on traders and on Wednesday it could focus on children.

The presenter should clearly identify what information is of interest to the listeners.

Second step is theme selection such as health it is time to promote the upcoming radio browsing programme. Invite listeners to select topics of interest such as malnutrition, vaccines or pregnancy and send in specific questions on a letter. This enables those who do not have telephone access to participate.

Content on the internet has been generated for a diverse and global audience. But, information does not become knowledge unless it is locally communicated and rganizations .

For example, agricultural techniques, market prices and weather forecasts available online can improve the day to day lives of rural communities.
The challenge is to interpret this information to satisfy the specific needs of your target audience.
Content preparation for a successful radio browsing session involves a lot of work.

The internet provides a lot of information. But how can you guarantee trustworthy sources? Reliable and targeted web portals such as One World provide a useful entry point to information from 1000s of trusted partner rganizations around the world working on issues from malaria to trade to women’s rights.
Local expert could also be invited to help with selection and preparation of content from the internet and discuss the issues raised on air. This will add an important element of authority and quality control to the radio browsing programme.

It is important to prepare a good variety of content for the radio browsing programme. Interviews recorded with local people could serve as case studies to compliment the studio discussion. CD-Roms provide a wealth of reference material or to liven things up with musical interludes.

The program preparation:

For a lively discussion, the local expert should be able to grasp what’s on a web page and convey it to the listener in a meaningful way. Its’ desirable to have more than one guest to give a different perspective or translate into different languages.

The presenter describes how to navigate through the web pages, explaining one or two terms such as homepage or hypertext. This will enable your listeners to become familiar with the language and geography of the internet and motivate people to come in and use the technology themselves.

Before the end of the program, the presenter poses a question based on what has been discussed. The response will help gauge who has been listening.

The radio browsing programme involves a lot of effort and so it is important to store and exchange the information has been generated.

Another option is to record the programme and rebroadcast it at another time during the week.

Brief Review:

Identification of a specific audience for the radio browsing programme
Selection of relevant themes to suit the interests of this audience.

Encouraging viewers to choose specific topics and send in their questions by postcard or phone.

Internet search engines, portals, CD-Roms, local interviews and music could be added to diversity.

To invite a specialist to help select content and initiate a lively discussion.

To explain how to navigate the internet and encourage listeners to try it for themselves.

The Program could be re-broadcasted to reach a wider audience.

By integrating traditional media such as radio with new information technologies such as the internet, radio browsing can enable local participation in the global knowledge society. Communities on air and online … in touch and informed – this is the internet for everyone.
Broadcast Hours
The broadcasters and the management council determine the broadcast hours for a local radio on the basis of the following:
• capability and number of trained personnel;
• availability of electricity
• technical feasibility;
• needs of the community/audience;
• availability of resources necessary for operation;
• competition with other radio stations.
With such considerations, local radio normally comes up with shorter broadcasting hours than commercial or government or public radio.

Appendix One: Letters to the radio stations
Appendix Two: Local Radio Photo Essay

Appendix Three: Key Survey Findings
Radio and other Sources of Information in Afghan Society

Key points:

• To various degrees, the local independent radio stations are proving to be an effective tool in reaching under-served communities by: providing understandable programs; fostering interaction between media and the community; and offering on-the-job training to a new generation of media professionals.
• The local stations are very popular in their coverage areas (with an average 80% with knowledge of the stations and 79% of listenership among surveyed listeners). Overall there are positive signs of integration in the communities. 31% of respondents know who manages the station and 29% have already called or sent a letter.
• Most of the Afghans surveyed are intensive media users: They listen to radio frequently, and for long periods of time. 83% own a radio; 37% a TV; and Internet 6%. TV usage is limited by expense of the sets, and lack of electricity.
• Radio has a predominant role in the country, with very high ownership of radios and usage rates. Radio is accessible and affordable, and most often easily understood even by the illiterate.
• Media usage is sophisticated: information sources are chosen according to content, which is then cross-checked with other sources.

“Before I started listening to the radio, I used to be a very conservative person. For example, I forced my sister to marry a man she did not know. Since then, I have changed and I will let my daughter marry the person of her choice.” Saidullah, 38, shopkeeper,

• Stations have on average reached a high level of trust. They benefit from the general trust in media, and especially in local media that was observed through the different phases of research. That said, trust should not be taken for granted, as mistakes are not easily forgotten.
• Media are trusted more than other sources of information. Traditional sources are still used, playing complementary roles and often relaying information obtained from the media.
• Media has a very positive image: it is seen as a source of education and progress throughout the country.

“I’m optimistic for the future because everybody knows that if they don’t help Afghanistan a lot of “September 11th” will happen again.” Male interviewee, 35, Jalalabad.

• Sensitive topics can – and are expected to – be discussed in media, but in the proper way and by the right persons.
• Media are expected to be a tool for progress in society. They are doing so, in the first place, by providing people a place to discuss their problems.
• Media are a primary source of education for women, who have specific and high expectations.
• Women listen to the radio while doing other things, and they CAN turn on the radio and choose which station to listen to. However they generally defer to men when men are home. 86% of men think radio is appropriate for women to listen to, although there are regional differences in this response.
• No major cultural barriers to media consumption were observed, with the exception of the most conservative areas were television was sometimes criticized, as being “non-Muslim”.
• Commercials are welcomed, bringing information about available products and prices. Since most Afghan consumers are not familiar with many brands, an empty space is available to the main advertisers (Mobile Phone providers, Tea).
• Locally-based news and other programs (culture, music, and announcements) are listened to on local stations. National news is listened to on Radio Afghanistan, and international news on the BBC, and to a lesser extent, on Azadi.
• Mullahs are not generally consulted outside religious topics and in some places are seen more as a public servant than a community lead

“We discussed the ban on poppy growing a lot among farmers. Some of us heard on the radio that it is contrary to Islam and that the Prophet condemns the cultivation as well as the use of drugs. Therefore, we decided to stop, but now we know our economic situation
is uncertain.” Saïd, 39, farmer, Nangarhar

Women’s Radio Listening in a Village
The finding below is from Now Boloq village, a Dari-speaking, ethnic Hazara, Shi’a by religion settlement in a remote area of Samangan province. With a population of 400, Villagers depend on a nearby mountain spring for water, and have no electricity or health services in the village. Their main economic activities are animal husbandry and farming by men, and carpet weaving by women and children. Over 50% of the 70 families in the village are returned refugees, mostly from Pakistan. 67 out of the 69 village households in Now Boloq were orally administered a questionnaire on radio use. The subjects interviewed were the female heads of each household (as identified by the households) ranging from 13 to 80 years of age.
• • 44% of the households surveyed owned working radio sets. 6% owned sets that worked but were out of batteries, and another 6% owned broken sets. This was a different reality from the perception that was often expressed by the villagers (and some media NGOs) that “everyone owns a radio.” Reasons for not owning a radio included “I don’t have a man, so why would I have one?”, the recent marriage of a brother who took the radio with him to his new home, sharing with a neighbour, poverty, and being illiterate. All the radios were battery operated. 2 households owned two radio sets, and one household owned a TV, which was run by the village’s only generator.

• • 12% of the women surveyed reported listening to the radio. Of those, the programming they reported listening to was “the BBC and the radio from Kabul [Radio Afghanistan],” “news from Pakistan, Iran, and the US,” “news and music,” and “programming from Kabul and abroad.” Reasons for listening included enjoyment and to find out “what they are saying about the world.”

• • All the women surveyed said they had difficulty understanding radio broadcasts. While 100% of the women were Dari-speaking and spoke no other language, Dari programming (news in particular) was beyond their comprehension. “I don’t understand,” “We are blind from illiteracy,” and “They use difficult words which men understand” were recurring themes in the interviews. 2 women mentioned BBC’s New Home, New Life as a program that they listened to and understood, but otherwise, women reported having to ask their husbands or children for clarification, or simply did not listen to broadcasts.

• • The radio sets were predominantly controlled by the man/men of the households. In 88% of the households with working radio sets, only men turned the radio set on and off. In the remaining 12%, women were secondary controllers. Women cited not knowing how to use the radio and lack of interest/not listening as the main reasons for not using the set.

• • 63% of the women felt that it was not at all important to know about events in Afghanistan. Only 9% of women felt that it was very important, important, or somewhat important to stay abreast of news. 27% had no opinion. The main reasons for lack of interest in news was frustration over not understanding, lack of time/opportunity, and the remoteness of the village. Women expressed this as follows: “I like work better than news;” “I would like to listen to the news, but I have many children;” and “we’re in the mountain – what news should we listen to?”

• • The most common listening time was 8pm at night. Women reported listening times as being during dinner. 2 women also reported that the radio was on for lunch around 1-2pm. One woman expressed listening time as being “whenever my husband is idle,” and another said the radio was on at times of her husband’s choice.

• • The radio was kept in the house in the main eating/sleeping room in all households. In 13% of the households was occasionally moved closer to the carpet loom (either outside or in a subsidiary room) or taken outside with the men of the household.

• • If they were to influence radio programming, women wanted broadcasts of “good news.” Women generally expressed a preference for “happy news” and “news that they could understand.” They wanted music, news about a peaceful world, and justice. They cited preferences for educational programming, which could help them out of their Koohi (which means mountainous, but also connotes primitive and uncivilized) state. Iranian radio was seen as a source of good Islamic programming. Women also enjoyed Iranian programs that offered advice on raising children and fostering a harmonious family life.

Audience Perceptions of Radio Programming, is the result of qualitative research conducted to assess audience perceptions of 3 key radio stations in the cities of Kabul and Herat in June 2004. The stations are: Radio Afghanistan (the state broadcaster) Arman FM (Afghanistan’s first commercial station) and Radio Herat (the state broadcaster)
A total of 12 focus groups were conducted, split by age (18 – 29 and 30+) and gender. For each target station, 4 groups were held. Each groups comprised 8 participants.
The overall objective was to explore listening habits and audience preferences,
The research revealed a number of findings relating to general media consumption in Afghanistan:

• Listeners regularly switch between radio stations to listen to particular programming or presenters they like.
• Men and women listen at different times of the day, men more frequently in the early mornings and evenings, women during the day.
• Interactivity (such as phone-ins and letters) in programming appeals to listeners.
• Programmes that offer help and advice and have educational benefit are popular.
• Listeners dislike language that is overly formal and difficult but equally dislike language that is regarded as trivial or inappropriate.
• There are generational and gender differences in programme preferences, with younger
• Audiences drawn especially by music programming.
• There is high awareness of programme names and presenter names.
In general, Radio Afghanistan is appreciated for its educational programmes and the coverage of news from around the country. However, among male listeners, there were suspicions that some of the information broadcast is not always truthful or correct.
Arman FM is popular among young listeners who like its youthful appeal, its music and
programmes that target young people. However, it was criticised for sometimes being too informal and inappropriate. Male listeners felt Arman FM did not pay enough attention to news.

Qara Bagh Local Radio
This story was published in Washington Post in 2005 and I am quoting it here. I believe the story gives a good sense of the operation for a first time visitor without much acquaintance with the demographics and station’s background.
The letters that arrive at the three-room studio of Radio Qara Bagh are small works of folk art. They come on elaborate stationery, covered with glitter applied by hand, pictures cut from newspapers and small bits of metal foil applied like gold leaf in patterns. A flower seller named Shahrwani, who implores the station to play a song from a cassette he has included, has covered the back of his letter with 15 red plastic daisies, surrounded by hand-drawn hearts.
More important for Radio Qara Bagh, a tiny provincial station north of Kabul, are the envelopes the letters arrive in. Sold by local merchants for the price of four afghanis—about 10 cents—the envelopes raise revenue for the station. They contain requests for music, praise for the station and sometimes facts offered in the interest of the greater general knowledge. But they are also sent in hopes of hearing the letter read on the air, and given that it costs four afghanis for the privilege, the writers often include long lists of names to be recited: friends, relatives, fellow students and merchants whose shops are close to each other.
Radio Qara Bagh may be a microscopic study in how to build a wide, proprietary interest in one of the essential pillars of democracy, a vigorous media and a free press. As Afghanistan has prepared for its first national elections, to be held tomorrow, small stations such as Radio Qara Bagh have borne much of the burden of educating the populace about the candidates, the process and importance of voting. But they’re also part of a deeper construction of local identity.
The station’s office and transmission tower sit on a dusty stretch of the Shomali Plain, a war-tattered region where new mud bricks seem to be rising in about the same proportion as old mud bricks are falling from years of fighting and neglect. Next to the station stands the remains of a bombed-out telephone building, and between the two lies the hulk of a Soviet armored car.
Founded in February with help from Internews, an international nonprofit group, Radio Qara Bagh is a primary source of information in an area of the country where illiteracy averages, by one local estimate, about 70 percent. According to Abdul Hamid Mobarez, the dapper, French-speaking deputy minister of information and culture, stations such as Radio Qara Bagh are signs of a media boom in Afghanistan. In Kabul, he says, at least five daily newspapers are published, 70 private publishing houses have opened and several radio stations, including one for women, vie for attention. But Kabul is not Afghanistan, and even in Qara Bagh, little more than an hour’s drive away, media of any sort are a rarity.
“We have difficulties,” says Mobarez. “Only 6 percent of the people have electricity. The others must buy transistor radios and batteries. After 24 years of war, we have no economy, no production and our land is covered by mines.” So even batteries are too expensive for many people. And Radio Qara Bagh, which must run its own generator, is limited to three hours’ broadcast in the morning and a few more hours in the evening.
Just after sunrise, the Qara Bagh station starts its broadcast day with a news program produced in Kabul and distributed to small stations. The announcer says China has just given $1 million in sports equipment to Afghanistan and will rebuild a major road. Election equipment and supplies are arriving in the provinces. People who notice infractions of election rules should go to the local office of the joint United Nations-Afghan election monitoring organization.
Mohammad Ehsan, 26, is standing in an open-front shop that sells nails and locks and other hardware, listening to Radio Qara Bagh. Asked if anything has struck him as particularly interesting during this morning’s broadcast, he recalls a statistic: One out of six children in Afghanistan will die before age 5.
“It is surprising,” he says, because he doesn’t think that many children die in his region. But Afghanistan is a large country. “It shows us that [in other provinces] they do not care enough about their health.”
Fraidoon, 24, who runs a grocery across the street from Ehsan, says he trusts the station absolutely—both its local programming and its national news. His shop is one of two that sell the envelopes that raise money for the station. A green box with the station’s name painted on it sits outside his shop, where completed letters are collected. The station has moved to put more boxes out, in other villages within its estimated 35-mile range, and listeners writing to the station demand even more boxes. Altogether, station officials estimate, about 5,000 Afghans per month participate, raising about $100.
For stations such as Radio Qara Bagh, “It’s all about scraping together pennies so you can afford a generator and fuel,” says Hugo MacPherson, who works with Internews in Afghanistan to set up and support radio stations until they can be self-sufficient.
“We hope not to be here in the next year,” he says.
According to Mobarez, the deputy minister, there are now 47 stations operating in Afghanistan: some with national reach, some government-run, some private concerns and many small, local independents, as with Radio Qara Bagh. With the rise of these more far-flung stations, Afghan villagers are being introduced to one another on two levels: news of the nation is penetrating deeper into the countryside, and the countryside is becoming a subject for its new, local media.
Mohammad Yonous Qara Baghi, 42, the deputy manager of the Qara Bagh station, points to a gift from a listener, plastic flowers in a vase sitting in the station’s waiting room. The letters that help support the station sit in stacks near the entryway. The broadcast booth is Spartan but has the essential equipment. Ahmad Zaker Hashimi, a young man who rises at 4:30 a.m. to power up the station’s generator for the morning broadcast, is sitting at a computer, editing his own program, “My Village.”
Qara Baghi, a geologist by training as well as a teacher and a local election supervisor, says he was selected to help run the station by the local shura, or village council. His education gives him particular status in the village (albeit a village of about 100,000 people). He explains the station’s popularity—and it seems genuinely fanatical—as a response to the decision to broadcast in simple language, take lots of requests and cater to listeners’ curiosity. One of the most popular programs encourages people to send questions—about celebrities, local events and, apparently, basic factual information about the world. The station does its best to answer them.
“If we don’t know the answer, we research it,” says Qara Baghi. “We have a book.”
He means “a book” literally. It’s a thick book, called “General Information,” that is something between a world almanac and a one-volume encyclopedia. On the cover are small pictures that suggest its scope: airplanes and Franz Schubert.
“First of all,” begins a letter to the station, directed to the popular question-and-answer program, “I like to offer my heartfelt greeting to my dear announcers, their teachers, and all the other technicians of Barg-e-Mursal.” The letter’s author goes on to help out, apparently, with an answer to a previous day’s stumper.
“Yuhan Ghosburg was born on 1398 A.D. and he was the inventor of print,” the writer continues. The date and other details suggest that Yuhan Ghosburg has made it to the plains of Afghanistan, transliterated from Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of movable type.
This simple fact, garbled as if in the game of Telephone from 500 years and a continent away, stands out poignantly among the letters. Everything is scarce here, even basic knowledge. The same with movable type, newsprint, electricity, television, batteries, water, food and a clear vision of the country’s future.
But something is coalescing in this part of Afghanistan, where things are stable and enthusiasm for the upcoming elections is high. It isn’t necessarily what politicians in the United States would like to think is coming together—a stable, democratic Afghanistan—but something more elemental, a low-level, broad investment in institutions.
Radio Qara Bagh isn’t yet proof of a vigorous free press. While the station was recording the proceedings of a local celebration for educators, someone started going on about a warlord, Ismail Khan, whose fiefdom is on the other side of the country. The station decided not to air the man’s remarks, which caused him to complain to someone in Kabul (it’s not clear who), which led to Qara Baghi having to defend his decision. It’s a tangled story Qara Baghi is telling, the upshot of which is that you can get into trouble for censoring, and for not censoring, and the first instincts of some disgruntled listeners is to use whatever authority can be mustered to cow independent media.

Appendix Four: E-sources and references
AMARC A site dedicated to local radio that features useful references, addresses a range of project interventions, connects to Internet-based audio features and news items, as well as listing member radio stations from around the world.
BBC World Service Trust A site highlighting the work of the Trust across a range of sectors, civil society, training and health, that also provides details of its current project activities.
Biodesign A site examining cheap solar panels used to convert radios into more affordable commodities for poor people.
Internews Internews® works to improve access to information for people around the world.

Commonwealth of Learning A site that examines the use of radio in education with a focus on local radio and empowerment. Also details of the COL ‘suitcase radios’ are provided.
Communication Initiative A communication for development-dedicated site that covers mass and participatory media, social change and planning models and has a separate themed section on radio.
Digital Opportunity Channel A site examining the role of new communication technologies and convergence issues in development, with useful research reports and features.
Altai Consulting Altai Consulting is a Consulting, Research and Communication service provider in Afghanistan.
Freeplay Foundation A site dedicated to promoting ‘clockwork’ radios, which have been used extensively in humanitarian relief efforts to increase information flows to displaced people.
OneWorld Radio A site focusing explicitly on radio, deregulation, research and containing downloadable audio features.
Rockefeller Foundation A site featuring useful publications relating to the Foundation’s work in communications for social change.
Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 organizations working together with over 3,000 partners to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice through public understanding that economic and social justice are crucial to sustainable development.

UNAIDS The site of the joint UN programme on HIV/AIDS which features numerous publications on every aspect of HIV/AIDS, from social dimensions to specific publications on formal education, peer education and mass media.
UNDP The site for the UN Development Programme with specific subsections on the Millennium Development Goals and Targets and the 2003 Human Development Report.
Washington Post The site offers the day’s Washington Post, continually updated news coverage, breaking stories, extensive original content and industry-leading multimedia.
UNESCO A site that features a wealth of publications relating to all aspects of communication for development, both formal and informal.
World Radio Network A site that focuses exclusively on radio and which contains downloadable audio material from over 200 radio public radio stations spread throughout the globe.

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