May, 2018
 
   
 
 

Javed Jabbar – A Man of Many Facets

By Javed Ansari

She is the only woman in South Asia to be the president of a television network. Sultana Siddiqui started her journey at PTV as a broadcaster and then as a producer. Today, she is President of the Hum Network – a group of private channels - and recipient of many national and international awards. Her television network was ranked among the top 25 companies of the Pakistan Stock Exchange in 2010.
It’s been a long journey of some 40 years for Sultana Siddiqui. There were not many women working for Pakistan Television in the days when Sultana Siddiqui was there. She started producing plays in Sindhi in the beginning. Probably that wasn’t enough for her so she branched out into producing Urdu plays to reach a wider audience. That fired her imagination further and she honed her directorial skills. PTV was the only TV channel until then, with a bit of NTM thrown in, in the nineties, so the opportunities were limited.
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Where is the Entertainment?

According to one rough estimate, there are over a hundred TV channels currently broadcasting in Pakistan. These mostly comprise news and current affairs channels but it is unfortunate that no Pakistani TV channel stands out as purely an entertainment outlet except Hum TV that focuses on drama and a couple of sports channels. For the most part, the concept of TV entertainment appears to be just news and current affairs.

It looks like the Pakistani nation is scared of entertaining itself. From the way it appears, everyone is keyed into news to know what the politicians, the judiciary or the bureaucrats are saying. Pakistan has become a nation that feeds on news of rape, murder, accidents, kidnapping and the rest of it – and enjoys the fare. Everyone watches TV because reading is something that Pakistanis shy away from. Pakistan’s literacy level is pretty low but even those who can read prefer to watch TV rather than lose themselves in a book or newspaper. That is why the print medium in the country is down in the dumps while TV channels draw audiences in droves. TV programmes are the subject of conversation everywhere while there are very few people who quote from a book or article they may have read. As it is, people who write for the print media are unknown entities while those who appear on TV are celebrities.

In one recent example, there was a new TV channel that was ready to go on air but all that it was waiting for was a person to join it on the basis of his or her known face. Once that happened, the channel planned to go ahead and make waves by projecting the person as its flagship face. This is also what is happening on channels that are already on air. They are known not by their brand name as much as by the face that represents the channel and conducts the main programme. Someone the other day remarked that the main source of entertainment for Pakistanis is eating out, considering the crowds that one encounters at eateries of every class and description on every day of the week. However, the other most popular source of entertainment for the people of Pakistan, especially in the cities, is watching TV news. People do not prefer to be entertained by entertainment but by news – fake or otherwise. TV news is presented to the accompaniment of sound effects that are so loud that they tend to smother the voice of the news presenter. The producer and his team also do tireless research on which film song (preferably Indian) will go with which news. All this is aimed at entertaining the TV audience and as far as the news content is concerned, who cares!

Watching an anchor presenting his or her point of view at a high pitch is really savoured. If an anchor laughs and makes fun of the person being interviewed in the studio or on a beeper, the pleasure of the audience is further enhanced. Some channels have beautiful female faces to do their anchoring and this too is enjoyed. The male audience admires the pretty face while the females envy the lady’s fashion sense and make-up style. There is also a lot of entertainment to be derived from the cat and dog fights that occur during panel discussions on news channels. The louder the noise level in such programmes, the higher the channel’s ratings. In fact, news producers at certain channels are even known to brief certain participants to raise their voices beyond acceptable levels so that an element of enjoyment is created for the watching public. In some instances, the anchors let the fight continue at the cost of rendering what is being said as inaudible because what comes across is just noise and nothing can be made out of what each individual is saying.
On other occasions, the anchor, who normally plays the role of a referee, announces the usual ‘short-break’ so that frayed tempers can be cooled down. Many times certain participants are known to have tugged away their collar mike and walked out of the fight because they could not take it anymore. As far as the channel is concerned, all this is ‘entertainment’ and the rating agencies drive the channel many notches up because this kind of thing attracts more eyeballs. The outcome is more advertising and more earnings for the channel. If the audience is entertained in the bargain, so much the better.
But where is the real entertainment – the music, the comedy, the quiz shows and the rest? Some channels run comedy shows but these too are centered around certain personalities and if there is any comedy forthcoming, it is purely accidental. As for music, many channels take to broadcasting Indian songs but if Pakistan has any music talent, it is nowhere to be seen except in the Coke Studio season.

   

 
 
 
     
 
     
     
     
 
 
     
   
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Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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Editor:
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Khawaja Amer

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Faisal Siddiqi
Sumair Aftab
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Riaz Masih

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The views expressed by the contributors are not necessarily shared by the editor.
 
 
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