Electronic media shindigs

Courtesy:-  Malik M Ashraf

Introduction of the private sector in the field of electronic media and the accompanying freedom of expression, is probably the best thing that has ever happened in thisland of the pure. While it is heartening to see the media enjoying its freedom and guarding it zealously, it is equally disappointing to see the absence of the component of responsibility. There is a discernible propensity to scandalize things, rumour mongering and playing favourites in disregard to the internationally recognized professional ethics - more so among the electronicchannels.

It is quite an ordeal to watch current affair programmes and talk shows, hosted by some uncouth and non-professional anchor persons - barring a few exceptions - yelling at top of their shrilling voices at panellists and trying to rub in their peculiar perceptions and getting involved in a debate with them, instead of listening to their views on questions put to them. Being aggressive in approach is adorable but descending into an insulting mode is absolutely non-professional and detestable.

They also lack the ability of a professional moderator to control the flow of the arguments as is evident from their nod to the shouting matches among the participants, presenting a spectacle of the shindigs rather than serious forums to discuss national issues; so repulsive to the eyes and jarring to the ears. A professional anchor person and host of such shows would always thoroughly brief the participants about the etiquettes of the discussion before coming on air and also curb his own inclinations to join the melee.

Most of the anchor persons are inductees from the print media and are not well conversant with the professional culture of the electronic media and the art of conducting panel discussions or talk shows. Some even have not worked as journalists at all before landing into the arena. That probably is the reason that these shows look more like entertainment stuff rather than the forums for informative and educative debates. Had these anchor persons and hosts of morning shows been properly trained professionals, savvy of the cultural and religious sensitivities of the people,   The media must be mindful of the fact that the onus for preserving its freedom of expression is inextricably linked to the exhibition of a responsible behaviour. There are no two opinions about the fact that the media, at present, enjoys unprecedented independence, thanks to the encouraging and tolerant attitude of the government despite a persistently hostile and provocative stance of some sections of the media. That surely is the dividend of democracy.

There is a need to consolidate the gains of democracy and promoting democratic culture in the country in which the media has a pivotal role. Being a representative of the society, it is incumbent upon the media to show unswerving dedication to the cause of democracy and the promotion of national interests. These are indeed very serious issues and are required to be handled and commandeered by the thoroughly professional and knowledgeable individuals. In a democratic setup the government is also under obligation to ensure an unfettered press in the country and its growth on healthy and professional lines. While the media is a watch-dog against the indiscretions of the government, the latter is also a watch-dog against streaks of undesirable behaviour by the media. That relationship needs to be respected and strengthened.

This is an age of self-regulation and less intervention by the governments. In most of the developed and democratic countries, the media - with encouragement and support of the respective governments - has taken upon itself the role of ensuring adherence to the professional ethics and redress of complaints against irresponsible, non-professional, unethical and erratic behaviour by any electronic channel or a newspaper.

In Pakistan also necessary legislation has been done to establish a Press Council and a code of ethics has also been devised after discussions with all the stakeholders. PEMRA also has issued exhaustive guidelines for the anchor persons. There is also a talk of setting up a separate regulatory body for the electronic media. In my view instead of creating new regulatory bodies for the media, there is a need to strengthen the Press Council and let it act as a regulatory body for both the electronic and print media as is the case in the free world. 

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