Hilal For Her

Media and National Cultural Preservation

In today’s world, electronic media has emerged as the source of timely information(and propaganda, too). In a country like Pakistan, television is available in every household because it is easy to purchase, and is viewed across different income and education strata. However, the ongoing competition among private TV channels is vicious. The more viewers a channel has, the higher is its rating. The higher the rating, the higher the commercial success and advertisement benefits. The game revolves around finances; pure and simple.
This is not just about news channels. It is also true about entertainment content telecast, which impacts different age groups and income levels. The use of dramas, music and other related entertainment shows have a profound impact on society, though not necessarily positive. The positive could be: imparting an educational message about social behaviours while keeping people entertained.  If we look at the bigger picture, advertisements too play a role in consumer behaviour.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance 2002, clause 20, sub-clause (b) ensures, “preservation of the national, cultural, social and religious values and the principles of public policy as enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

Over the years, we have viewed a flood of Indian movies and dramas that on many levels have changed the face of our culture. Those who can recall weddings of yester years, especially the fun-filled mehndi function will recall the much loved luddi in which all young and old family members would join in. Today, it has been replaced with dances from Indian flicks. More often than not, these rehashes are in conflict with our culture.
My friend’s five year old sister stopped him at the door step, when he got back home from a successful surge. She arranged a platter of flowers (plucked from the vase), red chili powder and dry nuts thrown in, and a small burning candle to perform aarthi of her brother. Her shocked mother and grandmother realized that their regular viewing of every Indian dramas had confused the young impressionable mind with a conflicting value structure. Likewise, western movies show an alternate culture: a norm of cohabitating of different sexes, without marriage, as well as violence and gun culture.

Cultural preservation is a social responsibility and ought to be understood as such. Distinct cultural identity is part nationhood and should so needs to be preserved. The brute commercialism in media must not infringe upon our common asset of national cultural identity.

Locally produced dramas are a far cry from the indigenous value structure, having been influenced by the long followed policy of showing content not in line with societal norms. Dramas, which have a huge viewership, can be a strong springboard to send a strong message. Some dramas have made brilliant effort in this regard and subjects often considered as taboo have been addressed. Entertainment industry is a powerful tool to bring about a social change. Cheap entertainment however, based on warped story line, offers nothing constructive!
Media has the role of being a watchdog. It exposes malpractices, corruption, protection of domestic values, while serving as a link to the world. Private media that entered the market in early 2000s has compromised this, owing to untrained staff and the fact that PEMRA laws do not focus on the association, links, character of individuals applying for channel licenses, but only on their financial strength. This lop-sided approach itself compromises the responsibility to be exercised by this medium. Cultural preservation is a social responsibility and ought to be understood as such. Distinct cultural identity is part nationhood and should so needs to be preserved. The brute commercialism in media must not infringe upon our common asset of national cultural identity. Media houses need to understand that greater freedom means greater responsibility. 
A plethora of religious programmes in a number of cases inviting those who are not as well versed in the subject under discussion, further adds to confusion. An explosion of TV channels, many on substandard levels, intersects with the downward trend in the readership of print publications. Advertisements impact lifestyles and sometimes create dissatisfaction with the current way of  living.

Though products must sell and TV will be used as a medium to pitch for marketing, maintaining a strong linkage to the value structure is crucial. 
The question that rears its head is: who will watch the watchdog? To provide a sound base to the young ones so that they are able to fend off the adverse exposure that they face daily, not just on TV but also on YouTube, and different social forums make this need extremely important. They carry responsibility not to succumb to peer pressure and temptations of different kinds. 
Making time daily for family, sharing the day’s happenings, issues, anecdotes — the act of communicating, thereby keeping the door open for young ones becomes important in these challenging times of communication and  miscommunication.HH

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’
E-mail: [email protected]
Twitter: @yasmeen_9

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