Media, Research, and Ratings

Jun 2nd, 2012 | By | Category: Ethics

Reporting on the international ‘Media Agenda 2012’ conference at the Arts Council in Karachi this week, Shazia Hasan notes important advice from senior journalist and broadcaster Wusatullah Khan:

“Even though the channel is on for 24 hours there isn’t as much news to give during such a lengthy period. So we have talk shows. With their simple sets, software and on the spot planning, talk shows are the cheapest way to entertain the audience and get advertisements,” he said.

“Then the programmes are repeated three times in 24 hours, making stars out of the talk show hosts. There are hosts who have become stars in the West, too, such as Tim Sebastian, Larry King and Oprah Winfrey, but they work hard on doing research on their subjects before going on air,” he said.

“So I suggest that you work hard on your research and I promise you that your ratings won’t go down,” he pointed out.

Sensationalism and conspiracy theories are like the empty calories of sugary snacks – they give a quick energy boost, but over time cause rot and nutrient deficiency. Well researched and informative programming does not have to be boring and unsuccessful, either, as shown by the number of international talk show hosts who thrive by providing well-researched and informative topics.

Another interesting point was raised by senior journalist Qaiser Mahmood, who explained why most ratings are actually meaningless anyway:

“[Ratings] meters were supposed to be placed with one per cent of the population but here we only have 5,000 meters. “And these meters, too, are spread over nine cities in three provinces. There are no meters in Balochistan,” he disclosed.”

Not only can well researched programmes uplift an anchor to celebrity status, but those chasing ratings in Pakistan today are actually chasing an illusion, it seems, since ratings are not properly measured anyway.

It is encouraging to read in Shazia Hasan’s report the list of prominent journalists in attendance at the conference, giving hope that the advice of these senior journalists will be taken to heart by their juniors whose ambition may tempt them to take short cuts in their research.

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