TV was established in 1978, at the same time of the Communist coup and the resulting 14-years regime. Thus, TV was state run and a propaganda tool for the government. After the Communists, the Mujahedeen took power in 1992 and civil war started. One of civil war consequences was the cutting of electricity. Thus TV had no longer any reach. During the Taliban rule TV was banned. After the end of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan experienced the birth of private TV stations. The first one was Aiina, a North-based TV station that belonged to a local power but not to the government. According to Altai, a French organisation working on consultancies and surveys, Tolo TV is the most watched station in Afghanistan for the Persian/Dari language that is watched mainly in the cities. Tolo has a Pashto version that is called Lemar TV for Pashto speakers. As of 2020, there are 96 TV channels across the country, including governmental and private ones. Although running a TV station is difficult in Afghanistan because of the extreme costs, it is an influential tool and various parties, including the government, have a strong interest in trying to control it. TV is also a soft but main target for terrorist groups. In January 2016 a bus of Tolo TV was targeted by the Taliban through a suicide attack resulting in 7 deaths and more than 15 injuries. In November 2017 the Shamshad TV offices in Kabul were attacked, allegedly by ISIS forces. In June 2020, a roadside bomb explosions killed two journalists of a private Kabul based TV, Khurshid TV and a half a dozen were injured. In April 2018, 9 journalists were killed in a double suicide blast where when the alleged bomber pretended to be a cameraman. This attack was also claimed by ISIS. Yet TV is a developing industry. The 95 TV stations employ a large portion of media industry staff. There are almost 11,000 people employed in the media sector across the country, with almost 7,000 people employed in TVs.
According to Altai’s data, TV is covering almost 40 percent of Afghanistan’s population.
TV content ranges from news, current affairs, discussions and soap operas to music and religious programmes. Turkish and Indian soap operas are very famous, while Iranian, Pakistani and Western soap operas are at lower stages of popularity. Indian, Afghan and Iranian music are the top three music styles aired through Afghan TVs.
Except news and current affairs, most of Afghanistan’s TV content is produced outside of the country. This means TVs are mainly relying on foreign produced programmes and content.
The lack of an Intellectual Property law is a big challenge toward copyrights. The consequence of this paves the ground for the illegal use of others’ production. This is one of the main reasons of the wide use of foreign-produced programmes that seem to be cheap or sometime free.
Although TV is not covering the most of the population comparing with radio, yet it is a popular and influential tool of information.
Another unique performance of TV is that it empowers women and paves the ground for them to reclaim power and make an effective use of their rights as much as it is possible and stated by laws, by giving them much-needed space to appear in the Afghan society and public. TV encourages women to raise their voices and gives them self-confidence. It is also the main tool for anti-corruption processes: Revealing facts through investigative reports has been most influential on TV compared to the other media outlets.