PROVIDED the government comes up with the requisite funding, a new Pushto TV channel by the name of Abaseen TV is set to be launched by the end of the year, a report in this paper says.
A PTV project, the channel has been on the drawing board for the past five years, the rationale for its existence being that since the Taliban are using satellite TV to spread their propaganda, the state has to fight back with a Pushto channel of its own.
However, there are a few issues that need to be considered. Firstly, official media has credibility issues, as people take what is broadcast on official channels with a grain of salt. Ideally, countering extremist propaganda is best left to the independent media, which enjoys a better standing with the public. Also, in this particular case, the dynamics of the target region need to be considered: Fata and those parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the state wants to target have very little terrestrial TV penetration, with cable`s presence even less. Here it is radio that rules, and perhaps that`s where the state`s attention should be focused.
One recalls the `radio insurgency` carried out not too long ago by militant mullahs using crude FM transmitters. There were at one time nearly 150 pirate FM stations in operation. But far from playing Top 40 hits or hosting peppy talk shows, most of the stations were used as platforms for anti-state propaganda and the preaching of extremist ideology.
Until 2009, Mullah Fazlullah, better known as `Mullah Radio`, was something of an FM personality in Taliban-ruled Swat, while recent reports indicate that militant commander Faqir Mohammad has resumed radio broadcasts, reportedly from Afghanistan. Perhaps the state should concentrate on preventing these extremist radio stars from starting up again and ensuring that the airwaves are not misused to spread hate.