March, 2018

Women Should Matter

By Ahmed Affan

In what was once a game that was the very epitome of fair play, there is now an inherent tilt towards the other side. In cricket, the dice is clearly loaded against the bowlers compared to those who face them from 22 yards away. Now, with the advent of T-20 cricket, the bats are getting heavier and the grounds are getting smaller. This helps generate the kind of thrills among spectators and television audiences alike and that means more eyeballs which translates into more advertising revenue. Everyone is a winner in this game.
The Pakistan Super League (PSL), though a new entrant into T20 league cricket, is also such a winner. It has attracted the attention of the public, the patronage of media networks and the support of advertisers because it offers what the people want.

The Business of TV Anchoring

The role of the TV anchor came to the fore at the beginning of the last decade when media in Pakistan was liberated and the opportunity arose for many new channels to emerge. Before this, only PTV could disseminate news (always the government version) and this was done by newsreaders who would simply appear on the TV screen at a fixed time and read off a news bulletin in a straight-faced manner. Some of them were the same people who had earlier been reading news at Radio Pakistan.

When the new TV channels came on the scene, they changed all that and while hard news was in most cases limited to someone reading out chosen headlines, a new breed of ‘TV anchors’ was also born. These TV anchors ventured to go ‘behind’ the news and presented their own interpretations and analyses of the news of the day. Unlike other countries, where the news anchor was only required to present news in a more casual and conversational style, the Pakistani breed of news anchors would also invite ‘guests’ to their programmes and analyze the news from different perspectives. Generally, the guests were also well-known people so that whatever they said carried weight though it did not matter whether their argument was in favour of the news at hand or against. Perhaps, in the choice of these analysts, what mattered most and matters to this day is the policy of the news channel. It has also become customary to invite guests representing both sides of the divide. For instance, while one guest is known to oppose government policy, another belongs to the ruling party and is all for the government point of view while a third one plays a somewhat neutral role.

This is all very good and the format goes much beyond simply presenting the news as it occurs and ventures to talk about the ’ifs’ and ‘buts’ of the news. In this manner, it unravels interesting points of view of people either with independent opinions or people who conform to one or the other aspect of the issue. However, the process has given rise to two crucial developments. One, many people have become ‘experts’ whereas their views were of no consequence earlier and they were not identified with any particular line of thinking. Two, a new class of ‘news anchors’ has emerged – so-called professionals - who never existed before. Many of these anchors were practicing journalists before they came to TV or had, otherwise, a good understanding of national affairs and Pakistan’s problems. But many more of these ladies and gentlemen have simply been thrust the job of anchoring on their shoulders. The result is that instead of competent news analysis and displaying an educated understanding of their roles, they simply like to bask in the glory of their jobs and, it seems, their daily appearance on the TV screen is a kind of joyride that they not only simply relish but also get paid handsomely for.

Some of these people are good at what they do while others are simply ‘faces’ of their respective channels who toe the line fed by their managements and have nothing much else to contribute on their own. The better ones among the lot are people like Nadia Naqi, Kamran Khan, Moeed Pirzada, Talat Hussain, Mubashir Rana, Asma Shirazi, Nasim Zehra, Shahzeb Khanzada, Shahid Masood, Rabia Anum and Javed Chaudhry. It seems they do their homework right and uncover those aspects of the developing news that may have missed public attention. Of them, while Kamran Khan is a seasoned journalist and has a very good understanding of issues, he continuously irritates the viewer by cutting into whatever his guest is saying. His presentation style is also very high-pitched and leads the viewer to believe that whatever he is talking about is all very sensational. Shahid Masood, it seems, has the job of constantly expanding a small bit of real news like an elastic band, with the result that he keeps on repeating himself and his arguments are hardly conclusive. The analysis by Moeed Pirzada, Talat Hussain, Asma Shirazi and Javed Chaudry is well-informed and quite balanced.

Then there are other so-called anchors who it seems treat anchoring simply as any job and do not have much to contribute on their own. One person who leads the pack is Hamid Mir who simply lets his guests express their opinions and, it seems, derives some kind of a pleasure when people with opposing views fight like cats and dogs in his programme. Then there is Kamran Shahid who has this affable habit of frequently laughing in his show though sometimes it seems as if he is making fun of the guest or the person whose beep he is taking.

There is constant demand for TV reporters to undergo some kind of training so that they develop a better understanding of working for television. Perhaps it would be useful for TV anchors too to take training so that they can do greater justice to their jobs.


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