Radio Overview

Despite the rapid growth of television, radio is still the most important source of news and information for Afghans, according to a BBC World Service Trust survey of 3,096 adults conducted in 2010.


The survey, entitled “Public Opinion in Afghanistan” found that 80% of households owned a working radio. It also found that radio was the most widely cited source of news and information (72% of respondents).


The choice of stations available is increasing rapidly, especially in Dari-speaking areas.


According to the US-based Asia Foundation, radio ownership is highest in Southeastern Afghanistan, where 97% of all households have a radio set, and in the Southwest (92%).


But it is lower in Central Afghanistan (62%) and the Northwest (63%). This may reflect a stronger migration of radio audiences to television in these areas.


An Asia Foundation survey conducted in 2010 found that more men (86%) listen to the radio than women (70%).  


It also found that more rural Afghans (80%) listen to the radio than town dwellers (74%).


These trends were also reflected in the BBC World Service Trust survey.


Government-controlled Radio Afghanistan and its regional affiliates, reach 91 per cent of the country.


Other radio networks with a wide reach and a large national audience are:


  • Radio Azadi, a US funded offshoot of Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe
  • Radio Ashna, the Afghan service of Voice of America (VOA)
  • BBC Afghan service
  • The Killid Group network of radio stations


A plethora of independent stations serve more localised audiences.


A 2010 survey by Altai Consulting found that Afghans trust these independent local radio stations more than any other source for local information.


Altai Consulting found that Radio Afghanistan was the most popular radio network, with an audience share of 18 per cent.


It was followed by Radio Azadi (14%), Arman FM, a Kabul-based commercial station (8%), BBC (7%), Ashna (6%) and Killid (5%).


A useful guide to short wave broadcasts in Afghanistan, produced by the British DX Club, can be found at


SMS news service empowers listeners to become citizen journalists

Mobile phone users in Afghanistan can now subscribe to free SMS news updates and emergency alerts from Radio Azadi, thanks to a recent partnership between the US-funded radio station and mobile operator Etisalat.

50,000 people signed up for the alerts in the three months following the launch of this service in October 2010.

But the news flow is not all one way. Radio Azadi listeners are now sending their own news stories back to the radio station in the form of SMS messages and photos. The station receives between 150 and 200 text messages per day from its listeners. These range from music requests to comments on programmes and snippets of local news.

One listener in Ghani Khel district of Nangarhar province on the Pakistan border texted to protest that the local teacher's training college lacked a building.

Another listener from Narkh district of Logar province near Kabul texted to complain that followers of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Islamic Party were extracting money from local people by blocking roads and threatening travellers.

Radio Azadi now carries a weekly program in which many of the SMS messages it receives are read out on air.

Each morning and evening, Etisalat customers who subscribe to the free news service receive the latest headlines from Radio Azadi in either Dari or Pashto. They also get SMS messages with breaking news and emergency alerts.

In January 2011, Radio Azadi extended the information service to include recorded voice messages for Afghans who cannot read or write. Subscribers simply dial a number and use their voice to choose a category such as sports, entertainment or news. They are then switched through to a voice recording of the latest headlines.