Madiha GHAFFAR, MA
Abstract. Emerging trends and technological expansion in global communication system have potentially increased the significance of Media. It has emerged as one of the most influential tools of communication, holds immense significance in the daily life of humans across the globe. Pakistan, having a vibrant media landscape ranks amongst the most dynamic in South Asia. Media industry of Pakistan plays a pivotal role in nation-building. This vibrant media is in fact a manifestation of the core values enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan that calls for the formation of a democratic society based on the fundamental principles of human rights. This paper analyzes the historical perspective of media industry in Pakistan. It specifically highlights the role played by media in socio-political development of Pakistan during the last decade. Furthermore, the paper also assesses the measures taken by Pakistan’s Media industry in terms of promoting the true image of the country.
MEDIA INDUSTRY OF PAKISTAN: ORIGINS
In the 21st century, the growing technological advancements in the global communication system have enhanced the significance of Media for any society. Consequently, media has emerged not only as a powerful tool of communication but has also assumed immense significance for our daily human life as well. Today, media, in its different forms and variations, serves as an essential tool for disseminating information, as well as projecting narratives at individual, system and state level. As the fourth pillar of democracy, along with the judiciary, executive and legislature, media also makes an important contribution towards raising voice against the injustice and discrimination; illegalities and criminalities; societal immoralities and suppression respectively. Resultantly, media plays a pivotal role in terms of nation-building as well as bringing about a societal transformation through preservation of national identity, patriotism and national cohesion.
In Pakistan, all the forms and manifestations of media including print, electronic and social media have witnessed tremendous growth and evolution over the past seven decades. Though a comparatively young media industry, Pakistani media prides itself today in having made commendable progress in terms of maintaining high standards as compared to its much larger competitors in the region.
The media in Pakistan dates back to pre-partition years of British India. The newspaper “Dawn”, founded by Quaid-e-Azam and first published in 1941, was dedicated to countering “anti-Muslim propaganda” and promoting an independent Pakistan. The conservative newspaper, “Nawa-e-Waqt”, established in 1940, was the mouthpiece of the Muslim elites who were among the strongest supporters for an independent Pakistan. In a sense, Pakistani print media came into existence with a mission to promulgate the idea of Pakistan, which was seen as the best national option for the Muslim minority in British India and as a form of self-defense against suppression from the Hindu majority.
At its advent in Pakistan over five decades ago, the electronic media in the country had a very purposeful mandate of serving as a tool for raising awareness in the young nation on its rich history and culture as well as inculcating education on different issues in the people. Launched on 14 August 1947, Radio Pakistan started with the national Mission of raising awareness among the masses and bringing to their doorsteps all the events happening around them through radio frequency. Till date, Radio Pakistan continues with its Objective to serve as a “credible and effective medium to promote Pakistan as an enlightened and progressive Islamic country both at home and abroad”. Radio Pakistan has played an important role in binding the nation together in critical historical junctures and has always risen to the occasion by enthusing the spirit of patriotism and national responsibility within the people of Pakistan through its multi-lingual outreach. Its extensive coverage reaches out to 98% of Pakistan’s population and 80% of the country’s total area.
Conceived as early as 1956 and formally launched in 1964, Pakistan Television (PTV), the state-owned TV channel has been serving the nation for over five decades now and is aimed at informing and educating the people of Pakistan through the medium of infotainment. This is evident from the thematic orientation of the programmers of the State television of the country (Pakistan Television or PTV) whose telecasts have remained guided by the fundamental principle of inducing a moral based value system within the nation, guided by the country’s rich tradition and value system. The core theme of the broadcasts of PTV has therefore remained oriented towards instituting and promoting a society based on strong family values.
Pakistan film Industry is also one of the largest in South Asia. Dating back to 1930, the first Pakistani film after independence was produced in 1948. Ever since over 10,000 films have been produced in the country. Pakistan Film Industry has played an important role in raising social awareness among the people of the country. Pakistan Film Industry witnessed a rough patch between during the past 2-3 decades but finally started revitalizing since late 2000s. Today, Pakistan Film Industry has recovered from its downward trend with young directors and producers having entered this industry.
CURRENT STATE OF ELECTRONIC MEDIA IN PAKISTAN
Over the last two decades, Pakistan’s electronic media industry has evolved and a large number of private sector owned news and entertainment channels are now airing their telecasts. With these channels, the electronic media industry in Pakistan has witnessed a new stage of its evolution. In the following lines, we examine the current state of the electronic media dynamics in Pakistan.
Today, Pakistan has a vibrant media landscape which is amongst the most dynamic in South Asia. To a large extent, the media enjoys the freedom of expression in the country as well. More than 40 television channels beam different genres of broadcasts including soaps, satirical, musical, religious and political shows in addition to round-the-clock news. Although sometimes criticized for being unprofessional and politically biased, in general, the television channels have made a great contribution towards the media landscape of Pakistan.
Today, besides the state-owned Radio Pakistan, there exist a number of private radio channels in the country that serve as an important source of information for people especially in the rural areas. The predominant content of these radio channels is however premised on music and entertainment.
At present, there also exist hundreds of Pakistani newspapers ranging from the large national Urdu and English newspapers to the small local vernacular papers. Urdu media are mostly consumed by the rural population. The English media essentially targets urban segments of the society. English print, television, and radio channels have far smaller audience than their Urdu counterparts. However, these media outlets have greater leverage among opinion makers, politicians, business community, and upper strata of society.
Pakistani media has served as an important tool of accountability and surveillance during the times of natural disasters and calamities. During the Earthquake of 2005, the media played a significant role in highlighting catastrophic losses ensued by this calamity. Resultantly, efficient response from international actors came into play which enabled swift rehabilitation measures of the affected region.
The manner in which media in Pakistan has played an important role in highlighting important challenges confronting Pakistan and taking the lead in getting these issues to their conclusion is manifested through for instance, the recent Panama Case. Thus, it depicts that media is contributing not only to highlight social issues but also helps in finding out plausible solutions.
Notwithstanding the remarkable achievements, Pakistani media is still faced with its own unique challenges pertaining to correct reporting and transparency just like any of its counterparts around the world. It is therefore pertinent to mention that the media industry in Pakistan should adopt a more transparent mechanism through abiding by the rules and regulations. Media is a mirror image of the entire society and it is therefore an utmost obligation of media to reflect the true image of the country to the whole world.
REFORMING THE MEDIA INDUSTRY
In recent years, social media has gradually emerged as a force multiplier especially in terms of framing perceptions around the world owing to its readily accessibility and extensive usage by the wide brand of age groups. The proliferation of information on this network is remarkably rapid. It is, therefore, being used extensively for lobbying purposes as well as to create pressure groups. The flip side of this form of media is its misuse, which necessitates the incorporation of ethical use of social media platforms in school curriculums.
The rise of social media in Pakistan has been phenomenal. Although, Internet was launched in Pakistan as early as 1992 only, Pakistan’s social media industry has never witnessed a downward slope. Pakistan’s social media has come with its own challenges of socio-political as well security-related character. However, Government of Pakistan through its effective legislation related to cyber crime etc. has been effectively countering these challenges.
PROMOTION OF DEMOCRATIC VALUES
With the evolution of electronic and social media in Pakistan, various democratic values have improved in the country. As democracy involves the voice of every citizen of the state in important affairs, the inputs from the citizens in national affairs have become more refined and matured after the social and electronic media revolution in Pakistan.
ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORTS
During the past decades, Pakistan did not have enough sports channels to promote various local as well as national games. However, after the media revolution, various sports channels have been launched in the country to promote sports in the country. These sports channels have contributed towards promoting such popular games as Cricket, Football, and Hockey, etc. in the country.
Pakistan Media Industry has played a vital role in terms of our nation-building. However, there still remains a need for them to get further learning as to how, the country’s national interest could be best safe-guarded. Media owners need to understand that this powerful tool in their hands is not only about generating revenue, but has a more important and critical function to perform. This is important for a stronger and vibrant Pakistan as well.
Pakistan is at a turning point in its history. Unlike previously unsuccessful transitions to democracy, this transition is characterized by the presence of a newly liberalized and free mass media. This can prove to make a crucial, positive difference. Pakistani journalists have demonstrated an unprecedented ability to act as catalysts in civil society efforts to strengthen democracy. The media has indeed become one of the positive signs indicating a better future for the Pakistani state and citizens. There is therefore also a need to develop public trust in the media by enabling it to become free, independent and unbiased. It is also important to develop a reformed regulatory framework that addresses the concerns of media, public and the State for nation-building.