Storytelling session: Behind the scenes and sounds of Pakistan’s state media

Published: June 23, 2013
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Panellists decried the falling standards of content in the media industry. PHOTO: THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE

Panellists decried the falling standards of content in the media industry. PHOTO: THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE

ISLAMABAD: 

What began as oral narratives on the history and evolution of Pakistani electronic media ended up in a critique of content generation and regulation at Kuch Khaas on Friday.

Prominent entertainment industry personalities gathered at the second session of the ongoing “Qissa Khwani Bazaar” organised by the Citizens’ Archive of Pakistan under its Oral History Project.

Journalist Farrukh Khan Pitafi, who moderated the session, said that despite having made advances in technology, the medium was losing its credibility. “Pakistan is a classic example wherein space is expanding and quality is diminishing,” he said.

He talked about inconsistencies in the poetic licence given to presenters, demand for substandard content and commercialism that ensured high show ratings.

Former Pakistan Television (PTV) managing director Agha Nasir shed light on the good old days when Radio Pakistan was launched from Delhi in 1935. He recalled becoming fascinated with the gadget, dubbing it a miracle.

After passing his civil service exam, he opted to work in radio. “It paid less but gave me immense satisfaction. At first, my friends working in the Foreign Office or as deputy commissioners were earning much more but over a decade or so, my income crossed theirs. I never, ever regretted my decision,” he said.

Based on the format of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the radio channel gave vent to the creativity of artists, writers, poets and musicians who had lacked prior due recognition.

Nasir went on to discuss the restrictions imposed by military dictators and the struggle to find a balance. Responding to a question on sensationalism, he said, “We have given too much importance to the media. We need to review our ethical values.”

Audio engineer and producer Muhammad Zubair reminisced the days when he would wear headphones and listen to the radio, imagining entire scenes and sequences. Colour television, he said, has robbed the audience of using their imaginations and faculties to think and analyse.

The mandate to enlighten, entertain and inform in a palatable manner has gradually eroded over the years, he added. “We have desensitised the viewer on subjects of religion, romance, sex and domestic life. Where are our think-tanks, censors and writers?” he asked, referring to inappropriate dancing and topless male models. “What ethics are we imparting to our children?”

Scriptwriter and researcher Ahmed Salim also underscored social responsibility in broadcast television. He talked about being criticised for writing on divorce and women’s emancipation in a play titled “Amawas” that was aired on PTV in the 80s.

Despite receiving complaints from parents and clerics, his supervisor encouraged him to write, he said. Salim said he was charged with mixing showbiz with politics in his scripts.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2013.

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