Afghanistan's people may lack security, literacy and a decent standard of living but they have no shortage of television stations.
The airwaves are set to become even more crowded next month when 1 TV, with a mission "to uplift the nation," becomes the latest of about 20 stations based in the capital Kabul.
The television industry has boomed in Afghanistan, a country of more than 26 million people, since the overthrow by US-led forces eight years ago of the Taliban regime, which banned TV as un-Islamic.
Even though a Western-backed government runs the country and a wide range of private media voices exist, television stations have faced pressure from Islamic clerics, backed by conservative elements in the government, who object to entertainment programmes they deem too liberal.
Television news presenters have been detained.
"The authorities don't really know the role of the media here in Afghanistan," says Ramin Mustafa, 26, 1 TV's sales manager.
"We believe in freedom of speech," adds the station's production director, Siobhan Berry, 34, a Briton who worked in television elsewhere in Asia before joining 1 TV seven months ago to prepare for its launch on December 1.
"This station is professional, extremely professional," Berry said. "We wanted to make a difference, wanted to give something to the Afghan people, which is superior quality programming."
Mustafa, who sports a ponytail and gave up medical school to pursue an interest in the media, said 1 TV aims to live up to its name and within six months become the leading television station in Afghanistan.
That is a lofty goal, said Saad Mohseni, a director of Moby Group which operates the country's number one station, Tolo television.
The station broke ground in the post-Taliban era by appealing to the country's youthful population with pop music, Indian soap operas and its wildy-popular "Afghan Star" show.
In a country where many women are still hidden behind burqas, Tolo gave women public exposure.
A recent national survey showed the station has a 56 percent market share - "enormous given the level of competition we face," Mohseni said.
He also attributes Tolo's success to its news and current affairs department.
"I think we have a lot of credibility. We're not beholden to any political party," said Mohseni, whose family five years ago set up Tolo with American funding after their return from Australia.
The Aiina channel, in contrast, is owned by Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former warlord who fought for various sides over the past three decades and whose militiamen were notorious for cruelty.
Dostum's station promotes his battle exploits and shows pictures of him on horseback chasing the Taliban.
Another narrowly-focused channel, Tamadon, is owned by a leading Shiite cleric who gives himself a lot of airtime to preach, lobby for Islamic laws and criticize the West.
The new 1 TV promises more varied fare, from cartoons to locally produced dramas and game shows. There will also be dubbed serials from India, Turkey and the West, along with "unbiased" news, Berry said.
The channel is owned by Fahim Hashimy, an entrepreneur in his mid-twenties who has invested millions of dollars in the venture, Berry and Mustafa said.
"The market is very competitive and probably cannot handle so many media outlets," Mohseni said.
A lot of channels have unsuccessfully challenged for market leadership, he said, and Tolo has survived despite battles with conservative authorities.
Last year the station refused to stop broadcasting the Indian drama "Tulsi," the most popular soap opera in Afghanistan.
Mullahs backed by elements in the government wanted the show and others like it banned for portraying romance and dating, taboo subjects in Afghanistan where almost all marriages are arranged.
The conservatives were also unhappy with the show's heavily made-up women who never cover their hair as Afghan women do, and whose saris expose their skin. Female flesh is pixellated out for Afghan viewers.
Two other TV stations bowed to an ultimatum from the information and culture ministry but Tolo said withdrawing "Tulsi" would have meant a huge loss in advertising revenue which financed other programmes including hard-hitting and satirical news shows.
Another of the Tolo audience's favourites is "Afghan Star," a version of "American Idol" which is in its fifth season and has pushed social boundaries.
A woman who participated in the singing show last year went underground after Taliban, mullahs and even her relatives threatened to kill her for breaking tradition.
Private broadcasters are engaged in a balancing act between conservative religious circles and the interests of young, trendy Afghans.
In March of this year the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) media rights watchdog said two television presenters had been arrested.
One from Emroz television was held for a programme apparently offensive to clerics. Another presenter, from Ariana TV, was arrested for interviewing a Taliban spokesman, the watchdog said.
Mohseni wishes luck to his new competitors from 1 TV but anyone entering the Afghan market faces a challenge to maintain long-term sustainable output.
"The proof is always in the pudding," he said. "We'll see how hard they tackle corruption, warlordism, drugs and other social issues."Reuse content