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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Can a joint media network be the future of Pak-Turk relations?

A joint media network can acquiesce their societies of stances of the other on different international issues. It can illuminate pathways for finding solutions as well as for collaboration on how both countries can resolve their common internal issues.

Globalization has been propelled by media. Media is basically a cultural product and the transfer and spread of this ‘product’ influences and impacts different cultures. Similarly, international media opens up a window to a multitude of cultures. Today, media is driven by advertising which encourages and increases consumerism. For instance, the globalized western media, particularly the US media, has transmuted foreign cultures by increasing their demand of foreign products through its content and advertising. Media has thus formed the cornerstone of international trade or globalization of big corporates.

Speaking in retrospect, in 1976, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) countries proposed a New World Information Communication Order (NWICO) in UNESCO. NWICO was critical of the domination of western countries in the international mass media and demanded an equitable representation and presence of the Third World countries. For instance, it specifically proposed for a fair division of radio spectrum and satellite channels to the Third World countries and for a diverse representation in key international mass media regulating organizations, such as Intelsat. NWICO was fervidly opposed by the US and UK to an extent that both left UNESCO in 1984, and returned in 1997 and 2003 respectively. Their objection was that NWICO will obstruct the global free flow of information and messages, upheld by its giant corporates offering them foreign markets that contributed to the economies of scale of industries back home.

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The start of regionalization

Going further back in history, the modern-day Pakistan and Turkey relations started during the Cold War and had two comprehensive treaties, Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and the Regional Cooperation Development (RCD). Among many projects initiated under CENTO, in 1960, the US started the project of a joint telecommunication microwave network linking Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey. The US also allocated US$1,837,000 for sponsoring the engineering and equipment requirement of the project. However, CENTO was established in the context of the Cold War based on the western perception of the security of the states in the region. As the Cold War came to an end, the enthusiasm for the organization also abated among the countries. Similarly RCD, despite all its grand plans at its various ministerial meetings and joint communique for inter-regional telegraph and postal lines, a joint international airline, abolition of visa, promotion of tourism, inter alia met the same fate.

As the Cold War has subsided and the world is steadily moving towards multi-polarity, the regions are becoming autonomous and integrated. In very simple terms, regionalization calls for integrating, promoting, and building regions. Pakistan’s relations with its western neighbors, Afghanistan, Iran, and especially Turkey, have been cordial. These are the countries with which Pakistan has not only geographical contiguity but also shares a common religion and distinct cultural affinities based on Turko-Persian culture.

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These common elements establish a ground for a certain degree of interdependence in the relations and for concretely identifying avenues in which cooperation can be mutual and equitable. The previous cooperation deals between Pakistan and Turkey were not original or inspired by the region. However, given the present international political environment, Pakistan and Turkey realize the significance of their diplomatic, political, and economic ties. Both countries can foster much closer and stable relation, beyond the current predominant domain of defence and military, if their ties became more trade and business-oriented. And a joint regionalized media network between the two countries can do this.

A media that does is all

A joint media network, encompassing news and entertainment media, can inform and educate on national and international policies, the underlying social, economic, and political interests involved in trade policies, development perspectives and provide wide knowledge on socio-political conditions of a country, which can address the meager commercial information about the other country. A joint media network can acquiesce their societies of stances of the other on different international issues. It can illuminate pathways for finding solutions as well as for collaboration on how both countries can resolve their common internal issues. An example of this is that Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) World has produced several documentaries and programs that promote Pakistan, for instance, its tourism, or advocate Pakistan’s narrative, such as on Kashmir issue.

Not just that, a vertically and horizontally integrated media in multilinguistic and multi-cultural settings will be able to more hastily and readily react to emerging events and changes. Many US networks rely on vertically integrated media structure to quickly distribute their information worldwide. Moreover, quick communication and mass marketing will connect the market of both countries, hence enabling and enhancing business and commerce between them, thereby making inroads into their preferential trading agreement (PTA) such as visa-free arrival, et al.

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To extend the discussion further, perhaps a joint media network between Pakistan and Turkey can include other countries in the region as aspired by CENTO telecommunication microwave system. However, it would be with a difference that it would be the voice of the region as wished by NWICO of challenging the ‘cultural imperialism’ of mass media in the 21st century. The first step for this joint media network is that Pakistan and Turkey promote and broadcast each other’s print and electronic media in their countries. For Pakistan, it can be broadcasting Turkish international media, such as TRT World, in the country.

The author is a researcher at the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) and lecturer at the University of Management and Technology (UMT). The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.