Will PTV English survive?
The demand is easy to assess because numbers show that masses read, speak and understand Urdu.
With the much-talked about launch of the PTV English news channel, there is an interesting mix of feelings about it in the market.
For most people like myself there is little doubt that the news channel will see the unfortunate end that Geo English, Dawn News and Express 24/7 have already faced.
There no longer remains a complicated formula to predict the result. It is simple - in a free market there are only two ways to survive.
You have to cater to demand and you have to be the best at what you do.
Both ingredients are missing in the expansionary move that PTV is making.
In terms of demand, it is easy to assess, as the numbers show; the masses read, speak and understand non-English languages. Moreover, the sense of familiarity and comfort that comes from hearing a news anchor speak in Urdu is unmatchable to the same done in English.
Illiteracy aside, it has quickly become the mentality of the common person that English represents all things foreign and that it is heinous for foreigners to be reporting news and setting the news agenda in the country.
Pakistanis feel threatened by change.
Being used to older and traditional ways, I feel like we are comfortable being conservative. However, with this move the sense of comfort slips away and unfamiliarity creeps in and we resent it. Without giving it the benefit of the doubt, we replace it. With that being said, the audience may switch over to other channels that are offering the same news in an indigenous language.
To address the second ingredient vital to business success in a free market, you must be the best at what you do.
In a country like Pakistan where CNN and BBC provide global news, the bar has been set high for a local channel to compete. Hence the “jack of all trades” technique adopted by a channel like PTV is lost on me.
There are counter arguments in favour of an English channel - it trains people to learn the language. I strongly believe that there may be a fringe benefit but it is not the purpose or product. If PTV is in the market to do some good, it would make more financial sense to have a solid business that could finance its literacy programmes.
Here is hoping that while broadening horizon they do not lose depth.
That is to say that PTV does not lose ground in the one thing we have always known and loved it for - Urdu news.
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