The long standing debate of ethical concerns in the Pakistani media has been raised quite often at the seminars organized by the Institute of Communication Studies (ICS), University of the Punjab, Lahore. However, this time the topic alluded towards “Television Channel ratings: Sensationalism versus Responsibility”. The key note speaker was Syed Talat Hussain (renowned columnist, anchor person and analyst). Vice Chancellor of University of the Punjab, Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran, Dean Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, Prof Dr Zakriya Zakar and Tanveer Shehzad (representative of Voice of Germany) also spoke on the occasion. The seminar received media coverage and the enthusiasm of the students was evident as there was no vacant seat left in Hammed Nizami Conference Room of the ICS.
Mr Tanveer Shehzad while opening the discussion expressed his disappointment over the shameless degree of irresponsibility found in the media persons of Pakistan. He quoted the example of Z.A Sulehri, who used to detect and edit trivial errors of his program in order to practice ‘responsible journalism’. According to Mr Tanveer, media is a business and the owners are concerned with ‘revenue’ instead of considering the reform of the society. In his opinion, “rating” is a controversial term that needs to be redefined and its basis should take into account media content and quality. Mr Tanveer suggested the inclusion of independent media watch groups in the Pakistani media landscape. He laid stress on the formulation and implementation of ‘sound code of ethics’.
The key note speaker, Mr Syed Talat Hussain, explained to the students how “facts” can be dangerously sensational. According to him, people want to know the facts, but they don’t possess the “stomachs for it”. The seasoned journalist elaborated the difference in choice of ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ viewer. He told the students that during the genocide of Hazara community in Balochistan, the members of the community wanted an extensive media coverage of the dead bodies that were not being laid to rest. On the other hand, urban viewers were fed up of the issue. Mr Talat didn’t favour ‘Television talk shows’ as platforms for policy-making. In his opinion, “media owners” are now a part of “power politics” and have converted into power brokers. He concluded his note by suggesting that all the television channels should abide by the PEMRA ordinance and advertisements need to be more sensible.
According to the Vice Chancellor, Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran talked about “media conglomeration” and told the students how 95% of the U.S media is owned and controlled by six corporations. Dean Faculty of Social and Beahvioural Sciences, Dr Zakriya Zakar, emphasized that underlying social mechanisms should be explained through journalism. He believed that for a social scientist, accidents don’t happen the negligence of human beings make them possible, the media should highlight that negligence as well.
It is noteworthy that Mr Syed Talat Hussain has recently joined Bahria University as project director in order to reinvigorate the Media Studies program at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. The increased interest of media professionals in academic sphere is a positive sign for the students of mass communication and journalism who require the right direction to make their mark in the practical field.
Photo courtesy: Facebook page of the Institute of Communication Studies https://www.facebook.com/ICSPU.Pakistan