A FEW WORDS: The electronic media and general elections 2013 -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

A FEW WORDS: The electronic media and general elections 2013

Pakistan Press Foundation

The media houses created more hype than reality owing to which the PTI is now stunned at its below par electoral outcome in Punjab

The general elections of 2013 have laid bare the weaknesses of the electronic media especially pertaining to its commentator aspect. The results of the elections have shown that the number of seats being assigned to each political party (just a couple of days before the elections) by analysts (who used to appear on various TV talk shows or the TV election houses) was a grave miscalculation. Nevertheless, this problematic aspect is not without a history.

From 2002 to 2008, the burgeoning of the electronic media and the subsequent popularity of talk shows in viewers attracted several reporters (also from the print media) to become hosts (or anchor persons) of TV talk shows. However, from 2009 to date, a new phenomenon of transformation is evident: anchor persons are turning into analysts or commentators as well. This is their newly assumed two-pronged role. It means those who specialised (by virtue of their news item reporting experience) to become a question-asking engine has become now an answer-churning machine too. On one TV channel, a person is found acting as an anchorperson of a talk show while on another talk show (whether on the same TV channel or not), the same person is commentating on any given situation as a guest. This shift is more visible related to the matters on Afghanistan, Pak-US and Pak-India relations and now on general elections. The question is this: is there a dearth of political analysts in the country? There are dozens of universities of repute in Pakistan having political science departments, but hardly can a viewer find a professor of political science having been invited to comment on a given political scenario including predictions on the results of general elections.

The shift from a reporter to an anchorperson could have been appreciated if the anchorperson-turned-analyst had appeased the analytical and critical sense of viewers. The dark side of their monopoly to play an in-house commentating game got exposed when they started predicting the results of general elections 2013 by asking one another questions such as how many seats you assign to which political party.

Unfortunately, all the anchorpersons-cum-analysts failed miserably in doing sound analyses leading to any kind of cogent post-electoral prediction. Consequently, after the electoral results started appearing, all of them were dumbfounded, and perhaps flabbergasted at the emerging realities: first, why has the PTI’s tsunami not swept over Punjab and why has it confined to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; second, how can the ANP be wiped out at the central level; third, how has the PPP-P been reduced to Sindh; fourth, how has the PML-N got a two-third majority in Punjab; and fifth, how has the PML-N touched the simple majority bar in the Centre?

The electoral results have shown that the anchorpersons-cum-analysts were quite poor in analysing the (electoral) political situation. They mislead the viewers by their poor and misdirected analyses. There may be several reasons for that. First, almost all the anchorpersons-cum-analysts were overwhelmed by the word ‘change’ and started defining it as the emergence of new faces replacing the old ones. In that way, they ascribed the word ‘change’ to the successful appearance of the PTI in the Centre without realising the fact that the PTI shied away from appearing in any by-elections to weigh up its electoral strength. A party that was afraid of publicly assessing its electoral strength before a major electoral contest was considered to have the potential of defeating well-established political parties such as the PML-N. Second, almost all the anchorpersons-cum-analysts overlooked the factor of performance. That is, they failed to see that the underperformance of the PPP-P in the Centre while the performance of the PML-N in Punjab since 2008 can make them replace each other given the numeral strength of Punjab’s voters. In the same line of argument, the anchorpersons-cum-analysts could not fathom the importance of the absence of the late Benazir Bhutto and the significance of the presence of Nawaz Sharif in the political arena. It was the relative absence and presence of the political experience that also contributed to difference in the electoral outcome. Third, almost all the anchorpersons-cum-analysts were seemed to have driven emotionally towards one political party and against another.

It is not difficult to say that the PTI sentiment had penetrated ruthlessly the electronic media houses. The educated youth factor was common in both the PTI’s target population and the electronic media houses’ target employees. It is apparent that the educated employees of the media houses played their role in unnecessarily projecting the PTI’s agenda from their platforms while suppressing the rest and they created more hype than reality owing to which the PTI is now stunned at its below par electoral outcome in Punjab. Fourth, almost all the anchorpersons-cum-analysts were establishing a relationship between the high voter turnout and the win of the PTI. None could foresee the repercussions of the same relationship for other political parties. The reason for the same is that almost all anchorpersons-cum-analysts were biased in favour of the PTI and against the rest of the political parties. That is why none of them could analyse the post-election political situation in Pakistan as has been depicted by the results. On the ground, the higher voter turnout has benefited the PML-N more than any other political party. Fifth, whenever these anchorpersons-cum-analysts acted as only anchorpersons, they invited like-minded analysts who used to say the same, which was required by the host. Moreover, all of them (both the host and the guest) spoke from their preconceived notions, overlooked the ground realities and consequently made flawed analyses.

Interestingly, voters have proved that they are not affected by the analyses made by these analysts. Instead, they use their own mind to vote one political party in and the other out.

Source: Daily Times

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