Articles of the year 2005

The Media Blitz
November 25th, 2005

We are witnessing an explosion in the Media, mostly in the Television sector, and this augurs well for democracy. Almost ten new channels have come on Air, with Shaikh Rashid saying fifty more will be launched! It is surprising that the country has managed to bring so many new faces in front of the camera, coupled with an equal number of technicians/ lighting/makeup/ to successfully broadcast these programs. Within a short space of time these TV stations are indeed doing a remarkable job.

The News Channels such as GEO and ARY have established themselves as credible and speedy broadcasters of the News as it breaks. To-date their news is completely without bias, and has replaced PTVs 1,2,and 3 which are being seen as Government mouthpieces, and therefore not reliable. They are showing the bomb blasts, including victims in gory detail, so quickly, that on hearing an explosion one switches to GEO, and sure enough they have the details within scant minutes of the explosion--- truly remarkable. They are displaying a professionalism that even American channels would envy. Their coverage of the earthquake aftermath and the plight of the affectees, has been largely instrumental in carrying the epic proportions of the disaster to the world, and has probably earned us more in donations than might have been the case. Without our independent news Channels, we would have faded off the world screens long ago.

On the entertainment side, our new TV channels are churning out soaps, and theatricals, which now are not dependent on a Government dictated ceiling on salaries, but what the market will pay. At long last the writers have a showcase to exhibit their skills and their output will now reap financial benefits that have so far been denied them. Nor will they have to suffer at the hands of the Moviemakers who were always under financed and uncompetitive, causing generations of actors writers and musicians to eke out a living on crumbs thrown their way. The moviemaker was always dependent on the blockbuster dream, which was a rarity even in financially rich Bollywood, but always in doubt in cash strapped Pakistan.

We have an incredible wealth of Good looking talent in Pakistan, with most of the stuff of Indian legends originating in our Northern Areas, their talent scouts will now be trolling our TV screens to see how many Pakistani starlets can make the jump to the big screen. In the meantime the salaries that will now be earned by our TV stars will continue to climb. A prime example of our talent are the models in our fashion industry. They can, and do hold their own even when head to head with some of the leading Indian stars, and I am sure they are adequately compensated. Of course there will be the weeding out of the weak, but that is not just the law of capitalism, but also of Darwin. Only the strong will survive. However, talent will out and be recognized, and given good managers the hitherto poor artistes will now do well.

Television also has another and more important role to play. It is the platform where questions can be asked of the Government—and of the Opposition, both sides can be exposed to the Public, and all the warts can be examined critically. Again People like Hamid Mir, and Fahad both of GEO are doing well in their talk shows, questioning in some cases Politicians who disappeared from the scene long ago, but were asked to explain their conduct when they did hold power. Some defended their position successfully—Hafiz Pirzada, some not quite so successfully --Benazir, who resorted to lying, but then she has much practice at it. These talk shows are important because they give the audience—us, a feeling that there is an accountability process that is now in place, and it needs one smart host such as Hamid Mir, to unravel the façade behind which many politicians take refuge. President Musharraf has given us an instrument by which all public figures, political and otherwise, can be put to the ultimate accountability--- before the public. This is true accountability, which will not allow any plea bargain. Can you imagine asking a live audience why Asif should not be allowed to live in SurreyGate?

"A dream that not even the Gandhis or Mandelas could envisage or have the chance to address"