“Television in the Midst of Conflict”

July 21, 2011
O’Globo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“Television in the Midst of Conflict”

As CEO of Afghan’s 1TV, Farrell Meisel talks about the difficulties of operating in a country in conflict

By Thais Britto – OGLOBO

RIO – After 15 years working in American TV from New Orleans to Washington, passing through New York, then Farrell Meisel, journalist could have chosen to stay in the country and develop a linear, predictable and fruitful career. But in 1992, he felt he needed a change and applied for a job at Turner Broadcasting System. Six months after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the company planned to establish the first commercial TV channel in Russia.

In 1993, Meisel moved to Moscow as head of operations at TV6. Since then, he spent little time in the United States, worked in places like Istanbul, Singapore, Warsaw, London and Bucharest. In 2003, his path turned to countries in conflict. For three years he served as a consultant in the development of Alhurra, a station financed by the U.S. government during the Iraq War in an attempt to “promote democracy and freedom in the Middle East.” Since last year, he has been the CEO of 1TV in Afghanistan.

Last month, Meisel was in Brazil to give a lecture on the challenges of content production in hostile environments. And, by phone, talked exclusively with the magazine about their TV experience.

“Our goal is to give an opportunity for citizens to express themselves. The Afghans do not have a free media. They’ve lived at war for 30 years. In our programs, we seek to address issues that directly affect their lives from women’s rights and freedom of expression,” he explains.

Meisel is the only American on the team of about 300 people working in 1TV. A year on the air, the station is the third most popular in the country and has in his crate an eclectic array of attractions that includes news, variety shows, soap operas, series, talk shows and comedy. According to the journalist, television reaches 40% to 50% of the population, and some programs have achieved very good effect.

One is called “The Mask” and brings to the stage that women have suffered some type of abuse to share their stories:

“The biggest challenge is to help young Afghans understand the importance of free press and not be afraid to speak. This is very new to them. In the case of ‘The Mask’, we want to show women and girls, of course, and men, it is necessary to promote the strength and quality of life of women.”

Recently, a survey showed that Afghanistan is the country with the largest number of crimes against them.

Despite good intentions, the work is not easy. He said his employees face unimaginable complications for professionals who work elsewhere in the world.

“ The country is still at war. Sometimes we face situations such as power loss and lack of fuel. And safety is a major issue. Kabul seems a city of metal, because of the threat of violence. But the general feeling is that things are improving. Of course it is all going very slowly. Developing education and strong trading will take years,” said Meisel.

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