Broadcast Media in South Asia

Written by SAO  •  Features  •  April 2013 PDF Print E-mail

The first South Asia Media Summit held in Islamabad addressed challenges facing broadcast and print media in the region.

Several misconceptions have prevented traditional rivals India and Pakistan from shunning animosity and embracing peace. However, both nations are quick to welcome any initiative that brings them closer. The South Asian Media Summit (SAMS), jointly organized by the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and Exchange4Media Group in Islamabad, brought to the platform media tycoons, newspaper publishers, and policymakers from around South Asia. The two-day summit, held at Islamabad’s China Friendship Centre, drew notable media personalities at a time when the country’s political future remains uncertain and the two sworn enemies, India and Pakistan, were still reeling from January’s Line of Control incident.

The objective of the Summit was to address the challenges facing mainstream media in an era when digital and social media are changing the landscape. The speakers were of the collective view that limitations prevent the media from expanding its wings to various markets. The government also suppresses media corporations through its policies, which contradicts freedom of press.

The South Asia Media Summit held this year revolved around the theme “Newspapers in the New Media Ecosystem.” Since the primitive years of newspaper publication, the industry has seen transformations in its format, structure, production and circulation. The Summit provided solutions to reinvent the newspaper industry. The speakers also discussed the evolution of the media culture in the region and agreed that freedom of the media is an integral part of the society, which would also bring peace between India and Pakistan. The panelists also agreed to set up exchange programs for media professionals in South Asia,

Prominent speakers and panelists at the Summit included Prime Minister of Pakistan, Raja Pervez Ashraf; President APNS, Sarmad Ali; Editor-in-Chief, Exchange4media Group, Anurag Batra; former Federal Minister  Javed Jabbar, CEO, Times of India, Ravi Dhariwal; Director Marketing, The News Pakistan, Saadia Sharif; Chairman and MD, Vijitha Yapa Group, Vijitha Yapa; Chairman Interflow Communications, Taher A. Khan; CEO Orient McCann Erickson, Masood Hashmi; CEO, Dawn Media Group, Hameed Haroon, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Qamar Zaman Kaira, and Chairman Madison World, Sam Balsara, amongst others.

Discussed in detail during the SAMS 2013 was the media landscape of India and Pakistan. In this regard, the Editor-in-Chief of Outlook, Krishna Parsad said that, “In India, electronic media especially is guilty of more jingoism than reality.” Parsad’s perception about Pakistan and its media changed during his visit as he felt the people of Pakistan were similar to that of India. He further noted that the Indian media gives the impression of Pakistan being entirely about generals and the ISI, which is not true. According to Parsad, India and Pakistan are facing similar problems, which they can resolve through mainstream media.

Sharing similar views while speaking on ‘Preparing for the Dawn of a New Era in Media’, CEO of Dawn Media Group, Hameed Haroon suggested that freedom of media is integral to ensuring civic rights and to promote Indo-Pak peace. Highlighting numerous governance problems in Pakistan, Haroon argued that the system is anti-learning and that a threat will forever eclipse freedom of the press. He also focused on the right to information law, which lost much of its power following the 2002 Ordinance that restricted media outlets from publicizing any military-related information.

Speaking on the subject of ‘Challenges and Expectations from the Media across Borders’, former Federal Minister, Javed Jabbar said, “I know that both India and Pakistan are facing challenges while deciding on policies for media with respect to their neighbors. Media is so powerful in both the countries that it can reduce the distances and differences between the two.” Acknowledging the efforts of the media he said that, “Media has been the fourth pillar of democracy, but now it has become the first pillar of the State.” Moreover, Jabbar praised the Aman ki Asha initiative by Pakistan’s Jang Group and The Times of India Group and called it a positive step towards bridging the divide between the neighboring countries.

In a special address, Pakistan’s Information Minister, Qamar Zaman Kaira reiterated the government’s commitment to winning the war against extremism while asserting that radicalism imposed on the Pakistani society was an imported agenda. Kaira alleged that peace in Pakistan is vital for a peaceful India, and vice versa. He also pointed out that Pakistani viewers watch Indian channels and movies with and without government permission. Regrettably, the Indian government and the media owners do not give a similar space to Pakistani media products.

The SAMS 2013 provided an opportunity for the speakers to propose strategies to reshape the newspaper industry. In this regard, Chairman and Managing Director, Madison World, Sam Balsara noted that newspaper publishers should focus on colorful layouts to induce young readers. General Manager, Mindshare Pakistan, Fouad Hussain, stressed on the need for newspapers to modify their production approach. He cited lack of interest as the main reason as to why newspaper readership is less than television viewership. Similarly, Aly Mustansir, Executive VP and Head of Marketing and Brand Management, Habib Bank Limited, urged newspaper publishers to recreate their content to endure the onslaught of social media. He said, “Print media faces a tricky situation, and if ads are to be placed on the basis of relations alone, then newspapers will ultimately die out.”

Also highlighted and discussed at the SAMS was the issue of readership management scenario in Pakistan. A transparent system is the need of the hour for the newspaper industry to grow. Managing Director, Ipsos Pakistan, Abdul Sattar Babar, said that, “There are serious questions about the authenticity of circulation data of ABC. For instance, a newspaper with a circulation of 20,000 could show having a circulation of 0.12 million to get more ads.”

Panelists discussed the migration of print to online media and its impact on the industry. According to Adil Ahmed, Director, Symmetry Group, “If you want to be part of the digital word, then you need to start with refreshing your digital thinking.” Faisal Sherjan, Digital Media Head, Geo TV, recommended that media owners understand the significance of distribution, which is equally important for the digital media as it is for any other medium. With distribution it is also necessary to analyze the revenue streams for online content. Addressing this issue, Anant Goenka, Head of New Media, Indian Express, felt that newspaper publishers should opt to reach extenders by providing benefit through online editions and should develop revenue models for digital media.

The South Asia Media Summit 2013 concluded on the note to address challenges looming over the media industry in South Asia, especially Pakistan and India. The speakers were confident that their suggestions would facilitate their respective governments in taking prompt action to make the broadcast media industry transparent and efficient.

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