Yousaf Baig Mirza is Pakistan’s prominent media personality. He has been Managing Director (MD) PTV three times, founder MD of Dunya News TV, launched 92 News, GEO Super and is about to launch another new TV network called Public TV.
These are but a few of the many accomplishments and milestones he has achieved. We, the GVS team, were privileged to talk to him and discuss the role of the Pakistani media and its problems. He clarified that the media is divided into news and entertainment sections with the main emphasis on the former.
Here is a short glimpse of our conversation with Mr. Yousaf
According to Mr. Mirza, news channels shape public opinion thus making them an important pillar of the state. They propagate the interests of specific political parties and tend to ignore the opposition. Furthermore, they try their level best to highlight the negatives of the opponents of their political supporters.
He went on to say that, objectivity and neutrality have been replaced by financial stakes. He stated that the media in Pakistan has two major components, the owners, and the anchors (owners are mostly responsible for dictating the editorial policy).
The political parties try their hardest to influence the owners through the financial strut and thus manage to produce policies that benefit them 80% of the time. He further added that the MD’s and the professionals working in the firms are ceremonial figures since it is the owners that create the framework for their work.
Mr. Mirza also explained the ongoing feud between Geo and ARY is most probably because of the rivalry between the owners. He briefed us that the reason that these two top dogs of Pakistan’s media are trying to choke one another might be because of bad history between the owners, business disagreements, and/or competition with one another.
Public and Private media firms
He told us that the difference is massive as both are at the extremes of the media spectrum. He stated that Pakistan Television (PTV), for example, is the government’s “spokesperson”.
PTV becomes the voice of the ruling party and changes with a change in power. This creates an imbalance which has resulted in their voice being ignored. The imbalance has resulted in a massive loss of credibility which is the most important aspect of a successful media firm.
He iterated that every new government initially claims that they will change this trend so that the nation’s own broadcasters become its favorites but all of them ignore this statement after they come to power. He also indicated that if we focus on the ticker and headlines that PTV produces, we can see that they only focus on the arguments in which either the government wins or the opposition loses.
He explained further that we can see the one-sidedness in PTV due to recent events where PTV focuses more on the statements by a disqualified Prime Minister, which does not make sense, just because his party is still in power.
He then explained how the private sector is the other extreme as many of them focus on the business aspect of the firm rather than the news. The tilt of the private media firms is easy to point out if, whether they are leaning towards difference of opinion or financial stakes, the latter being more visible.
He told us that being opinionated is not a bad thing but if you are opinionated because of the financial stakes than the news you are going to produce is going to be inaccurate and too biased to be called news.
Media and money: BOL news
Before answering the question on BOL TV, Mr. Yousaf clarified that he does not look at channel’s financial connections because most of them do have financial connections and it wouldn’t be fair to talk about just one organization and their money trails. He then went on to tell us that the media firms in Pakistan are in competition with one another for dominance.
When they see an organization such as BOL who managed to make themselves a brand even before their launch, the other media firms try their best to run it to the ground, such was the reality of the BOL and Axact fiasco which was a failed attempt to destroy an emerging media powerhouse.
We then asked Mr. Mirza about the current media landscape where people with no background in journalism are made the “super stars” of news channels. He made it clear that the media is an open and free platform where anyone can participate but many of the anchors, who unfortunately are a part of big media firms don’t know much about this field.
They have no knowledge of history and backgrounds of various topics, and thus when they are asked a question or are countered with any information from 10 to 15 years ago they cannot stand their ground. He went on to say that nowadays media firms are willing to give the job to anyone who will give them a popularity boost and higher ratings regardless of their backgrounds.
Read more: Pakistan’s private media: Free or captured?
Newer firms and social media
Upon discussing ourselves as a relatively new media platform, we asked for advice from the media tycoon to which he told us that it is our responsibility to act as the mediator, to ask the right questions and provide the right answers.
He advised us to resist the temptation that money produces because once you fall into the temptation it is very hard to get out, and this also affects the news that one is producing.
Whilst discussing social media, he highlighted its importance but also shed light on its negative side. He explained how social media has been compromised due to a lack of supervision and regulations thus resulting in harmful content and comments being produced.
He believes that social media should be supervised (to a minimal extent) to counter its negative effects. He also pointed out that the majority of the countries population consists of the youth, almost 60%, social media has become popular it could become the turning point in the media landscape but we must utilize it correctly to bring about a positive change.