- The government needs to use it to further national aims
The PM rightly emphasises the Scandinavian model of development in his speeches. This is because among the list of OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, it is countries belonging to the group of Scandinavia that outperform on major indicators related with education, health, poverty, inequality, and welfare. Among them are countries like Finland, which is known for having the best education systems according to many ranking agencies, along with Sweden, Norway and Denmark all performing high on the indicators indicated above.
In particular, the use of media policy in relation to bringing forth the potential of state media in educating the masses is indeed something to learn from Sweden. The Swedish Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) has played an innovative and meaningful role in this regard over the years; with positive consequences for promoting education, improving economic development, and the overall quality of democracy in the country.
On the other hand, Pakistan Television (state TV; PTV) has not been evolved much into delivering on education, information or entertainment. SBC on the other hand was provided a subsidy by the government to run state TV and radio without any commercials, and to focus content and time in educating people, providing them with extensive and unbiased information, along with becoming a source of good quality entertainment.
The underlying thought process for doing this by the Swedish government, was to use the means of state-run media to appropriately educate and inform the citizens, so that the overall society could better participate in the democratic process, and in enhancing economic development. Providing authentic information became all the more important to tackle planted propaganda, especially the one coming from the channels of social media.
The extent of commercials in Pakistani media has increased disproportionately over the years, which not only eats-into a lot of air time- not to mention the stream of thought it breaks of the viewers given the long durations of commercials in between content- but also has allowed economic consumption and investment priorities getting pushed a lot more in some directions than in others.
This has diluted government’s efforts to raise consumption demand in sectors, which lagged behind in overall improving the quality of GDP (gross domestic product; or national income), and in turn lack of consumption produced a) less incentive for private sector to invest in these important sectors, and b) left little disposable income or savings with consumers to invest in these important sectors.
That is one important reason why economic growth in Pakistan has not followed any sustained upward trajectory; because consumption has been highly tilted in sectors like clothing, eatables, among others, but scarcely in sectors with a lot of appetite and importance for overall economic development, for example, education, health, etc. Hence, commercials policy needs to be revisited therefore by the government, and the one practised by Sweden makes a lot of sense. Even the private media should be regulated in this regard, where limits are imposed on the extent of air-time given to commercials.
One of the main responsibilities of any government is nation-building, and the role of state media is indeed paramount. PTV, therefore, needs to brought out of the shadows and should become a role model for media overall in the country, and in time internationally.
Foremost, PTV should be seen as a potent tool for the government to educate people at all age-levels, especially when the institutional reform of the education sector. The best teaching staff should be involved, and multiple sub-channels of PTV should be launched to cater to the different levels of education- primary, secondary, tertiary, etc.
In a country where government has limited resources currently, where the physical infrastructure is weak, and where quality human resource is not much, the importance of state media in economic development is paramount. PTV, therefore, needs to spread its wings and should carry greater responsibility and sense of purpose. The government will have to come up with a media policy, sooner than later, that allows this to happen
Moreover, it should make powerful, modern and elaborate documentaries of important national and international historical events, lives of famous people, issues that matter, and of the sort. This will also help dispel wrong propaganda from national and international media outlets. Also, the government should make it mandatory that all employment or educational funding/scholarship information will also be provided through PTV.
Secondly, PTV should lead the media overall in providing unbiased and extensive reporting on information. At the same time, it should provide information on government policies, projects, knowledge about authorities in different sectors, and how to reach institutional help in sectors where an individual/entity is interested in working, consuming or investing. Information on sports and its broader coverage should also be ensured through PTV, with introducing dedicated channels, airing both sports fixtures and coaching content for different sports. Quality and quantity both need to enhance. Official prices of commodities of importance for general public should also be aired and also placed on PTV’s website so as to safeguard the consumers from exploitative market practices.
Thirdly, entertainment content needs to improve drastically in terms of airing both national and international content. A lot diverse coverage should be ensured here. This is important in improving the aesthetic and literary levels of our nation, apart from providing good relaxation avenues to a country challenged with acute economic issues/realities.
In a country where government has limited resources currently, where the physical infrastructure is weak, and where quality human resource is not much, the importance of state media in economic development is paramount. PTV, therefore, needs to spread its wings and should carry greater responsibility and sense of purpose. The government will have to come up with a media policy, sooner than later, that allows this to happen.