The Media Crisis
The problems facing the profession of journalism are myriad and also universal – much of which has to do with the changing nature of information dissemination and the disruption it has caused among established orders of news publication. It is less a question of which method is chosen – online, social media, print or broadcast – and more an existential battle between news publishers and online platforms giants – such as Google and Facebook – for ad revenue. Unlike some suggestions from observers, online native news outlets are not supplanting traditional paper based ones; the platforms themselves are supplanting all kinds of news outlets.
While the global media crisis can be attributed to disruptive power of the internet flexing its muscles, the Pakistani media ecosystem has problems unique to itself in addition to the global ones. Its crisis stems from the breakdown between news outlets and the government, which up till then had been in a functional symbiotic relationship. The new government has decided to restructure its model of advertising spending on newspapers and TV channels, reducing the rates at which these ads were bought and reducing the number of ads published as well. While the reduced revenues will certainly hurt the media companies – and by extension, their employees – the new government is perfectly within its rights to alter its own policies, especially considering austerity is one of their main policy objectives.
Yet, in true Pakistani fashion, the problem goes beyond this, into the murky realm of contractual duties and the breach of obligations. The government not only barred its departments from buying new ads, but it refused to hand over the dues for the ads it had already purchased. Hence the government precipitated a crisis in many media organizations which found themselves struggling to pay their employees. These organizations, and their representatives, have lobbied, petitioned and cajoled to no avail – which has forced their employees to suffer through dire economic straits.
It is hoped the government’s fresh assurances on the matter are sincere and diligently followed through.