(via Wired) It looks like the military is worried that Afghans haven’t heard the good news about how the Taliban have been vanquished once and for all. It’s setting up a new radio station, housed at the sprawling Kandahar Air Field, to spread the word. Cue Robin Williams: Gooooooooooooood … morning, Af-ghan-i-stan!
Regional Command-South, the military organization in southern Afghanistan, wants a contractor to provide it “a minimum of twelve (12) hours of broadcasting per day, 7 days a week,” according to a notice issued Tuesday, “which shall include news, music, education, public service announcements and other programming.” That includes a potential “talk show [and] radio call-in show.”
The command will provide the radio station with its broadcast facilities, equipment, connectivity frequencies, even an SMS update service. All the contractor will need to provide is the content — provided it amplifies the military’s message, of course. It’ll be in the “Pashto language with Kandahari dialect,” for authenticity’s sake and maximum effectiveness. But Afghans aren’t exactly expected to rise high in the radio station’s organization.
According to a model structure provided by the military, local Afghans should be hired as journalists, technicians and on-air talent. Their bosses, however, should be “International Civilian Hires” — who, in turn, kick up to Regional Command-South.
This is hardly the first time the military’s built its own radio station to spread its message. In 2008, I checked in on the broadcasts of a “radio in a box” — a station on a remote base in Paktia Province run by two local Afghans and managed by a captain of a cavalry troop. It was a lot of Indian music and call-in complaints.
The captain raved about it because Afghans in the area used radio as their primary information source, given the widespread illiteracy. Since then, however, the Taliban have moved on to texting and tweeting.
It’s striking how a solicitation for what’s supposed to be an Afghan service all but promises to treat non-Afghans better than Afghans. “International Civilian Hires” can live on the base and receive gratis “food, utilities, and laundry.” Afghans can get meals “during working hours,” and that’s it: It’s up to the contractor to determine what benefits Afghan employees get.
The station is envisioned to comply with “relevant” military manuals — though the solicitation doesn’t explicitly say that it should only broadcast military-approved messages. It’ll be up to the station’s editor-in-chief (whom the military suggests should be a non-Afghan) to determine the slant of the coverage. He’s just got to provide “160 minutes of prerecorded daily news for broadcast throughout the day.”
Then again, the broadcasts will be in Pashto, with an English “transcript” provided to the military command. Maybe that’s enough creative freedom for a subversive Afghan Robin Williams.