Afghanistan under Taliban rule had banned television considering it to be morally corrupt. Since the fall of the Taliban government, satellite television has gained massive popularity with dishes springing up onto rooftops in even the most remote corners of the country. In the last few years hundreds of channels have become available to the people of Afghanistan, though it could be argued that few channels adhere to the traditional values of the people. Until 2004 no satellite channel broadcasted programs exclusively in Pashto, the language spoken by the majority of the Afghan population.
The Pashtun people number around thirteen million and are largest ethnic grouping in Afghanistan, making up 50% of the total population. Large numbers of Pashtuns also live in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan following migrations from Afghanistan between the 13th and 16th centuries. The Persian term for Pashtuns is Afghans, and it was this term that described the ethnic grouping until the term Afghan was broadened to refer to any person from Afghanistan.
The Pashtun are Muslims, speaking the Pashto language which is divided into two main dialects. With over 50 tribal groupings, the Pashtun are further organised into sub-tribes, clans and sub-clans. In Pakistan, politically savvy Pashtun groupings have further divided and established small kingdoms within the overall Pakistani state.
AVT Khyber is the world's first Pushto language satellite television channel, but rather than being operated from Afghanistan, it's studios are in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan.
AVT Khyber presents programmes on social, political, cultural and socio-economic events as well as a daily news bulletin in Pashto. In 2005 the station expanded their broadcasts from an evening only operation to full round the clock programing. The station has received mixed reactions within the Pashtun community as these selected contributions to the forums at www.pashto.org highlight.
"I haven't watched a glimpse of it, but I am afraid and something tells me it won't represent Pashtoons in a very positive manner. It may show Pashtoon girls wearing pants and maybe even worse, guys wearing rings, bracelets, chains, tattoos, etc and may broadcast things that are not acceptable at all to a traditional Pashtoon family, whether they are living in the east or west, ESPECIALLY if the channel has Westernized Pashtoons working in the crew".
However someone who has actually watched the station responds with this observation..
"So far I think that AVT Khyber team has paid a lot of attention to whatever feedback they have received. They also made some changes, for example their hosts now dress up in traditional cloths, no suits, pants, shirts etc".
During late 2004 the management of AVT Khyber went to considerable effort to be receptive to the views of the audience. The station now seems to be enjoying high acceptance in a community which in the past has had limited access to live television.
Viewers in the Pakistani city of Peshawar have welcomed the emergence of a Pashto news and entertainment channel, however the Pashtuns in Afghanistan will be the prime beneficiaries of the new channel. Unlike their Pakistani counterparts, the Afghani Pashtuns do not understand the Urdu language programmes found on alternative satellite channels throughout South Asia.