Home Global Village Let’s not damage a national icon: An Uncertain future of PTV!

Let’s not damage a national icon: An Uncertain future of PTV!

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Aisha Saeed |

Amid speculations of PTV World being considered for its final goodbye or being put on a ventilator through a merger, the future of Pakistan Television has never been dimmer. Now at the age of 52, PTV has been the companion of the country and millions of its viewers through Pakistan’s thick and thin, leading to the modern day formation of media in Pakistan.

Categorically speaking, PTV is neither a state-owned media nor a public broadcaster. The line on which the PTV functions meets at the crossroad of both a state-owned media and a public broadcaster. Hence, the confusion and criticism regarding the workings and stance of PTV remain a debate within the more powerful private media of Pakistan. The news has taken those concerned with PTV by surprise but does not come as a blow in the ongoing political melt out of the country.

A merger, on the other hand, could result in more complications and is often accompanied by staff layoffs which stand at an estimated six thousand.

The channel, despite the cliché, remains the only channel to maintain decorum and few practices of responsible broadcast journalism and till date holds the sole authority of access to high-level national events and meetings on which the private media often depend on for the coverage. PTV World is Pakistan’s only 24/7 English language channel to cater to the foreign viewers stationed locally and internationally. Before the dawn of private media in Pakistan that came with the start of Gen. Musharraf’s government, PTV was the only media outlet functioning in Pakistan. Over the years, PTV has remained a subtle agent of creating a soft image of the country by maintaining the well being of the national narrative at large, despite the turbulent situations faced by Pakistan, locally and internationally.

Read more: Storming Ptv: barbarians at the gates…!

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Recent accusations against the channel are not only based on the acclaimed loss cost by PTV but also the pressure from different political agents belonging to previous governments and political parties. Being a hybrid between state-owned and public broadcaster channel, the channel can neither fully comply with the public interests nor go against the interests of the government, hence the suggestion of a complete shutdown of PTV World given by few would discard the complete issue altogether. A merger, on the other hand, could result in more complications and is often accompanied by staff layoffs which stand at an estimated six thousand.

The move would also disrupt the viewership in rural areas that PTV caters for through its far-reaching coverage in local languages of the country. In either scenario, the beneficiary would be the private media of Pakistan which flows free as willed but a replacement for PTV even for the private media will be bigger shoes to fill.So far, no additional information has surfaced regarding the issue, but it certainly hints at the tug of war over which side is using PTV.  State channels often face the accusations of being a mouthpiece for the governments mainly from the public with access to other media outlets; private or otherwise.

When it comes to PTV, the channel has had to work both under democratic and non-democratic governments which had their share of international and national incidents that required a sound deliverance of information.

The theory that, in this case, can be applied to summarize the pros of having a channel such as PTV, is the Public Interest theory. State channels are still maintained throughout the world as they not only serve the public in many ways but also convey and keep the information gap between the public and the government at the minimum. The information is neither held nor completely disseminated to the public but conveyed in rather a non-sensationalized yet timely manner.

Read more: Nawaz Sharif Corruption Trial: Should there be a live transmission from…

When it comes to PTV, the channel has had to work both under democratic and non-democratic governments which had their share of international and national incidents that required a sound deliverance of information. While the private media’s rise has given viewers an alternative to PTV, an official statement or news still comes and is received by other countries as official if broadcasted by PTV alone. Hence, state channels function as government’s and state’s spokesperson.

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A National Symbol

The pros of having PTV remain more than the cons of not having a state-run channel at all, although many might disagree with the arguments made above. Considering the option to bury PTV would only hold the government itself accountable for its incompetence over the years which hindered the growth of PTV in general, secondly, the move will be seen as an attack on journalism by the international acquaintances of Pakistan.One move or the other, questions are sure to rise and the answers that would follow will only lead to the cat chasing its own tail.

The network has solid foundations which, if equipped with the right values and tools can become a model for the private media whilst keeping its prestige in the international circle.The nation should not be deprived of another national hallmark.

Analyzing the pros in this matter is equally important and the fact that PTV is the father of televised media in Pakistan cannot be ignored. Secondly, it has been a source of unison for the nation at times of great tragedies, wars but also national successes. Mostly remembered as the “Golden era” of PTV, the network gave Pakistan the best in entertainment and personalities. Thirdly, it has become one of the many symbols associated with Pakistan’s history and its identity. Mainly, such channels counter the negative or incomplete information or news while remaining within the set rules.  In a bid to garner the soft image of Pakistan, PTV till date remains close to the cultural values of the country.

Read more: Will Ptv English survive?

The Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage should consider reforming PTV in all aspects from upgrading the technology it uses to its staff and distance itself from undue personal requests and appointments in PTV. The network has solid foundations which, if equipped with the right values and tools can become a model for the private media whilst keeping its prestige in the international circle.The nation should not be deprived of another national hallmark.

Aisha Saeed is an independent Research Analyst on Media and Foreign Policy;She tweets: @MsAishaK.The views expressed are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

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