Afghan radio show New Home, New Life goes independent

We feel excited and optimistic for the future.AEPO’s Director Mohammad Asif Omar

In August 2012, after 18 years as part of the BBC, the makers of the much loved Afghan radio drama New Home, New Life celebrated their independence.

As a local Afghan NGO called the Afghan Education Production Organization (AEPO), they continue to produce informative, educational and entertaining radio programmes for broadcast across Afghanistan on the BBC Afghan Service and local rebroadcasting partners.

AEPO's Director Mohammad Asif Omar said in 2012, "There are no significant changes in AEPO activities since we achieved independence, but I would say that we feel differently. Our feelings of ownership, of facing challenges independently and overcoming these challenges make us excited and optimistic for the future."

AEPO's independence – which officially began in April 2012 – marks an important milestone in the development of BBC Media Action’s work in Afghanistan. AEPO has been formed out of the Afghan Education Projects (AEP), which was established by the BBC World Service in 1993.

It was emblematic of the Afghan experience: a group of Afghan radio producers in exile in Peshawar carried on the Afghan oral tradition of storytelling through radio dramas on the BBC. They used humour and entertainment to reach Afghans of all ages and across borders.

Since its return to Kabul in 2002, the organisation has gone from strength to strength, with nearly 80 full-time staff producing 16 high quality programmes each week (eight in Dari and eight in Pashto). Each programme is broadcast multiple times on the BBC airwaves and other local stations, ensuring maximum reach.

Their flagship show New Home, New Life reaches 39% of Afghan adults and remains the country's most popular cultural radio programme. The characters have become household names in Afghanistan and after years of uninterrupted broadcast the programme has become an Afghan institution.

Reflecting real life 

Storylines reflect real-life situations in listeners' lives and the information they need to help improve their own lives.

One such story saw the character Jandad – the son of a widow – lose his leg in a mine accident. The drama followed him being supported by people around him to have an artificial limb fitted and, with a renewed confidence, retrain as a tailor.

Felicity Finch, an actress on UK radio soap The Archers and radio drama trainer explains how the impact of this real-life approach was underlined when she travelled out to Afghanistan to work with production staff: "In the same way that The Archers has ardent fans so too does New Home, New Life", she says. "I recall condolence cards being sent to the Kabul office for a character that had died. Characters are so fondly regarded they become real."

Training and workshops

Meanwhile, AEPO's regular educational feature programmes reach almost a quarter of the Afghan radio audience. As well as publishing a quarterly magazine, AEPO also provides training and workshops for community theatre groups and local FM radio stations, equipping more than 2000 Afghans with practical radio skills since 2002. For a country with low levels of education and infrastructure problems, AEPO has phenomenal reach and impact.

As a totally indigenous independent production house, AEPO hopes to reach greater audiences through a wider range of partnerships with channels and media outlets. It also hopes to develop closer relationships with donors who are particularly interested in working with effective local organisations.

AEPO will continue to work in partnership with BBC Media Action to deliver new development projects, and to produce programmes broadcast on the BBC Afghan Service.

Mohammad Asif Omar added: "We are very pleased to continue our long partnership with BBC Media Action. Together we will share our expertise and collaborate on media for development projects designed to help Afghans make informed decisions and improve their lives. AEPO will focus in its activities on; peace building, nation building, health, education, human rights, livelihood, governance and civic education as part of its strategy."

Project information
Project name AEPO - New Home New Life 
Funder United Nations, Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Commission, the UK's Department for International Development, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Belgian Government
Dates 1994-2012
Themes Resilience
Outputs New Home, New Life
Broadcast partners BBC World Service in Afghanistan, Internews Tanin network, Education Radio and Television ERTV
Partners Afghan Education Project Organisation AEPO