Make your own media: 3G or not, an alternative media is still a distant dream
KARACHI: Every day, a war rages on television screens and newspaper pages. This war is not of words; rather it is the constant struggle for higher ratings and more profits between different media houses.
A panel comprising journalists, media managers and a start-up guru concluded that the mainstream media has consistently failed to fulfill its real purpose – to inform and educate the audience.
The panellists at the ‘Make your own media’ session at The Second Floor on Saturday, comprised journalist Imran Shirvanee, the chairperson of the Karachi Institute of Technology and Entrepreneurship (KITE), Afaque Riaz Ahmed, former general manager of programming at CityFM89, Munizeh Sanai, managing editor at Carbonated TV, Sehrish Shaban, and freelance journalist Fahad Desmukh.
They discussed the idea whether independent and parallel media organisations could replace the mainstream media, especially with the emergence of 3G and 4G technology.
Ahmed contended that apart from content, it was vital that any such alternative media have a clear financial model and a means to monetise their content. “Most of the ideas are restrained by the ecosystem of finances, pragmatism or the market.”
His fellow panellist, Shirvanee, disagreed. The latter, who is currently working with the non-profit web-based DaesTv, contended that non-profit was a much better route. “Why do we need seths (owners) in the media?”
Desmukh hoped to move towards a hyper-local news setup which is run by and for a local community or neighbourhood. Its guerilla-like nature could keep costs to a minimum and focus on that which affects people most. “At most, what someone would be investing would be their time.” But how such an alternative media would compete with the mainstream, was the question on most people’s minds.
One of the issues that the panelists had with the mainstream media was that it was too focused on grabbing attention and profits and cared less about the audience. “We don’t pay for content, so why should we expect to see what we want,” Ahmed argued. “If you get money from the consumer, you will be indebted to them.”
He contended that he would like to see more educational content. “Majority of the people need to be educated about the basic functions of society.”
Sanai, who led the administrative side of the English-language radio station, City FM89, said that the Pakistani market was quite aspirational and that interaction was key. Pointing towards the success of the radio station, she remarked: “We wondered who would listen to an English language radio channel.”
“If you give people something they have never seen before, they would want it.”
Shaban pointed out viral content on the internet, including cat videos and GIFs. The reason behind their popularity was that they connected with people. “People tell their own stories best.”
Shirvanee added that the mainstream media, especially television, only tried to grab the public’s attention rather than inform them. “That is why they work with fast cuts: it grabs the attention of the people.”
“Attention is a good tool, but information is what they need.”
At the end, when the panel was pressed to present a mock model for an alternative organisation, they did present ideas for the kind of media they wanted. They failed, however, to produce out a mock monetisation plan.