In the past 15 years or so, the electronic media in the country has seen exponential growth with countless TV channels now gracing the airwaves. The programming on the state-run PTV, however, appears to be unaffected by these changes and we continue to witness the same poor production quality, which has not changed in years. It has now come to light that in the past two years alone, with the advent of the PML-N government, the channel has suffered losses worth Rs1.12 billion. Nearly 70 per cent of PTV’s expenditure is reportedly on human resources, while a mere 30 per cent is on programming. It seems that either PTV suffers from the same affliction plaguing other state-run entities, that of overstaffing, or its employees are being paid disproportionately high salaries, not reflected in the quality of programming produced.
PTV has never been allowed to run independently and on the news front; it has only ever acted as a mouthpiece of the government of the day. This has led the channel to have negligible credibility and a poor reputation for impartiality. It is a shame that even when it comes to entertainment programming, the channel fares poorly. PTV does not even stand among the top 10 channels of the country, despite the fact that it has the advantage of huge penetration and can be watched in areas that are out of reach of other broadcasters. In the past, PTV has given us the best of Pakistani drama, and many of its productions are remembered decades after they first aired. It is hard to recall any drama production of PTV of recent times that could be compared to the programming of yore. It is high time that the traditional way of the powers-that-be, of viewing PTV as property of the government of the day, is reformed. Perhaps it is time to consider running it along the lines of the BBC, which despite being a state-run broadcaster, functions independently to a large degree. PTV runs on taxpayers’ money and it is important that it reflect the tastes and views of a broad cross-section of society.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 26th, 2016.
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