Television has become one of the most influential socializing agents of our times. There are many who complain about the content that is being shown on television and there are also many who respond to this by saying, “If you don’t like what’s on TV, then don’t watch it.” It is similar to saying that “if you’re bothered by air pollution, just stop breathing.” There have been many debates about television corrupting society as well as there being proposed solutions to how to solve this problem. Some feel that television has no effect on society, while others feel that television and the media play a significant role in shaping society; however, it is getting much more difficult for those who do feel that television has no influence to continue to support this belief. Not just television, but many forms of entertainment are clearly shaping the many trends in society, such as fashion trends, what is considered beautiful, as well as poor behavior in both children and adults.
Television was formally introduced in Pakistan in 1964. Prior to that, radio broadcasting was the only mass contact medium. In the past two decades, radio and particularly, television industry has rapidly grown. Now, there are countless TV networks and the number is still growing. While it’s good that people are getting more options, the policy is faulty and may result in disaster.
For any industry to prosper and stay viable three elements are important. Firstly, adequate supply of the material to be sold, which is production, secondly, an effective marketing setup to sell and lastly, adequate sales to maintain healthy cash flows. Production material for a media company includes television serials, series, sitcoms, documentaries, sports shows, films, news, discussions, etc. as its products. These intangible items deal with the collective psyche of the society. They have the power to affect and change individuals as well as the society. This is why the worldwide belief is to define the responsibility of TV broadcasting to include: “information, education and entertainment”. This objective should be carried out with a sense of social responsibility.
The TV media industry seeks to market its product and gets its income from sponsorships and advertisements of other industrial products. The product is either planned by itself or acquired from contracted producers. To make the TV industry viable and to avoid oversupply, and consequent cut-throat competition, the market potential of sales revenues, as well as, the supply of the product must be balanced.
The basic principle of providing information, education, and entertainment must be strictly observed and a decent balance should be maintained. Of course, all segments of society including men, women, children and minorities are to be adequately catered to in the program mix. Media affects society and if every kind of popular trend is made the basis of programming then limits of decency can be violated.
The media industry in Pakistan needs much more attention than it has been given so far. Civil servants and politicians should help but not dictate. The state should not use it only for promoting the policies and the persons of political incumbents of a particular period. The accumulated experience of the better performers and veterans in culture, literature, and media need to be benefitted from.
There is also an important role of the media industry in improving cultural understanding and creating international relations. Several countries have powerful and dedicated organizations set up with expert advice to use the media industry in enhancing the national image.TV productions, films, and live shows are important instruments of cultural diplomacy.
[box type=”note” align=”” class=”” width=””]The writer is a Karachi based freelance columnist and is a banker by profession. He could be reached on Twitter @ReluctantAhsan[/box]