Perspective on media
Newspapers, though lost some popularity due to rise of electronic media, suffer with similar problems. They run headlines according to respective media house priority and leanings
By Javed Hassan Hashmi
Media is one of the important institutions of any country that has the potential to immensely contribute in nation building. It plays a vital role in acting as watchdog, highlighting various issues concerning public at large, creating awareness about matters that may help transform society for better, educating masses about their rights and duties besides building image of the country and defeating hostile narratives that aim to threaten the security or social fiber of the country. It has the capacity of guiding youth towards attainment of emerging careers and selection of suitable jobs / businesses, helping women in empowerment while showcasing their place in religion/society and creating awareness regarding various civic and social issues. It can opt to participate in policy formulation in various domains such as health, education, social justice, food security, economy, political stability, defence and external affairs. It may choose to take up social causes such as cleanliness, adherence to traffic rules, respect for women and teachers, children rights and importance of manners/values.
Pakistani media has come a long way. Its performance has been, arguably, improving by the day. It has withstood difficult times with resolve and dignity. However, it still has long way to go. It failed to amicably handle envisaged roles and has mostly been wanting in quality journalism. Perhaps it has not paid serious thought towards improving its standards in reporting, analysis and objectivity. Score of channels have propped up but are not able to perform in any of the aforementioned fields. Its reporters and anchors lack basic courtesies and necessary training. They use inappropriate language and even sometimes shout while addressing the person they have invited on the discussion panel. They frequently interrupt the guest while he is making his point or expressing his version of the story. Most of the anchor persons and reporters are politically and ideologically aligned. Pro liberals find it hard to criticize wrongdoings of that class while pro conservatives conveniently defend wrongdoings of their clergy. The same is true for those having political affiliations. They demonstrate their biases openly and with no sense of remorse. Similarly few media houses have also taken up specific agendas and unabashedly subscribe to particular political party and its views. Apparently media, most of it, lacks desire to be part of solution and constantly displays being part of problem. It is not prioritizing or selecting issues or topics for fulfillment of its sacred journalistic duties but for mere fetching higher rating to accrue enhanced sponsorships or please its political affiliates to accrue financial gains.
Sometimes it endeavours to play a balancing act through unnecessary projection of criminals and terrorists while resultantly portraying wrong persons as heroes. This tendency kills the actual truth and hurts the society. News and Entertainment, two mainstreams of media, are creating different but cumulative effects that are impacting the society negatively. News channels have become source of creating despondency while entertainment channels are busy in destroying the cultural and religious basis of this society. Most entertainment channels are producing and airing dramas/shows that cut across our social norms and religious values. No effort is visible in promoting own culture, moral values or even mannerism; only taboos are picked up to tarnish the image of society and create parallel paradigm.
Newspapers, though lost some popularity due to rise of electronic media, suffer with similar problems. They run headlines according to respective media house priority and leanings; hardly one finds objectivity in allocation of priority to news item. Editorial and opinion pages of various newspapers exhibit the tilt of respective paper. The content is not contributing towards awareness and knowledge of people. This sorry state of affair is harming the credibility of this important institution which is neither good for society and the country nor media itself.
Media has not developed any mechanism to address grievance at individual or group level. It is unable to check the proliferation of fake/unverified news content, instead has become vehicle of its spread. It does not take criticism positively. Whenever someone highlights problems being created due to inefficient media training and management, it gets into an evasive action. Media need to absorb critique patiently and should not get into a defensive mode. Criticism should actually serve to address the shortcomings of the institution and issues being confronted by media itself. After all, that is what media advocates for others to do.
The trend to neglect their workers and putting pressure on government to fetch taxpayers’ money for financial relief of workers shows inadequacies at organizational level. It indicates that media owners have not been able to build an effective financial plan that can help sustain the institution in the long run. There is, therefore, requirement to address organizational issues and problems being faced by employees by the owners and respective managements. Job security and wellbeing of workers should be top priority for any organization.
There is an urgent need to put the things on corrective course for attainment of consistent improvement with an aim to perform envisaged roles by the media that is one of the important pillars of our societal structure. It should make its existing bodies functional and dynamic while creating a framework for improving its content and addressing complaints of individuals or groups against any fake content or bias. It can also consider constitution of an organization that can identify grey areas and guide media for optimization of its role. It needs to establish appropriate training institutions where its reporters, anchors and other technical staff can get requisite training. Government can support establishment of training institutions without getting involved in their operation and management. At the same time government should regulate the functioning of media including print and electronic media through cogent legislation/formulations of rules. Similarly intellectuals and civil society must also exert pressure on media houses and anchors to raise their standards and improve work ethics. A formulation of consultative body comprising members of civil society, intellectuals, notable figures from selected groups would surely help achieve desired goals in this regard. Furthermore, media needs to be cognizant of the abundance of information that is available through internet and easy access of masses to social media content; both make common populace more aware thus accentuating the requirement of having mature and credible mainstream media. It should also develop a mechanism for obviating chances of its becoming tool of ruling elite and powerful business or political houses so that the objectivity is not lost sight of and media is able to perform its’ roles in amicable way.
It is extremely important that our media is reformed, preferably self-reformed, for furthering the overall good in the society. If we need to grow as a civilized and cultured polity, our media has to rise to the occasion and play its long overdue part while improving its perception amongst masses. The effectiveness and efficiency of mainstream media can also help counter fake news malaise and undue upsurge and misuse of social media.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org