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The rising demand for overseas television: America's United Nations of cable TV

Satellite TV lets immigrants cocoon in their own culture. Does it also alienate?

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Afghan immigrants Fatima Majeed and Naseer Ahmadi watch an average of eight hours of television a day in their suburban three-bedroom apartment while their four sons and daughter go to school, work, and carry on with their busy American schedules.

The husband and wife sit next to each other on their couch glued to the tube, barely aware that their children are coming and going. Outside their home is America, but inside their TV set is Afghanistan, the country they long to live in but can't.

The programs on their television are broadcast via satellite and received through a box connected to the Internet. The channels they watch are based in Kabul but also in other areas where the Afghan diaspora have settled, like California. The shows range from Hindi soap operas dubbed in Farsi, one of the Afghan languages, to news programs and cooking contests. They provide a virtual reality for Afghan immigrants who want to escape the isolation of American life.

"I got sick and depressed from boredom and seclusion before we got these programs," says Ms. Majeed, taking a break from watching the Afghan movie "Promise to Love." The movie, about a modern-day Afghan Romeo and Juliet, was filmed in the United States.


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