"Meet the three siblings determined to become the media moguls of Afghanistan. Despite constant threats, the Mohsenis have turned Tolo TV into a national institution.
Viewers in 12 cities across Afghanistan can now watch everything from soap operas to shows lampooning politicians. One of the most dangerous jobs is covering the news. "You get beaten up, you get threats, people have been killed", founder Saad Mohseni explains. "It doesn't change the way we operate but we don't kid ourselves: this is a tough neighbourhood."" journeymanpictures
"Kabul has eight local television stations, including one feebly operated by the government. "The key time slots are from 6 to 9 p.m. because that's when people switch on their generators for electrical power," said Saad Mohseni, who runs Tolo, the channel that dominates the market in most of the country. "People love the soap operas."
"We've just bought the rights to '24,' the American show," he added. "We had some concerns. Most of the bad guys are Muslims, but we did focus groups and it turns out most people didn't care about that so long as the villains weren't Afghans."
Mohseni, a former investment banker, and his three siblings started Tolo TV - Tolo means "dawn" in Dari - in 2004, assisted by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
After living most of their adult lives in exile in Australia, the Mohsenis returned to post-Taliban Kabul looking for investment opportunities and discovered a nearly prehistoric television wilderness ready for settlement. People could buy a used color set for $75. But what did they want to watch? Afghan tastes had not been allowed to gestate over decades, passing from Milton Berle to Johnny Carson to Bart Simpson. Everything would be brand new.
"We let ourselves be guided by what we liked," Mohseni said.
For the most part, that means that Tolo has harvested every cliché from television's vast international wasteland. True-crime shows introduce Afghans to the sensationalism of their own pederasts and serial killers. Reality shows pluck everyday people off the streets and transform them with spiffed-up wardrobes. Quiz shows reward the knowledgeable: How many pounds of mushrooms did Afghanistan export last year? A contestant who answers correctly wins a gallon of cooking oil.
Some foreign shows, like those featuring disasters and police chases, are so generic that Tolo is able to rebroadcast them without translation. Other formats require only slight retooling."
A massive phenomenon in Afghanistan - Television, read article in full
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