03 December 2011

The Media Circus


Pakistan
’s national TV channel, PTV started broadcasting on 26th November 1964. In 1976 it began airing color transmission. PTV was the only channel in Pakistan for long time. It broadcasted ever green classical dramas in 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Benazir government started broadcast of CNN on terrestrial network. Then came PTV-2 and STN. After sometime STN got bankrupt and was closed down. It was replaced by channel-3, PTV-2 was renamed PTV World. These three channels were only source of entertainment and news for people of Pakistan.

After the military takeover of Musharraf in 1999 situation changed for media. Musharraf permitted the establishment of private TV channels. This was a turning point for media in Pakistan. From 2002 onwards many channels started transmission, in 2002 Geo news, Then ARY Digital, Aaj TV, Express news, dawn news and Dunya news etc. This changed the whole paradigm of media in country. Now private news channels can broadcast news against government and can criticize it. This was an unthinkable dream few years back.

These days Pakistan has every sort of channel which include news, entertainment, sports, cooking and local language channels. My stress in this article is on news and current affairs channels. From 7 PM till 12 Pm excluding the hour from 9 Pm onwards for news, different sort of current affairs programs are broadcasted. These are mainly talk shows and many famous journalists have become anchor persons who host these shows. In these shows a diverse range of topics are discussed. Mainly the hottest news of the day is the topic of most of these shows.

In these talk shows every night a circus is staged. Anchors call representatives of all the main political parties in their shows. There are few persons from each party who participate in all these shows. At times one person participates in three to four programs on different channels in the same night. In these talk shows anchor asks questions from the representatives of different parties. While answering, these representatives level allegations against their political adversaries. In response the other party representative alleges allegation against the first one and it’s like a tit for a tat. This is just a blame game going and nothing positive coming out from these shows. Often the guests exchange very harsh words about each other’s parties and leaders.

Now a question arises, why are such talk shows aired on TV channels? It’s because owners of private channels have invested huge sums of money and they want huge profits for obvious reasons. The main source of the profits for TV channels is the advertisements that they play between their programs.  In one hour there are twenty minutes of advertisements. Channels will earn more for these twenty minute advertisements if the ratings of the respected program are high. Rating is a simple measure of relative popularity of a program during a certain time slot. If a talk show has a controversial debate and a fight of words between politicians then the ratings of the show will increase. So by linking all these facts it can be established that controversial and heated debates earn TV anchors and channels huge amount of money. Unfortunately that’s why such useless debates are preferred over constructive and solution oriented ones.

Why do people watch such shows and who watch these shows by the way? Teenagers prefer watching entertainment and sports channels of west. Ladies by and large watch Indian dramas. Internet has made it so easy to get any sort of entertainment at great speeds and because of that many people don’t bother watching TV. Still some people tune their TV sets to these talk shows every night. These people are mainly senior citizens and young enthusiasts who either want to be aware of current affairs or simply enjoy the heated debates. Apart from that, Pakistani entertainment channels have failed to provide quality entertainment. This put people in a position where they have no choice but to watch these talk shows.

This talk show circus has many demerits. Many anchors work for certain political parties. They select topics which are against opponent political party of the party for which the anchor is working. Such anchors also play in the hands of establishment and become a part of propaganda campaign. This cause general public to be victims of disinformation and their opinions influenced due to wrong information. People don’t know what is wrong and what is right and they can be fooled by politicians and establishment.

People are becoming depressed and tense because of such shows. When they get to see bad news, frustration and fight among politicians in talk shows then they become intolerant. When they are intolerant then one can’t expect reasonable behavior from them. Intolerant societies don’ and this media circus can be the justified cause for that. Government has failed to regulate this irrational behavior of media. Only way this problem can be solved is that people start boycotting these talk shows and publicly protest against them. Another possible solution can be that the conscience of media persons suddenly wakes up and they bring an end to nonsense in their programs. Otherwise there is no hope and this media circus will keep on running. A minority will keep on filling its pockets and public will suffer as a result.

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