January, 2019

Wedding Vibes

By Javed Ansari

It looks like everyone is getting married in India. ‘Everyone’ of course denotes everyone who is someone. It was Deepika Padukone who started it all. She made it known that she was going to marry Ranveer Singh. The latter gentleman, it turned out, was all for it. And they got married in style – in Italy. Then Priyanka Chopra joined the bandwagon and she disclosed her intentions to marry American musician Nick Jonas. She is 36 and he is 26. But did it matter? The wedding announcement was a surprise for many because a lot of those young and smart Indian men who had been counting on winning Priyanka’s hand had finally given up on her because it was generally believed that the Indian screen bombshell cared more about her career than getting married – even though she was getting on in years. But Priyanka did play a trick on her Indian suitors when she chose Nick Jonas – a gora!


Right-siding The Media

The PTI government has introduced a new policy for newspaper, TV and digital advertising. Now all government advertisements will be handled by the Press Information Department (PID). All ministries, divisions and corporations under the federal government will now only be able to release advertisements through the PID. No political party will release advertisements using public funds. It has also been disclosed that now PEMRA will decide which agency to use to calculate ratings of TV channels. The new policy, which is said to be in the draft stages, will serve to regulate advertisements that the government releases to media outlets.

Under the policy, the PID will be provided budgets of all ad campaigns and will determine the newspapers and TV channels to which ads will be released. The new policy will also offer guidelines for online and social media advertising. It has been made clear that public funds will not be used for release of any advertisements. This would mean no political party in power or any member of a party or even the parliament would be able to manipulate advertising.

The policy would put a stop to the liberal manner in which public funds were being used in the recent past by the political parties in power and their leaders were promoted at government expense. However, there has also been a sudden escalation in the crisis that Pakistan’s print and electronic are already facing. The crisis was always in the making because the size of the private broadcasting sector in Pakistan has really grown out of proportions. The country does not need so many TV channels or so many newspapers. All that these media outlets were doing were using their clout to get benefits for the owners’ other commercial interests. As a result, their workers were always suffering.

Many print outlets have either shut down or have reduced their pages. The TV channels have put across a brave face but there have also been resignations and sackings in the channels, while wages of workers are being reduced and constantly delayed. The media outlets have become losing business propositions because they were used to surviving on government advertising. There will come a time soon when most of these outlets, especially the TV channels, will choose to close down because they would not be backed by the kind of advertising budgets necessary for their survival – or the high salaries they were paying to some of their senior people. The good thing is that the government is not a loser in this equation. If the private TV sector does not remain an attractive commercial proposition anymore and channels begin closing down, PTV will continue to exist, all the more because it has a powerful presence across the country in terms of a network which is matched by no channel in the private sector.

The media is already playing a losing game in developing countries. In many, the consumer market is quite small for so many outlets. Consequently, government advertising revenue and cross-subsidies from other businesses run by media owners fill in the shortfall. In Pakistan’s case, the wage structures need to be rationalized and the number of channels drastically reduced. In any event, the activity of news information, cultural coverage and a more socially relevant approach in terms of drama production needs to be adopted to serve Pakistan’s national needs instead of pursuing a copy-cat approach that does nothing for national needs and is only a short-cut.

The internet is also making a pervasive entry into society and the speedy growth of broadband connectivity is gradually rendering conventional media obsolete. Now both news and entertainment is ‘on-demand’ – and it is right there in a person’s palm. It is YouTube and Facebook that now rule the roost and articles and opinion pieces in newspapers are mostly read by the older generation. It is also true that all that private sector TV channels produce is news and current affairs content (which is most of the time ‘breaking news’), besides their hysterical news anchors and the catfights in their talk shows. Good drama, music and comedy have no place in their programme fare. They don’t even care to cover sports and leave it to PTV to do the needful.

The private channels also fail to depict Pakistan’s soft image or to tell a positive story. All that their programming has are stories of rape, murder, robberies, road accidents and the rest. It is as if nothing else happens in Pakistan and this very negative image is what goes to the world. This creates a feeling of despair in overseas Pakistanis while the enemies of Pakistan exploit such coverage to damage Pakistan’s image. It is good that Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government realize this and are taking steps in the right direction.


President & Editor-In-Chief:
Syed Jawaid Iqbal

Business Unit Head
Syed Ovais Akhtar

Javed Ansari

Assistant Editors:
Syeda Areeba Rasheed Faizan Usmani

Editorial Team:
Faisal Siddiqi
Sumair Aftab
Sidra Ayub
Kashif Ali
Mansoor Abbas
Kiran Farooq
Nuzair A. Virani

Layout & Graphics:
Haroon Rasheed
Kamran Ghulam Nabi
Riaz Masih

  Circulation & Coordination
Aqam-ud-Din Khan

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