There is no such thing as a free lunch, and if you get one, there’d always be a catch. It’s a give and take situation, always, even if it be out of courtesy. Likewise, if a government has given the rights to the press and other communication channel to say what it wants, surely it cannot be without certain limitations.
In our country, we started off with having just one TV channel, Pakistan Television (PTV), and two radio channels, run by Radio Pakistan, recently renamed as Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC). People were quite happy, even if we had absolutely no other source for entertainment, information, education etc. Today we have so many local channels, and also several other foreign channels beaming into a vast number of consumers, through cable, satellite dish or just terrestrial networks.
Among these channels are a some of the well known and popular local news channels, which have gained consumer loyalty over the last few years. The media, being in such an influential position, has the ability to convert people’s mindsets too. This has happened a lot, in our country where more than 70% of the population is illiterate, and just picks up every piece of news and information on face value. Yet, we are nation of very shrewd and intelligent people, capable of doing the impossible, tested in many situations. The important fact here is whether wisdom plays its part in the entire chain of events or not. It seems not.
I’ll be honest; I don’t rely too much on any of the news channels any more. Often, just to get to the news first and obtain a higher viewer rating, certain news and information elements are fabricated, to such an extent that the real essence of the story is actually lost in the noise around it. By the way, this is not just a local phenomenon, but mostly I’ve noted this as a very organized practice by some of the leading news networks globally. I’m sure you can understand which news channels I’m referring to, local and international.
Too many cooks spoil the broth, and this urge for competing for screen priority by consumers has led everyone to be extremely commercialized, and even the stories are highlighted and dumped on the basis of commercial value that can be derived from it. As I said, the media has a very influential position. From the country’s perspective, it should be representing the country in the best possible way; unfortunately, they blow everything out of proportion. Whatever has happened is raised to a bar which is maybe a 100 times its actual height, and when the story has reached its saturation level, it is just dropped, with barely any follow up unless there is still some commercial value to be gained.
What have we come to? Owing to our greed and insensitivity, we’ve given our people something they never asked for, something they could never digest. Yet, it has been fed into their brains, brainwashing them completely. Where are the principles of ethics and morality which you had sworn to uphold when you became journalists? In any profession which involves people, we always see an oath being taken up, as a solemn promise to uphold the highest level of ethics and moral values of society and the code of conduct which gives the profession its value.
But who cares!