PACT Radio has been operating in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan since 2005. It has developed 12 hours a day of live and pre-recorded radio programming. The programming is needs-based as opposed to news-based. It looks at how the issues of everyday life affect people in the community in the Pakistan-Afghan border regions and involves them in a dialogue in order to see how these issues can best be resolved. PACT Radio programming is a mix of topical, magazine, cultural and religious programming. Many of the issues covered in PACT Radio programmes are fed into a flagship programme, a daily radio soap opera called The Pulay Poray Drama. The entire radio production team of PACT Radio currently consists of over 50 staff covering a dozen sites from Helmand in the south-west of Afghanistan to Swat and Buner in the north-west frontier region of Pakistan.
The head of PACT Radio is John Butt. As a broadcaster for the BBC in the 1990s, John Butt was responsible for establishing the BBC Afghan Education Drama – New Home, New Life. After leaving the BBC at the turn of the millennium, he established another radio serial drama in Central Asia, in Tajik and Uzbek languages. He was also script consultant for the establishment of similar drama series in Somalia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. He has acquired considerable experience in the field of entertainment-education and traditional media, using radio drama as a means of storytelling in a contemporary context.
Along with The Pulay Poray Drama team, he has achieved two longstanding aims in the current cross-border drama: one, to create a drama constructively covering political and social issues along with health-related and development issues; and secondly, to develop a script-less drama. Working from drama scripts has an adverse effect on the environment. Furthermore actors, not being highly educated are often not able to read drama scripts naturally or convincingly. Being a script-less drama, The Pulay Poray Drama enables actors to deliver their dialogues in a spontaneous manner, by virtue of developing a strong drama synopsis, conducting intensive rehearsal and making actors full conversant with their characters’ personality traits. Having a script-less drama does not mean that the storylines lack structure or educational coherence. The structure of both the storyline and the educational content come from the drama synopses – scene by scene and an episode by episode breakdown of the drama – and storyline notes – direction of storylines over a one-month period. The fact that there is not a script means that the synopsis and storyline notes are even stronger.
Cross-border radio drama Radio drama is a modern version of the age-old tradition of oral storytelling and is intended to be both entertaining and educative. It is an effective way of addressing many issues. The Pulay Poray Drama goes out five times a week, in Pashto language. Each episode of The Pulay Poray runs for fifteen minutes, and consists of five scenes. A typical episode of The Pulay Poray will consist of scenes from three storylines. Up to four or five storylines can run concurrently in the radio drama. Some of the issues that have found their way into storylines of The Pulay Poray are:
- The harmful effects of giving refuge to outlaws.
- Broad-based traditional and co-education.
- Polio vaccination.
- Livestock issues.
- Right of boys and girls to choose their own life partner.
- Widow’s life and rights (to work and marry/not marry)
- Mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relations; step-child/step-mother issues.
- Suicide attacks.
- Religious and contemporary education under one roof.
- Mother-and-child health.
- IDP issues; community mobilization to help displaced people.
- Rights of disabled people.
- Community mobilization for conflict resolution; organizing the community along traditional lines (jirga); empowering the community to solve their problems themselves, rather than look to government or international agencies to do so.
- Home based income generation schemes for women.
The Pulay Poray Drama has characters in place that can convey important points on a wide range of health, educational, social, child-protection and conflict-related human rights issues. Aid agencies that are interested in themes of particular concern to them, being covered in The Pulay Poray Drama, may contact the head of PACT Radio. Storyline reports on those issues would be commissioned by PACT Radio, messages agreed with the agency concerned, and a storyline developed. Both storyline notes – generated over a one-month production cycle – and drama synopses for each episode – would be shared with the agency sponsoring any particular storyline.
In addition to covering themes in The Pulay Poray Drama itself, PACT Radio also puts on storyline reports, addressing the same themes in a more factual manner. Having a strong drama and production team in place, PACT Radio is also able to conduct intensive campaigns on particular issues, by making radio spots and jingles around clear and resonant messages. The cost of such radio spots is slightly higher than that of a drama scene, production being more intensive for spots as opposed to scenes.
PACT Radio broadcasts through a network of partner radio stations and is now in the process of developing its own transmitters in the border regions of Afghanistan, where the signal also reaches tribal areas inside Pakistan. The first of these radio stations – The Saba Story – has been established in September 2011 in Nangarhar province. The signal of the Nangarhar transmitter of The Saba Story reaches Kunar in Afghanistan, along with Nangarhar and Laghman in eastern Afghanistan, and the Mohmand, Khyber and Bajaur tribal agencies of Pakistan. A second transmitter for The Saba Story is planned by the end of 2012 for Kandahar, in the south of Afghanistan, covering Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul in Afghanistan and some parts of Baluchistan across the border in Pakistan.
PACT Radio also has an agreement with Da Olis Ghag Radio in Khost for broadcasting of all PACT Radio programmes, including Da Pulay Poray Drama. Da Olis Ghag Radio covers Waziristan and Kurram Agencies, along with areas around Khost in Afghanistan.
Per scene for storyline: $200
60 scenes:$12000 (a typical storyline would consist of about sixty scenes, which would run in The Pulay Poray Drama over about three months)
Per spot: $250
For further information please contact: Mr John Butt Email: firstname.lastname@example.org