Electronic media: a chatterbox
Article 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan clearly states that “every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, and there shall be freedom of the press, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, commission of, or incitement to an offence and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that also guarantees the right to freedom of expression.”
But the question here is what does this freedom mean and what forms of expression are included in this word ‘freedom’ that need to be sorted out by PEMRA and Pakistan’s community of journalists?
We all know that talk shows in Pakistan have gained popularity over the past decade. Open, fast-paced conversations about political instability, economic issues, fashion trends, and social concerns have gained the approval of the viewers and resulted in high ratings for Television channels. It must be pointed out that within these channels every second anchor or commentator is associated with some political party or group with an agenda. They toe their lines, speak or shape things in favor of these groups absent any oversight from the federal government or PEMRA.
A total of about 20 to 40 personalities (religious and political) are repeatedly and routinely invited to TV shows. The vast majority of true professional experts serving the nation in different fields are neglected
Secondly, now even actors are turning to into news anchors. This is very disturbing for me and other professional journalists, as these disco-anchors don’t even know the basics regarding the ethics or standards of journalism. Unfortunately, these talk shows fail in their reformist and educational missions because their panellists are poorly informed and anchors are poorly prepared to deliver fruitful discussions. These talk shows select ridiculous subjects, rather discussing real issues that need to be covered.
Recently, I had a chance to tune in to some talk shows and I was quite upset when I saw the anchors’ stances regarding crucial issues. These pseudo anchors invite intolerable, hate-spewing extremists who tag themselves as modern intellectuals, following which they huff and puff, shout and scream and make big statements of patriotic fury.
Frankly it’s all like the tawdriest sort of drama. The trick of the story during the shows is to convert the television studio into a veritable circus with the anchor playing the part of a lion-tamer. In Pakistan this is considered the key methodology to enhance the ratings of a TV show.
All in all, a total of about 20 to 40 personalities (religious and political) are repeatedly and routinely invited to TV shows and neglect the vast majority of true professional experts serving the nation in different fields. Sadly, these days the media itself makes allegations against their peers and viewers are sick and tired of their dirty laundry being washed in public. They should know that these programs highlight their journalistic responsibility and ethics towards society, institutions and the country. One day these anchors will be seen praising Imran Khan, the next day they will be on the anti-Imran bandwagon.
My suggestion to PEMRA is that proper checks and balances should be maintained on programs which are used to settle personal vendettas and it should be made compulsory for every channel to follow set codes of conduct. Unfortunately, the media has no ethics or code of conduct. If any crime or ineffective work has been done then the footage of the whole scenario will be broadcasted on nearly every news channel again and again.
Tragic incidents are presented in a borderline pornographic manner without any concerns for media ethics. In the race for ratings the media fails to deliver quality information to the audience with facts and figures or fulfill it’s social or moral responsibility. This results in anarchy and false perceptions among the public towards important social issues. They ought to be fully aware of their duties and must consider this profession as a holy mission rather than a business. Pakistani media has boomed very quickly but it has a lot to learn.
Tragic incidents are presented in a borderline pornographic manner without any concern for ethics
Simple lessons regarding manners and the ethics won’t solve this serious problem. These well educated ladies and gentlemen must seriously ask themselves what the media should stand for and what they must represent to the people. Following this, my humble request to anchors of the TV shows Aisay Nahi Chalayga, HQ Debate and Khara Sach(among others) is to step back and leave journalism to the professionals. Either that or hostgame shows or work in fictional entertainment.
I would like to ask these so called anchors if they have ever done any investigations or research regarding the crises that Pakistan is faces these days. From electricity shortage to the rising unemployment rate. Why hasn’t a single show been organised on the education system in Pakistan? These anchors always talk on political affairs and personal vendettas, mostly highlighting the shortcomings of other anchors or politicians.
My advice to electronic media is to diversify their programmes. International channels show programmes on a wide variety of subjects; these include national and international news. On the other hand our TV channels present only a few anchors and hosts.