Media and Nation Building
There is something very seriously wrong with our television media. Our private channels barring an odd one or two, appear to be oblivious of editorial sagacity in context of what to air and what not to say. This statement has nothing to do with freedom of journalism for I am a very ardent supporter of this notion. My comment is pinpointing the lack of wisdom in understanding the extent of damage that words, images and opinion can do in terms of national image and the prevailing security environment.
Talk shows are popular with viewers and fetch ratings, but our hosts lack the ability to satisfactorily conclude threads through tough follow up questions. This leaves the subject in limbo, providing the guests with an easy way out from issues. This state of limbo (read frustration) is exacerbated, when hosts fail to sum up the thread comprehensively.
Our news broadcasts have their failings. The news anchor gets a beeper from a reporter and then begins a series of questions that is to say the least, lacking finesse. It appears as if the news studio has a time slot that needs to be filled at all costs, even it involves repetitive and what is often irrelevant questioning. The newscasters often mispronounce words and the tickers running at the bottom of the screen are not checked for errors, which shows lack of research and background information related to both scripting and broadcasting news content.
Another trend that has erupted during the past few years is shows that feature reconstructions of crimes and violence. The effects of such shows (which continue with no letting up because they must be fetching good ratings) on young minds is a point that can best be commented upon by psychologists. My verdict on such programs is that they are liable to generate more negative than positive effects on the national psyche.
Some experts say that a nation’s mood is reflected through media trends – even in the entertainment category. Perhaps that is the reason why a vast majority of serialized plays on our television channels are tear jerkers, full of social intrigues and even morbid. There is however a counter expert view, one that has my support. This is that when nations are faced with serious problems directly effecting national morale, then it is critically necessary to raise that morale through carefully designed software (a media term for content) to infuse courage, renew energy and create the ability to laugh at adversity.
Perhaps it is time that media channel owners begin administering this medicine to the people of Pakistan. I must however laud the contribution of radio, particularly the FM Radio industry, whose upbeat sound and rhythm does what television should be doing.
We have in the last couple of years witnessed the rise of social media platforms as very potent force multipliers and perception makers. The reasons for this is simple – these platforms are readily accessible on mobile phones and used extensively by the dynamic social age group between fourteen to forty years. Proliferation of information on this network is unbelievably rapid as is the response. It is therefore being used extensively to create pressure groups and for lobbying purposes. The flip side of this form of media is its misuse, dictating the need for incorporating ethical use of social media platforms in school curriculums.
The bottom line of this week’s piece is that media in Pakistan needs to learn from how this important ‘pillar of state’ is functioning in successful states, to further national interest and lay the foundations of an ethical society. Media owners need to understand that the powerful tool in their hands is not only about generating revenue, but has a more critical and important function to perform, which is nation-building. For the stronger we are as a nation, the harder it will be to destroy or damage us.