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Media has always played a significant role in the development of society throughout the world. It is used by governments and public alike to float, discuss and debate various social and political drives, which lead to influencing of public opinion in certain directions. Political parties and leaders use media relentlessly to promote their manifestos and agendas. The biggest example was telecasting of Altaf Hussain’s speeches on all channels for quite some time which ran for hours. Pressure groups of all kinds use media to get their presence known and exert pressure on whosoever it is intended for.
Media is a powerful tool anyway, but it becomes a powerful weapon in the hands of wrong people and may inflict lethal kind of harm.
Media is also a key driver of societal change. It provides platform for discussions on social issues, their solutions and their implementation. Media also influences public opinion in favor of or against various issues.
Since the rise of electronic media, the power of media has increased exponentially. It has now reached even the remotest parts of the country through internet and mobile phones. There may be a hundred TV channels in Pakistan. In addition, there are thousands of YouTube channels airing views. My focus today is on TV channels.
TV channels are required to follow the code of conduct laid down by the government. PEMRA – Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority is the governing body for licensing, supervising and controlling of all electronic media; satellite TV channels, landing TV channels, radios, FM radios, cable operators etc.
Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation came into being with Pakistan and established Radio Pakistan all over the country. The broadcast was done on medium wave for Pakistan. Radio stations were gradually established in major cities. Radio was the only medium and was religiously listened to in every household. The initial radio sets ran on electricity only. Much later transistor radios were invented which ran on battery. These became instantly popular as these were portable and could be played anywhere.
Pakistan Television – PTV was started in 1964 and had limited transmission for years. It ran for a few hours every evening, six days a week, with Monday observed as off day. PEMRA website does not give current number of TV channels, and various sites give various numbers, one claiming 124 channels, satellite TV channels more precisely. The reach, influence and power of this media has outperformed all other media worldwide.
In the beginning, TV was called Idiot Box, owing to the array of meaningless soaps, comedies and other such programs by channels to fill the running time. It is still the same, although huge amount of glamor has been added.
Pakistan has curiously seen the rise of news channels which are probably viewed more than the entertainment channels. News channels are supposed to air news and due to this compulsion keep telecasting such trivial events which do not merit to be called news.
Rise of news channels has given rise to three new breeds; news reporters, TV anchors and TV analysts. The latter two have become brands in themselves and have amassed great power (and great wealth) over time. Every day, TV anchors host hour long shows, invite political leaders and representatives, analysts and other public figures. Each show claims to bring out the truth and nothing but the truth. It starts with a list of real issues, which are never discussed in any substantial manner. Gradually, these shows have degraded into bickering, street level fighting, blaming, counter-blaming and mudslinging. One could say a lot more on this subject, but we know what we are talking about.
In this backdrop, I am raising a different question.
I have not heard or seen that any private channel is doing any of these programs.
- Literary programs – where some (real) intellectuals sit who have achieved distinction in their respective fields and they talk about literature, poetry, fine arts and other such literary pursuits. There are no book reviews, no book launches, no literary readings, no poetry events (mushaairas), no discussion on the literary developments, and no discourse on arts and society.
- Social Programs – where social issues are discussed by experts of relevant fields at a serious level, where effort is done to project understanding of causes and where solutions are suggested. The host of crime scenes and sensational social programs do not belong here because their intent is getting rating (and money) through creating hype and sensation.
- Thinkers Forums – where national, political, social, cultural, economic, and anthropological issues are discussed by real (not self-proclaimed) experts of the fields, and where the purpose is to offer substance, not getting attention.
There are other ignored areas also but let us start from here. We understand the economic compulsions (read, Greed) of private TV channels, but out of twenty-four hours of mostly insensible programs, if couple of hours are dedicated to programs for the larger good of society, it would do a world of much needed good.
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