By Umer Tariq
Traditionally the Government owned Pakistan Television Corporation was the only dominant force in electronic media in Pakistan. But with the rise of private television channels in the last decade it was expected that the opening up of the media industry will bring a positive change in Pakistan.
What the free private media has brought to Pakistan is sensationalism, misinformation, unprofessionalism, melodramatic news anchors, exaggeration, bollywood music laden news packages and pseudo experts. Media ethics, factual reporting, decency and morals now seem a distant dream.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (PEMRA) which was formulated to regulate the content of private television channels in the country seems nothing more than a mere spectator and has failed to ensure even some of the very basic media principles.
The various private news channels are seemingly run by people who have never heard of terms such as ethics, morals and responsibility. Few months back a leading media groups news channel did a program, the program contained a two minute clip of a country’s Prime Minister. The programs prime argument was built up on the basis of that particular clip. But surprise surprise, the entire clip was fabricated, that particular clip has been doing the rounds on social media platforms for well over two years, yet the program’s anchor, the experts and the programs research team were completely unaware of it. Even more worrying was the fact that the content of the clip is so exaggerated that someone with no knowledge of the issue will be able to identify it as fake.
Another trend that the electronic media is particularly fond of is the inclusion of cheesy bollywood lyrics in their news packages. From Billo Thumka Laga to Baby Doll Mein Soni Di to Fevicoal se, you’ll hear these trashy song lyrics in almost all news packages. I wonder what merits the inclusion of these songs in a purely news item.
Just the other day I had the pleasure of watching a news package on a particular news channel which claimed that there has been a rain of ‘Riyals’ in Dubai. The new anchor also enthusiastically claimed that ‘Riyal’ is the local currency of Dubai. Maybe it is, in the parallel universe the news anchor lives but the actually currency of Dubai is Dirham not Riyal.
One particular trend that is extremely cringeworthy is the claim ‘Hum ne sub se pehle khabar break ki’ by almost every news channel as soon as an incident took place. Quite often I have observed that the focus is more on the fact that ‘we broke the news first’ than on the news itself. Is this really important for the audience to know which channel broke the news first or are the audience more interested in the news? The answer obviously is the latter but pompous chest-thumping is obviously more important to news channels, the Pakistani news channels.
The pseudo experts on news channels are quite fun too. A couple of days ago a pseudo expert was commenting on the poor performance of the Pakistan cricket team. The said expert claimed that most of the players in the team were picked from the C category of central contracted players, he ‘informed’ the audience that C category is also known as the third class category. That’s not all; the expert further claimed that the players from the D category of the central contract are all ‘sifarishi’s’ and it’s all a big scandal that he has unearthed.
The high-ups in media organizations and the regulation authorities in the country must realize that such misinformation and exaggeration must stop. The media must fulfill its duty, the duty to inform the audience, the duty to follow media ethics. The circus must stop now.