Media Coming Under Fire

Jul 9th, 2010 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Media is coming under fire for its double standards, poor research, and ill-informed shouting matches. Dawn reports that the MPA were right to loudly criticise journalists for their reporting on the issue of degrees.

On Wednesday the Punjab MPAs rightly pointed out that the media needed to be careful in reporting on the subject — as it should be careful in its work generally. They were absolutely right in complaining that they are often singled out for flogging by the media while some others are considered too holy for criticism.

The Dawn editorial goes on to offer some relief to journalists, saying,

“…at least in this case, the media was not the principal investigator or the initiator. It can hardly be expected to not report what it sees, just as it is duty-bound to listen to the other side and report it fairly.”

But shouldn’t the media take care not to be used as a political weapon by operatives who are peddling information with a particular goal in mind.

Kill Your TVMeanwhile, in the Express Tribune today, Mahreen Aziz Khan roundly criticises the declining quality of TV talk shows.

With over 80 channels, the majority being so called “news” channels, the Pakistani viewers should be spoilt for choice. Except they are not. Far from it. Most of the “news” channels are miserably short on original content and high on opinion masquerading as reporting, bias dressed as analysis, and rabble rousing substituting for impassioned debate. The multiple political talk shows resemble clones of each other, with standardised sets and unoriginal formats for nightly shouting matches between the political egos that appear as guests. There are of course a couple of notable exceptions where solid research and in depth analysis are presented in an informative and intelligent manner. But, by and large, what is offered is an ungainly assortment of “anchors” browbeating their guests, who themselves are regulars, often appearing simultaneously on multiple channels thanks to pre-recording. The end game is to encourage, cajole or instigate by any means necessary, a cat fight amongst the handful of politicians offered up for the evening. With the majority of anchors gunning for the government of the day, the result is a shouting match — the television equivalent of a neighbourhood backyard argument laced with scurrilous allegations, name calling and low blows.

But Mahreen is not here to bury the media, but to save it. She points out quite eloquently that TV talk shows, by attempting to appeal to the ‘lowest common denominator’ of viewer are driving people away and reducing the quality of their programmes. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Okay it’s not all bad — yes the news/current affairs media has played a constructive role on some issues, most notably in the change in public opinion towards those who commit acts of terrorism on our soil. The self-imposed code of conduct has worked fairly well and stemmed the horrible trend of showing carnage and panic in the aftermath of tragedy, of sensationalising terror acts by adrenaline fuelled breaking news. But the electronic media is crucial for shaping public opinion on key issues, especially in a largely illiterate society and has a much greater duty. Yet the vast majority of these shows are compromising content quality to suit the lowest common denominator rather than raising standards and providing viewers with informed discussions.

I shall resist making appeals to sense of duty, since that has a poor track record for results. So let me exhort self-interest instead. Most news channels are losing ground and revenue due to the downward trend of viewership, so they should take action to avoid losses. Anchors are turning people away from the news/current affairs genre and losing audiences to entertainment — just witness the increase in TV drama productions and ratings in the past year. And, most of all, politicians are damaging their own (little remaining) credibility by taking part in these verbal brawls, so they need to take a stand by opting to not to appear on shows which openly disrespect and lower the tone of our political discourse. The viewers are already voting with their remote controls. They have had enough of this mindless media-ocrity.

Sadly, as long as the CEOs of giant media corporations continue to give more importance to the billions in advertising income that line their pockets rather than to the betterment of the nation and the people, it will be hard to convince some of them to do the right thing.

Perhaps these ‘media moguls’ will recognize the warning signs and take the advice offered to create quality programming that attracts viewers and helps better the country also.

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  1. Corporate plutocratic media, as a sole grand savior of the nationalism, sovereignty and morality, seems to be fomenting instability and despondency in the society. It is imposing and thrusting hard line teaching, eulogizing dictatorship and count demerits of democracy. The stories have been written and presented to provide only one dimensional approach, world view and restrict the other independent thought process of readers/viewers. Turning a blind eye towards these obscurantists tendencies might prove costly to the nation. Punjab Assembly has passed a resolution against Media for its double standard, ill approach towards issues. Punjab MPA’s were too right to criticize the black sheep in the media.

  2. Mostly, TV talk show hosts and Ziaist brand analysts i.e Irfan Sadique, Haroon Rashid, Ansar Abbasi, Kamran Khan and Shaheen Sehbai are seen to be duty bound to peddle anti American anti democracy conspiracy theories and bash parliamentarians. The right wing style media has been vociferously running stories of corruption, nepotism and malpractices of politicians and leaders in the parliament, and connect all these bogus stories to President Asif Ali Zardari.

    Pakistan Peoples Party’s government is portrayed by the media as too deferential to the United States. Several anchor persons exhaust all their energies in presenting the prejudice of US against the Pakistani nation. Pakistani journalists who unconditionally support their establishment started the campaign against Kerry Lugar Bill and coalesced anti-Western politicians, and Muslim fundamentalists — implausibly claiming that Pakistan’s sovereignty was undermined and the country could end up as a U.S. neo-colony.

  3. Pakistan’s liberal democrat community believe that federation, democracy and functional representative institutions at local, provincial and national levels are the only hope for survival. Good governance and accountability too deserve some serious attention by media. Therefore any debate in media must focus on democratic institutions, social issues and electoral process rather than campaign or propaganda against a few democratically elected civilian leaders.

    Our media is also duty bound to develop consensus on federation, liberal democratic values, moderation, constitutional-ism, enlightenment and reconciliation. It is very important in the present crises that media should promote democracy as a culture, mindset and a respect for representative institutes and civilian elected leaders rather than targeting personalities, which can affect our war against terrorism/extremism and negate the democratic process in Pakistan.

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