Electronic media - challenges and opportunities
In last two decades, Pakistan has become home to electronic media. People have embraced free media milieu as a way of life. Society has started thinking (occasionally) and talking (mostly). Nothing can easily be brushed under the carpet, no backyard appears safe for dangling dirty laundry and no prisoners taken. If executive slacks to execute, it faces charges by people through media. If legislature shies away from legislation, it is made to legislate by people through media. Likewise, if judiciary falls short of mark, justice is demanded by people through media. Corrupt and unaccountable are challenged and weak and unheard of are empowered. But media package, like any other tariff comes with certain terms and conditions. Few questions arise, were we as a society ready for such big change? Did we have institutional depth to absorb media’s meteoric rise? Did we have business models to follow? Have we instated enough regulations through regulatory bodies to define limits? Like a nuclear explosion, the fallout of media’s eruption in Pakistani households warrants some retrospection.
Every challenge has the inherent capacity to turn in to an opportunity but if unintelligibly handled, even trivial opportunities tend to pose unprecedented challenges. Situation of electronic media in Pakistan is no exception to this. It promises immense business growth, journalism has one shot at becoming a reliable powerhouse in the country, journalists have an opportunity to cleanse their noble profession and lastly, it can shape masses’ opinion. In this context, media has already attained a place of significance in power matrix of the country. However, this may be the half full part of the glass and may sound naïve as it paints rosy picture of prospects and opportunities electronic media has to offer. On the flip side, these opportunities are not being capitalized by the electronic media to full potential, hence, transforming them in to challenges. At the same time, electronic media cannot be divorced from a nation society fraught with challenges owing to multiple reasons whether bad governance, corruption, injustice, disparity and tussle among institutions or external factors. Media, after all, like any other institution, carries the signature of society it hails from. While institutions promise end product of collective good, their good faith is often fogged by difference of perspectives.
Our settings are not ideal. It is not surprising that amid these mercurial circumstances, electronic media faces more challenges than opportunities. Corruption, security issues, lack of institutional human resource inflows and political partisanship are not strange terms in our daily discourse.
As a powerful fourth pillar of the country along with Government, Judiciary and establishment, electronic media has an opportunity to assume greater role on national issues. Peshawar incident changed Pakistan’s outlook on terrorism, National Action Plan came to pass removing confusions on our approach to war against terror. It helped redefine national policy for synergetic execution. We have seen a clear change in national narrative after Peshawar incident. After a long time, the nation has united. All institutions converged on one point in national interest. First time in last two decades, the nation celebrated Independence Day with full zeal and patriotic fervor.
However, after initial successes, synergy went missing in execution of NAP. On conclusion of recent corps commanders’ conference, ISPR issued a statement asking government to do more. Government reacted quickly by asking institutions to watch limits. Then the ball was put in media’s court. Now it is up to media to cash in on an opportunity to assume unbiased national role or be eaten up by its own prejudices. Ideally, media should play intermediary role by asking the government to do more and telling army not to antagonize government by public statements because NAP must proceed in good faith among state institutions.
Crescendo of media rise in Pakistan is peaking up. It has opened up a whole vista of opportunities. Media is not only a fruitful industry rather an institution. So far, progress of media is only visible in expensive outlook of media people. Many have shifted Yamaha 100 to Lexus. This progress should not translate in to quality journalism as well. With economic success comes responsibility to take up unbiased stand on national issues. Information and sensation that sells fast is liable to fizzle out even faster. Bigger role of electronic media is the greatest need and reality of our times. More thought than action is needed to channel the energy and drive of electronic media in Pakistan.