Guest post by F’rah Mukhtar
This is in response to Wali Zahid’s post, What do our educated read online?
Every few weeks, we have an unprecedented event, mind boggling and blood curdling. We are in a state of war, no doubt about it. The reasons are so complex that we can’t put our finger down on a specific one. Along with this, we regularly come to know of incidents that we could never have imagined. Such absurd happenings seem to materialize out of nowhere. The event gets full media coverage, live news feed, minute by minute development, discussion in talk shows, anything and everything to keep you glued to the screens.
One approach, to understand these extraordinary events, can be that as compared to the rest of the world, we are a new television audience. We got exposure to the “free media”, including private TV channels, only recently. This might be a reason that we are hungry for spicy news. Subconsciously, we are craving for some unprecedented event.
Previously, we used to have only one state run TV channel. The quality of its shows, the authenticity of the news, ethics and professionalism were its hallmark. Then there was a private channel, which created a healthy competition. But now, we have tens of private TV channels that exercise their right of freedom of speech to a sickening level. We have a greater inclination for watching news channels, because they are churning news at a dizzying speed, quoting incidents of unprecedented nature.
Apparently, telecasting news no longer requires any authenticity and even if it undergoes some verification before being presented, the standards are very low. The news will just spring up on the screens in a most surprising tone, stunning the audience at once. One channel quotes one figure, the other has a different figure to quote about the same incident. There is a sickening competition about breaking the worst news before other channels. This race to break the news first reduces the time for verification, almost eliminating its scope.
The news channels are conducting business without any ethics. But these channels are not the only ones to be blamed. We, as a general TV audience ask for it. We buy the spice, they sell it! The staggering figures involved in such a business suggest that some unprecedented event should take place on regular basis. Every few weeks, there is a mind boggling event, more disgusting than the previous one, shocking, jaw dropping, heart sinking; in simple words, a roller coaster of emotions.
We have some seriously sick minds controlling this “business”. If something doesn’t happen for long, the channel ratings drop. To keep the business running, why not create an incident and feed the hungry audience? Within minutes, stage sets for an action packed event, eyes get glued to the screens, the airtime prices reach record highs, money is made then matters are brought to discussion in the so called live talk shows, more money is made. It’s true for the rumors as well. They get so much importance without having any base.
I am not pointing at any particular event; we have a long list of absurd happenings. These events get full media coverage, tens of channels giving live news feed and flashing images. There are no rules to be followed; no regulations are taken care of. There is no sense of responsibility, ethics or discretion of content. The cameras show what needs not to be shown to the public, the reporters use words that are least professional and unnecessary music plays in the background, turning the whole incident into a rehearsed play.
One heart wrenching scene gets multiple exposures from tens of cameras, one bad news gets repeated continuously for hours. The newscasters seem to enjoy breaking the bad news to the public, filling the gaps within their reading with illogical phrases. The highs and lows of voice and the emphasis on heart piercing words give an impression of some cheap theater performance. And that’s actually what the news has become, a discreditable theatrical performance.
The leading international news channels never show the raw violence, even in their live coverage. But here, the violent scenes break our heart, lower our morale and cause psychological unrest and disturbance for a long time. These incidents pile up inside us, layer after layer and cause frustration and a sense of helplessness.
The day the crowd stops buying the spice, the news channels will calm down. What happens on entertainment channels can be paralleled to this scenario.
F’rah Mukhtar is a graduate of UET, Lahore. She is an architect, a photographer, a blogger and a writer in architectural magazines.