‘Rapid changes in social media may break 30-year media evolution cycle’
There seems to be a 30-year cycle in the evolution of the media in the world. In 1920 radio became popular across the globe and then television rose to fame in 1950. By the mid 80’s live satellite TV got the world’s attention. In December 2009 came Facebook, which also changed the dynamics of the media industry.
It is roughly a 30-year cycle, according to senior journalist Fahd Hussain, which changes the scenario of the media throughout the world. This time, however, it won’t be a 30-year cycle due to rapid changes happening in social media, he said.
He was addressing an international conference titled ‘Role of Media in Poverty Alleviation and Promoting Social Justice’ that ended on Tuesday at the Bahria University Karachi Campus.
Organised by the Department of Media Studies of the university, the two-day event was organised in collaboration with the Association of Media & Communication Academic Professionals.
The title of Hussain’s session was ‘Information and Communication Technologies: The Pull String for Developing Countries’. As a journalist, he said, today we need three important things: something to say, tools with which you can say or write, and a platform to do that.
He also said the television provided a platform and invested billions of rupees in the form of human and infrastructure capital, adding that cameras, DSNG vans, live sources were purchased.
“All of this has been squeezed into a mobile phone,” he said, adding that on a mobile phone we can record a video, edit it and even go live. “What happened to journalism meanwhile?” he asked, and answered that the revenue model was affected at a large scale.
The traditional revenue model of journalism, he said, is at risk globally, but not the revenue model of the entire media, because online movie streaming websites such as Netflix still earn and have their own revenue streams. The crisis is not limited to the revenue model, but now it is a question of existence of journalism, he added.
He asked how many of the people in attendance thought that the media was playing a negative role in society, and almost all of them answered in the affirmative.
The existential threat, according to him, is because the media is believed to have been playing a negative role and everyone has now become a journalist. It needs to be determined that “if the need of journalism within society collapses, what will its repercussions be”.
Senior journalist Mubashir Zaidi’s session was titled ‘Media Ethics in Reporting Economic Crisis and Social Injustice’. He shared with the people in attendance how the basic right of access to information is missing for reporters in Pakistan. “They have to make double efforts.”
He said the media turned from electronic to digital, which is more of an urban phenomenon. As for the free independent media, he added, if they exist in Pakistan, they try to challenge those who cannot be challenged.
The journalists who talk about rights and democracy are labelled as human rights activists, and not called journalists. “The media have sort of surrendered their independence.”
Regarding the financial crisis of the news industry, Geo News anchorman Muhammad Junaid pointed out that news channels are not running on the economy of Norway or Denmark.
He said that generally, the news industry is blamed for its own past actions for the crisis it is going through, but a similar crisis is also being faced by other sectors of the economy, such as the auto industry. He, however, did not rule out the negative role the media had played over the years in society.
Journalist Kashif Hussain shared his experience of reporting on Karachi’s economy. He said that generally, no one stops you in the country if you try to report on the struggle of an individual for the economy.
He added that there are stories about women who start small businesses and take care of their families, which according to him are not given space in newspapers and on TV channels but are still very much followed by the masses.
Gender and media
A session titled ‘Gender and Media’ was told that according to a research conducted by the University of Lahore lecturer Sabahat Afsheen and Shaheer Ahmed, TikTok is helping transgender people achieve social acceptability in Pakistan.
Sabahat’s research titled ‘Role of TikTok in Poverty Alleviation and Changing Perceptions of Transgenders in Pakistan’ shared how the app has a huge following among the community. She claimed that in Pakistan the most downloaded app is TikTok, which is used by a large number of transgender people.
She said they conducted in-depth interviews with 10 transgender people from different cities. “We asked them about social acceptability and monetary benefits of the social media app.”
She also said the transgender people don’t get paid by TikTok but are invited to different platforms, for which they are paid. This way, she added, the app is helping them earn.
Another thing she highlighted in her research is the community is hurt by negative and vulgar comments people make against them on their videos. “They expect the public to accept their identity, as they have also done it openly on a public platform.”
In 2016, she said, three transgender people were murdered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “They are disowned by their families. Let’s just provide them with better opportunities,” she said, adding that they got a chance to vote in the 2018 general elections.
Shereen Ashraf presented her research paper titled ‘Gender Discrimination at Workplace (Media)’. Her sample size was 100 media persons, which included female journalists and graduates from the University of Karachi’s Department of Mass Communication.
She asked them if they had been bullied at the workplace. Sixty per cent of them responded in the affirmative. Nearly 40 per cent denied or were unsure. “But most of the respondents reported facing harassment issues at the workplace.”
She also asked if female journalists were facing sexual harassment on social media: 40 per cent denied, 35 per cent remained neutral and 17 per cent strongly agreed. Eighty-one per cent of the respondents agreed that most of the workplace harassment was done by the heads of the organisations.
She said 40 per cent of the women in her survey were satisfied with their salaries in media organisations and 25 per cent agreed to the statement that there’s gender discrimination in recruitment for upper management positions.
Dr Sara Wahid, assistant professor in Szabist’s media sciences department, and Samina Qureshi, assistant professor in KU’s mass communication department, presented their paper titled ‘Use of Digital Media to Create a Women-only Online Marketplace’.
The purpose of their paper, according to Dr Sara, was to understand the potential of the digital platform to accelerate financial stability and women empowerment in Pakistan. The assistant professors selected Sheops, the first women-only digital marketplace on Facebook. They also have a WhatsApp group.
“It is for women and by women,” said Dr Sara, and added that in their research paper they explored the potential of e-commerce business in Pakistan.
In their research, which is based on short analyses, she said they have recommended strategies and ideas that can help replicate such ideas for the economic independence of women. “There should be social media advocacy campaigns to promote such platforms.”
Another paper written by Dr Muhammad Ramzan, Dr Sumera Memon, Dr Norsiah Binti Hamid and Dr Awan Binti Ismail was titled ‘Does Gender Difference Exist in Online Newspaper Consumption among Pakistani Youth?’ Presenting the paper, Dr Ramzan highlighted how very few studies have paid attention to gender differences in motivating factors for online newspaper consumption in Pakistan.