April, 2019

All About Memes

Dutch fashion house Viktor&Rolf came up with their Spring 2019 Collection titled ‘Fashion Statements’ (where?) The designers Victor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren showed the power of clothing with their dresses. Each dress had a definite mood and a social media reaction waiting to be posted. Some eight kilometres of tulles were needed to make the entire collection that was showcased in the haute couture schedule in Paris.


The Turmoil in Media

The keyword in the media these days is ‘rightsizing’. From camerapersons to producers to programme hosts — everyone’s job is on the line. Bureau offices have been particularly vulnerable to the campaign to cut expenses with many shutting down, rendering hundreds without work. The devastation caused by plunging government and commercial advertising is real and substantial, and not limited to news TV networks alone. The bubble, it appears, has finally burst. TV channels were always supposed to fizzle out post-boom, only the fittest among them surviving. But the crisis is not limited to the channels, of which the experts say Pakistan has too many. The newspaper industry has its own demons to overcome. Watching resignedly as companies took a substantial portion of their media spend from print to their digital platforms to reach out to their target markets, the good old trusted newspaper is faced with a mortal threat as incomes fall drastically.
Thus starved of resources, newspapers and magazines have shed pages and created redundancies of their own. Some are finding it hard to pay salaries to their retained employees, contributing to the unrest and the increasingly vocal protest among journalists and other workers in the industry.

Job loss estimates in television and newspapers vary. Much has been said about how the current crisis is linked with the ascent of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who emerged on top in the midst of a badly polarized media. However, some sombre, less emotional versions say the difficulties predate Prime Minister Khan. What has happened is that the government decision to sharply slash media spends and its refusal to clear outstanding payments to TV channels and newspapers, on account of advertisements released by the previous PML-N administration, intensified the trouble. The government is said to cut its media spend by more than 70 per cent. Indeed, the federal and provincial governments, especially of Punjab and Sindh, in recent years heavily spent their way into the list of top 10 print media advertisers along with commercial banks, telcos, real estate developers, FMCG firms, food companies, etc. Industry sources claim that advertising spend of both federal and provincial governments contributed the lion’s share to the incomes of TV channels in the last few years, but its exact size is difficult to calculate. The total advertising spend is ‘assumed’ to have grown at a reasonable rate over the last few years but the market remains significantly small given the number of media sources claiming their share from the pie.

The keyword in the media these days is ‘rightsizing’ since everyone’s job is on the line. Many news industry analysts argue that if the PML-N used government advertising to ‘bribe’ channels and newspapers, the PTI is employing the same tool to muzzle them. In recent months, the state and its different organs have brought pressure on media owners to put them on the mat. Public sector advertisements that contribute 22-23pc to the total media revenue are being used to impose the government’s own agenda on the media. It is said the present crisis was long overdue because of mushroom growth in the television industry. Because media consumers aren’t ready to pay for the content, the owners have built organizations that mainly depend on government and commercial advertisement revenue for sustenance. Reliance on the government increases when the economy is not performing. This is a fragile business model. Little wonder if governments take advantage of this fragility to control the content produced and gag free expression.

Whatever little fee consumers pay to watch more than 100 channels at home goes to the distributors instead of content producers. Similarly, up to 40pc of the cost of a newspaper is pocketed by hawkers-distributors and another 10-20pc is lost in bad debts and unrecovered costs. While the television industry gets nothing from distributors, newspapers recover only a small fraction of their cost from sales. It is also thought that the rise of the internet and emergence of new means for advertisers to reach their target audience has diverted advertisements from the conventional TV and print media. The size of the advertising spend has increased over the years, but so has the number of claimants. The competition for advertising income has increased sharply. Some principles it seems remain unchanged, even when the ‘turmoil’ has taken away many jobs and left everyone else in the media insecure.


President & Editor-In-Chief:
Syed Jawaid Iqbal

Javed Ansari

Assistant Editors:
Syeda Areeba Rasheed Faizan Usmani

Editorial Executive
Noor Javed Sadiq

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

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Riaz Masih


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Syed Ovais Akhtar

Production & Coordination
Aqam-ud-Din Khan

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Shehryar Zulfiqar

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