By Farrell Meisel*

I have not worked with a more enterprising group of professionals in my career, not before or since my two-year posting in Kabul, Afghanistan. There, I managed what became the country’s second-largest independently-owned media company (groupOne Media), led by a feisty and creative private national commercial channel (1TV). We produced groundbreaking and award-winning news and current affairs, original local entertainment programming, and top-rated formats. We also acquired finished content, utilizing digital platforms.

My position there was a most exciting, fruitful, and challenging one, despite the ongoing rockets, gunfire, and other violence that erupted constantly all around us.

Our budgets were not large, but we made up for that with original information and entertainment content. My team realized that our content was indeed saving lives.

CNN reported on our landmark current affairs program, The Mask, calling it and 1TV: “Revolutionary TV” for its “risk-taking” content.

I was disheartened to see the chaos when American troops pulled out so haphazardly as if there was no plan. I don’t disagree that it was time to leave, but the way it was done was embarrassing and looked dysfunctional.

Many of my colleagues are now stuck in Kabul. They fear, and rightly so, for horrific assaults by the Taliban, that have already reportedly started.

My colleagues at my former company, and those of other media companies in Afghanistan, are at greater risk than most people because they not only developed global skills, with extensive training, but they also embraced free speech and a free press, which is eschewed  by the Taliban.

The skill sets these Afghan broadcasters have acquired can productively be put to work for Western media organizations.

It’s important that they are not forgotten. The people of Afghanistan need to be saved. And those who want to leave and become citizens of new countries should be allowed to do so.

*Farrell Meisel is an international broadcaster, who has launched, managed, and consulted with media companies worldwide. Pictured above is Meisel (center) with his team leaders at 1TV Afghanistan in May 2012.

Farrell Meisel says there’s no stopping the growth of novelas

Published: June 4, 2014 at 02:00

By John Fernando
O Estado de S. Paulo

Competition with novellas has become a cause of a headache for Brazilian producers. “But novella production in Brazil will hardly end. In life, there are certainties like death, paying taxes and novellas,” says Farrell Meisel, who for 20 years has spent time overseas as an executive of channels in the U.S., Germany, Singapore and even Afghanistan. He speaks on Wednesday, 4 June at 14.30, in the Brazil Television Forum at WTC Convention Center. .

Based in the U.S., for Global Agency, a leading company exporting formats to over 40 nations, came to the country to discuss the TV experience in emerging markets such as Israel and Turkey.

Admirer of domestic production, he recognizes a change in viewing habits. However, he does not see the end of the novella here. “They are part of the culture since the days of radio. The audience is aging, yes, but you need to pay attention to the fragmentation of channels. Brazilian soap operas are as strong as the national football team of yours. There are a lot of creative people working in this market.”

“Perhaps, expanding to lower cost production model will expand international reach.” For Meisel, 58, the dramas are getting better. “You have a dynamic industry, we all (foreign) respect it a great deal. Its reputation and success have already given way to the Emmys. I’ve been in Projac. You compete with the best in the world. The challenge now is to deliver the kind of programming to reach the local quota of national programming and retain viewers,” he told the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo, by phone.

Turkish productions are the new success from around the world and now in the U.S., which, he says, have been gaining ground in the world. Because the dramas travel well and are made ​​in a Muslim-dominated nation, the dramas are well received in other countries, because of the story lines.

“The (Turkish) novellas and series now compete with Latin novellas. The novella in the world is like the chocolate in Switzerland. We’re successful in Chile, now, “as we have an executive, who negotiates dramas of Turkey for our company in that region full time.”

Farrell Meisel has also taught and managed television broadcasters in the U.S., and for HBO. He also founded from scratch in post-communist Russia and Afghanistan new TV channels, when the Taliban regime left.

“People wanted to stay home. It was dangerous to go outside at night. And they wanted entertainment. With something local it is best, because they identify with the content,” he explains.

His career began at a small radio station in New Orleans. “My background is local TV,” he says with the idea that the viewer wants to see his/her own image in programming.”

He does not have a pessimistic view of linear TV with the introduction of video on demand services. “Services like Netflix will ensure TV’s rebirth that some multichannel operators can’t serve. That way you can see original shows on the local broadcasters as well. It’s just another way to watch.”

Meisel notes that the challenge comes from DVRs, which record programs to catch up later, skipping the commercials, the main source of income for broadcasters. “I’m now so used to watching shows that way, that the other day I was watching a live program and was trying to fast forward through the commercials, and I forgot I was watching something live,” he laughed. “Perhaps, therefore, there is a need to balance product placement (ads inserted in productions). This is an international issue that we as a TV industry have to also tackle together. ”,farrell-meisel-afirma-que-novelas-nao-vao-acabar,1505063

Discop West Asia Newsletter Volume 2 / January 25, 2013


Global Agency has appointed veteran broadcast executive Farrell E. Meisel to the newly-created role of Director of Development.

Meisel will work for both Global Agency, and its finished programme arm World Wide Entertainment, and will focus on developing long-term partnerships and identifying new areas of growth for the two divisions. With a catalogue of more than 500 titles, Mediaset Distribution is the leading distribution company of Italian TV Programs and scripted formats.

Global Agency is one of the world’s fastest-growing formats distributors, and in mid-2012 expanded into the finished programme sector with its acquisition of the World Wide Entertainment brand.

Izzet Pinto, CEO of Global Agency, said of Meisel’s appointment: “It’s a real coup for us to have signed Farrell up. He’s got unrivalled experience of the international television landscape, and will be a huge asset both for Global Agency and World Wide Entertainment.”

Global Agency Adds Broadcast Vet Farrell Meisel
By Staff

TVNewsCheck, January 25, 2013 7:16 AM EST

Program format distributor Global Agency has appointed veteran broadcast executive Farrell E. Meisel to the newly created role of director of development. Meisel will work for both Global Agency, and its finished program arm World Wide Entertainment. He will focus on developing long-term partnerships and identifying new areas of growth for the two divisions.

Meisel has extensive executive management and content development experience at a number of major organizations including Turner Broadcasting, HBO International, Viacom International, MediaCorp of Singapore, Alhurra Television (Middle East Broadcast Networks Inc.) and News Corp.

Most recently, he was building broadcast infrastructures in emerging markets such as Poland, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Izzet Pinto, CEO of Global Agency, said of Meisel’s appointment: “It’s a real coup for us to have signed Farrell up. He’s got unrivalled experience in the international television landscape, and will be a huge asset both for Global Agency and World Wide Entertainment.”

And Meisel added: “I am delighted to join Izzet and the wonderful team at Global Agency and World Wide Entertainment. I have long admired the company, having acquired their top-rated quality content on the international channels’ side for years. I look forward to working alongside my new colleagues, whom I’ve long admired, so we may develop the next phase of growth for the company.”

Copyright 2013 NewsCheckMedia LLC. All rights reserved. This article can be found online at:
2013.01.25 | Global Agency, one of the leading Turkish distributors, has appointed veteran broadcast executive Farrell E. Meisel for the newly created role of director of Development, working on both, Global Agency and its finished programs arm World Wide Entertainment.

With a well-established background in international television, Meisel will focus on developing long-term partnerships and identifying new areas of growth for the two divisions. In the past, he worked on Turner, HBO, Viacom and MediaCorp in Singapore, and has most recently been building broadcast infrastructures in emerging markets such as Poland, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

Izzet Pinto, CEO, Global Agency, said: ‘Farrell has an unrivalled experience of the international television landscape, and will be a huge asset both us’, while the appointed executive added: ‘I have long admired the company, having acquired their top-rated quality content on the international channels side for years’.
Turkey’s Global Agency hires Farrell E. Meisel
by Stewart Clarke January 24, 2013

Turkey-based formats company Global Agency has recruited Farrell E. Meisel as its first-ever director of development.

Meisel has a background in consulting and working for TV firms including HBO, Viacom and MediaCorp.

At Global Agency he will focus on business development opportunities. The role also covers World Wide Entertainment, the company’s finished programme division.

Izzet Pinto, CEO of Global Agency, said of Meisel’s appointment: “It’s a real coup for us to have signed Farrell up. He’s got unrivalled experience of the international television landscape, and will be a huge asset both for Global Agency and World Wide Entertainment.”
Global Agency adds Afghan exec
Posted By Nico Franks On 24-01-2013 @ 10:33 am In News

Turkish distributor Global Agency has appointed the former CEO of Afghan commercial network 1TV as its director of development.

Veteran broadcast executive Farrell Meisel, who left 1TV last year, will work for both Global Agency and its finished programme arm World Wide Entertainment in the newly created role.

The US expat will “focus on developing long-term partnerships and identifying new areas of growth for the two divisions,” according to Global.

Meisel has worked for Turner Broadcasting System, HBO International and Viacom International Media Networks in the US but has worked internationally for the past 20 years in countries including Russia, Poland and Singapore.

He become CEO of the GroupOne-owned network 1TV and its parent company in 2010, following a two-year stint as president of FMI Media Group in the Middle East and, before that, one year as president of Poland’s Puls Television.

Whilst at 1TV, Meisel oversaw the channel adapt its first licensed formats after picking up local rights [2]to the gameshows That’s My Stuff and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?.

Article printed from C21Media:

URL to article:

Posted: May 3, 2012

Meisel ankles Afghanistan net – Entertainment News, EXCLUSIVE, Media – Variety

By Brian Lowry

Farrell Meisel, a veteran U.S. TV executive overseeing a TV network in Afghanistan, is leaving the position after 20 months, citing security concerns.

Meisel, who was interviewed by Variety in February (Daily Variety, Feb. 12), said via email that he had decided to resign as CEO of groupOne Media and 1TV, a fledgling TV enterprise based in Kabul. “With the increasing violence and tension, it’s just not worth the risk anymore,” he said, virtually echoing U.S. government officials by adding, “It’s really up to the Afghans to sustain it, which is what I’ve always believed. I’m very proud of what has been accomplished.”

Meisel said 1TV’s founder and president, Fahim Hashimy, had been “more than gracious and understanding,” and would assume his responsibilities. Meisel will serve as a consultant to the network for a time and is returning to the U.S.

April 1, 2012

Afghan airtime

Farrell Meisel, American ex-pat and CEO of Afghan commercial network 1TV, tells Andrew McDonald about rolling out formats in a country still mired in conflict.

Running a commercial TV station in Afghanistan was never going to be an easy job. With daily challenges ranging from power outages to suicide bomb threats – even in Kabul’s safe zone – programming is often the least of Farrell Meisel’s problems.

Despite this, the group CEO of GroupOne Media and its Farsi- language network 1TV is finding success with a mixture of home- grown news and entertainment shows, acquired drama from territories like Turkey, India and South America, and now, for the first time, formats.

“Just last week we started taping our first licensed format, That’s My Stuff, from Sony Pictures Television. That will premiere in time to coincide with the Afghan new year,” said Meisel. “We have also bought the format rights to Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?.”

Meisel, who cut his teeth on US cable networks but has worked internationally for the past 20 years in countries including Russia, Poland and Singapore, claims that both formats are a good fit for the Afghan market. That’s My Stuff, which will initially run three nights a week in an early primetime slot, is a gameshow based in people’s homes that gives ordinary citizens the chance to win upgrades to expensive household appliances.

Meanwhile, 5th Grader, acquired from Mark Burnett Productions and due to debut in the spring, is “very important because the literacy rate is so low, so this is an opportunity to educate and inform, as well as entertain,” says Meisel.
One other advantage that the two light-hearted shows offer is the promise of advertising revenues. As a commercial station, 1TV relies on airtime bought by domestic companies, such as telecoms operators, and multinationals like Coca-Cola and Unilever. This is particularly important as Meisel, unlike other station bosses in the country, says he refuses to air unlicensed shows or formats, adding that FremantleMedia is currently dealing with an Afghan series that appears to have “ripped off” the American Idol format.

Despite the potential appeal of these two tried- and-tested entertainment formats, this has not stopped the network from pursuing more difficult programming choices. Niqab (The Mask) is an original programme for the network and one example of what Meisel describes as “brave” programming. Commissioned just before he joined the station in 2010, the US government-funded, studio-based primetime show acts as a platform for Afghan woman and girls who have been physically and mentally abused to break their silence, appearing behind a mask to discuss their difficult experiences with counsellors. “The first show was so successful that I went back to the US embassy for an additional grant, so we’ve done 22 shows and we’re waiting on clearance for a new season,” says Meisel.

The programming is part of the channel’s attempts to engage with the political situation in Afghanistan during its peak broadcasting hours. This can be seen with another original series, Kabul Debate Live. The show, filmed in front of a studio audience, features politicians, ambassadors and international leaders discussing topical issues, with viewers able to vote on the debate via SMS.
“We have focused on the banking sector, on violence, on what type of political system should there be – parliamentary or presidential – and questions about should the Taliban be allowed to negotiate.”

Summing up 1TV’s aims, Meisel says: “We are not a repository for acquired content. We’re not a typical broadcaster in that sense, so having a good local mix – having strong independent news and current affairs in entertainment – is very important.”

Yet when it comes to independent news-gathering, how impartial can a station, run by an American, truly be – especially when the US government is involved in its funding? “I’m not here representing the American government. While I have good contacts with the ambassador and members of the public diplomacy units and the council, I’m not here for those reasons,” says Meisel, pointing out that the channel’s founding president and primary shareholder, Fahim Hashimy, is an Afghan national.

“I didn’t go to Afghanistan for political reasons, I didn’t go because I have Afghan in my heritage, I didn’t have an epiphany. This is what I love to do, and I have some very creative people that I’m working with. The whole idea, I hope, is that they’re going to grab the ball and run. As far as what goes on geopolitically, that’s something for the so-called experts to figure out.”

The first portal of call for international television news and media business

Our Man in Kabul

Our Man in Kabul
Posted: 5 March 2012

FARRELL MEISEL remembers a moment at MIPCOM last year. A distributor walked past him in the Palais and shouted, “Hey, Farrell, do you need a documentary about Afghanistan?” “No, thanks. I’m living one,” Meisel quipped.

Unlike most people in an industry prone to exaggeration, Meisel was telling it like it is — the CEO of groupOne Media and 1TV Media is indeed working in the sort of conditions most of us only ever encounter on film. He lives in a protected compound and moves out of it only under armed escort. The soundtrack to his life is gunfire and bomb explosions. It puts an average day at the office in perspective.

But Meisel remains resolutely unfazed. He’s not especially brave, he insists, just getting on with the job of programming a station in a war zone — a job that now includes producing two international formats: Sony/2waytraffic’s That’s My Stuff and Mark Burnett’s Are you Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

“My hope is that Afghanistan can develop and sustain a responsible media sector, respecting the rule of law, with high-quality entertainment, and independent, unbiased news and factual programming,” he tells Joanna Stephens at the start of this exclusive FRAPA interview…

Tell us about 1TV, its mission and ambitions…

“1TV is a Kabul-based, Afghan-owned, private, independent TV station. It’s part of the groupOne media communications firm, which was founded two years ago by Fahim Hashimy, a young Afghan entrepreneur who was the former translator/aide to the US ambassador, General Karl Eikenberry. Hashimy’s aim is to create multimedia products that stimulate independent thought and promote the ideals of liberty to which Afghans aspire.”

Could you describe the TV landscape in Afghanistan?

“There are 60 local TV channels, 25 of which are actually licensed. There are five channels that are watched by the majority of the viewers, and there are a few cable/satellite platforms, which transmit the major international thematic channels. TV penetration is about 45% of the 29 million population. This is due to the cost of electricity and goods, the mountainous terrain, which makes TV difficult to receive except by pay cab/sat, and the control of the Taliban in some provinces, who forbid the viewing of TV.”

What prompted your move into formats?

“It was a natural progression to continue to enhance our line-up with more locally produced content. Purchasing formats that have succeeded in other countries — especially in other Muslim countries — allows us to build our local identity and increase revenue opportunities, while helping us to develop and sustain our on- and off-air talent. It also reduces our reliance on acquired serials and dramas, which in the long-term aren’t as cost-efficient.”

You’ve just started production on That’s My Stuff and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? How’s it going?

“That’s My Stuff has gone into production, although I had hoped to have it on the air in November. The delay was the result of a combination of reasons: getting the right advertiser/sponsors, coupled with the worst winter conditions and snowstorms in history. That made it impossible to get out in the field, which is necessary because the show travels to a different home for each episode.

“Next we go into pre-production for 5th Grader. The challenge here is to find a stage large enough to fit in the set we will be constructing to give it the same vibrant appearance as the other international versions. Finding space to produce programming is very challenging in Afghanistan — and, thus, very expensive. In most cases, wedding halls are leased for the production of big variety and reality shows.”

What are the main challenges when it comes to adapting formats for Afghanistan?

“First and foremost, the culture and tastes of Afghan consumers. Shows also have to resonate with viewers that, as TV in Afghanistan matures, are becoming more familiar with quality international content. Additionally, we don’t want to acquire a format that may not be acceptable in an Islamic country.”

What sort of formats do you believe would succeed in Afghanistan and why?

“Simple game shows that offer the chance to win significant money. Also content that educates as well as entertains, which was my prime motivation in acquiring the rights to 5th Grader. However, there’s a bigger challenge here. Afghanistan has a literacy rate of less than 30%. Around 43% are male; 12% are female. Six million children go to school — 35% of them are girls. The overall population is 29 million. In view of the poor literacy rate, highly rated formats such as Wheel Of Fortune or Jeopardy! would not necessarily play well here. Also, the Afghan government sees Wheel as a form of gambling.”

Conversely, what wouldn’t work?

“Shows and/or formats that appear to have a gambling component or are in any way risqué. Shows with potential sexual tension — Friends, Sex And the City, Two and a Half Men — wouldn’t be acceptable locally, even though they’re seen on cable and satellite. However, that’s only viewed by a very small percentage of the population.”

What about the risk of format theft?

“This is a huge problem. Idol has been heavily copied for seven years, as has Iron Chef. Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of corruption and piracy. DVDs of series, internationally recognised cartoons and movies air regularly on various TV channels. Most are purchased at local kiosks and bazaars, or shipped in from Dubai or the US.”

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