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Old Sunday, January 27, 2013
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Default New trends in Pakistani media

New trends in Pakistani media
By Sabih Mohsin

THE decade of the 1990s was of great importance in the history of the media in Pakistan. It was in this decade that the electronic media which had been a monopoly of the state since its inception was opened up to the private sector. This great measure created an environment for innovation and gave birth to a host of new trends in the Pakistani media.

Soon after that decision was taken, hundreds of radio stations and more than a hundred television channels began operating in Pakistan in the private sector. They began adopting strategies that they thought could bring to them more listeners or viewers. In this changed environment, the newspapers, too, had to review their own performance. That gave rise to some new trends in the functioning of the media on the whole.

One such trend related to the news coverage of crime incidents like dacoity, robbery, rape and kidnapping. Previously, news of this nature was never covered by the radio and the television in their news bulletins. English language newspapers, too, hardly accommodated stories pertaining to such crimes. It was only the Urdu press which used to report such happenings. However, these days stories of the rape of a girl in a remote area or of a dacoity in an urban locality are telecast in almost every news bulletin of every television channel.

Of course it can be argued that by doing so, the media was only discharging its responsibility to inform its viewers, in a more efficient and vigilant manner. But would not this projection of highly undesirable acts, result in more such crimes? This is a matter that needs to be investigated and adequately discussed. If necessary, some parameters can be determined for the media for covering this kind of incidents.

In Pakistan, radio remained for a long time a very effective and also the quickest means of communication and information. The arrival of television caused a big setback to it in terms of popularity. But after the private sector’s involvement, radio regained another life, though in a different shape. FM radio is now a very popular means of entertainment in the urban areas. In the rural areas, it is playing a significant role in providing vital information for agriculturists and also as a community broadcaster creating awareness about health and education.

Before the advent of private television channels, drama used to be the most popular programme of the state-run TV. It is not so now. One reason for this is the fact that drama is no longer purposeful. It now depicts superfluous issues like ‘saas bahu ka jhagra’. Another reason is the predominance of advertisements. In the past, the international practice of allocating only ten minutes’ ads in an hour’s programme, was strictly followed. The advertisement-hungry private TV channels have no respect for this principle. Consequently, the plays are interrupted at any point and for any duration, to accommodate ads, disturbing the tempo of the play and depriving it of suspense. All this has resulted in the demise of the TV drama.

As opposed to this, current affairs programmes have become very popular. The fame, acceptance and glamour that was once associated with drama artistes of the TV have now shifted towards the anchorpersons of these programmes. It appears that special care has been taken to have male and female anchorpersons in almost equal numbers. But some of the female hosts are known for their highly assertive style and for the thorough grilling that they give to their guests.

A much talked-about trend in the media is the freedom of expression that it is now supposed to be enjoying. Normally, the government does not appear to be applying restrictions on freedom of expression. Yet it is hard to believe that there are no pressures or incentives from other quarters such as political parties, stakeholders in various undertakings and the media owners themselves. That is why one sometimes feels that the so-called freedom of expression is being used to pull down a person holding a high office, while at other occasions it seems to have been employed to project a favourable image of a political family, party or a clan.

But the most deplorable trend is the highly inappropriate treatment meted out by the media to the national language, Urdu. There can be no doubt that Urdu possesses an extra-ordinary capacity for absorbing words from other languages. If ‘kaptan’ (captain) has been inducted from Latin, ‘neelam’ (auction) has been borrowed from Portuguese. But that has been done under a necessity and with the observance of certain principles. If words of English are inserted unnecessarily in an Urdu text, that can result only in a mutilation of Urdu language.

Unfortunately, it has become a common practice with the most reputed reporters and analysts of Urdu newspapers, to mingle English words in their Urdu texts even where familiar Urdu equivalents of those words are easily available. We often come across sentences like “In issues ko promote karne walon ko punishment milni chahie.” It is painful to see Urdu being disfigured in this manner in Urdu newspapers.

The same is true for TV channels. Capital Talk, Policy Matters, News Beat, Point Blank. Yes, these are the titles of current affairs programmes in Urdu. Amazing, isn’t it?

But it is not that good titles in Urdu cannot be worked out. Once there was a talk show on one of the television channels in the morning. It carried the title Bakhabar Sawera. That was meaningful and attractive indeed. But who would care to dig out such beautiful titles in Urdu when it is very well known that a mundane title in English would be readily acceptable to the TV management.
"Nay! man is evidence against himself. Though he puts forth his excuses." Holy Qur'an (75:14-15)
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