Lacking resources to compete in the escalating “media war” in an election year, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has turned to the Internet and launched a web television channel called Insaf TV, to combat the blackout they face on prime time airwaves.
“The PTI is often blacked out in the mainstream media,” the party’s social media head Imran Ghazali said. Their national campaign head, Asad Umar says that the party lacks the resources to compete with other mainstream parties currently in power, like the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), but their web-based channel, Insaf TV, is a cost effective way “to get [their] message across to the people.”
Insaf TV will not just be a round-the-clock outlook on the party chief and his activities, but also a mechanism to provide airtime to the “unknown” party members, for whom the party cannot afford to buy expensive airtime on mainstream television.
“A lot of our candidates are unknown,” Umar said, adding that “the [top tier] leadership is known, but these [second tier] people are not.”
Tapping youth support
“Getting people to go out and exercise voting rights takes a lot of campaigning,” says Ghazali. However, the party banked on its active social media base to give this push.
When voters’ registration took place last year, the party realised that it had a pool of support from possible voters who had not registered. The party mobilised its resources, and created a video ad campaign, urging the youth to register themselves. As the campaign went viral on the Internet, PTI tapped their support.
The content on the channel focuses on video messages of PTI’s second tier leadership, also recordings of the party’s public meetings, rallies and documentaries created as a part of their election campaign.
The party has also chosen to make this content multilingual. Umar says that while the channel will primarily be in Urdu, they will also focus on regional languages.
Former television personality Misbah Khalid has been brought in as part of the editorial board and will be responsible for content creation on the channel.
A key inspiration behind the web-based channel was the party’s overseas audience. “Our overseas members want to see what is going on with the party domestically, the channel will enable them to watch videos of rallies. Similarly, our audience in Pakistan can watch recordings of programmes held abroad,” Ghazali said.
While many political parties have started paying attention to the Internet and social media, their online presence is limited.
However, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is an exception. The party has set up its own web-based television channel and has a fully functioning media liaison office.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2013.
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