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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Jun 23, 2013

Behind the scenes and sounds of Pakistan’s state media

What
began as oral narratives on the history and evolution of Pakistani electronic
media ended up in a critique of content generation and regulation at Kuch Khaas
on Friday.

Prominent
entertainment industry personalities gathered at the second session of the
ongoing “Qissa Khwani Bazaar” organised by the Citizens’ Archive of Pakistan
under its Oral History Project.

Journalist
Farrukh Khan Pitafi, who moderated the session, said that despite having made
advances in technology, the medium was losing its credibility. “Pakistan is a
classic example wherein space is expanding and quality is diminishing,” he
said.

He
talked about inconsistencies in the poetic licence given to presenters, demand
for substandard content and commercialism that ensured high show ratings.

Former
Pakistan Television (PTV) managing director Agha Nasir shed light on the good
old days when Radio Pakistan was launched from Delhi in 1935. He recalled
becoming fascinated with the gadget, dubbing it a miracle.

After
passing his civil service exam, he opted to work in radio. “It paid less but
gave me immense satisfaction. At first, my friends working in the Foreign
Office or as deputy commissioners were earning much more but over a decade or
so, my income crossed theirs. I never, ever regretted my decision,” he said.

Based
on the format of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the radio channel
gave vent to the creativity of artists, writers, poets and musicians who had
lacked prior due recognition.

Nasir
went on to discuss the restrictions imposed by military dictators and the
struggle to find a balance. Responding to a question on sensationalism, he
said, “We have given too much importance to the media. We need to review our
ethical values.”

Audio
engineer and producer Muhammad Zubair reminisced the days when he would wear
headphones and listen to the radio, imagining entire scenes and sequences.
Colour television, he said, has robbed the audience of using their imaginations
and faculties to think and analyse.

The
mandate to enlighten, entertain and inform in a palatable manner has gradually
eroded over the years, he added. “We have desensitised the viewer on subjects
of religion, romance, sex and domestic life. Where are our think-tanks, censors
and writers?” he asked, referring to inappropriate dancing and topless male
models. “What ethics are we imparting to our children?”

Scriptwriter
and researcher Ahmed Salim also underscored social responsibility in broadcast television.
He talked about being criticised for writing on divorce and women’s
emancipation in a play titled “Amawas” that was aired on PTV in the 80s.

Despite
receiving complaints from parents and clerics, his supervisor encouraged him to
write, he said. Salim said he was charged with mixing showbiz with politics in
his scripts.