TV Programs I Would Like to Watch

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Although there has been a mushroom growth of domestic private cable digital TV channels in Pakistan in recent years, still viewers feel shallowness in terms of quality of the content on most of the channels and the spectrum of viewers’ choice is also narrow.

Indus Vision was the first channel to start operations in the private sector and then Geo TV and ARY Digital entered the market. Indus Vision primarily focused on family entertainment covering mainly drama, music, documentaries, religious programs and news & current affairs etc., and its main strength initially was drama and musical programs (family entertainment) in line with the core competency of the executive team. Similarly, Geo penetrated the market with a news and current affairs channel and after developing strong base among the viewers introduced new specialized channels evolving rapidly into the most popular TV network. ARY on the other hand started with news and current affairs programs and gradually entered into other specialized segments. To skim the market and in view of the competition Indus Vision started another popular channel Indus Music which instantaneously became popular in youth and used to be as popular as the favorite foreign channels particularly Indian Star Plus and Sony TV channels. Soon other domestic channels made their mark in the perception of the viewers. Initially, passion and sincerity of media stalwarts was with Indus Vision but later on when producers like Iqbal Ansari and Zaheer Khan realized that it is difficult to realize their valuable ideas without capital they decided to switch their jobs to Geo or ARY which had better financial health. In a way Indus Vision after Pakistan Television (PTV) & Radio Pakistan served as a training academy for other channels.

Also, initially, the big wigs underestimated the nature of competition and dynamics of the market particularly those who had retired from the state run PTV – which remained the solitary channel (Hobson’s choice for sponsors) for quite some time and enjoyed absolute monopoly. These professionals took the market lightly and sitting on their past laurels started developing programs as per their own whims. On top of that they expected the young sales lads (in-house or outsource) to sell their stuff. They never used to listen to the young sales folks thinking egoistically that they knew very well what the viewers wanted. However, when during performance reviews they tried to put the onus of blame of poor returns to sales people, the reply was an eye opener – market did not want to buy the stuff they were producing rather the market wanted the programs as per their requirements. Soon the tendency to produce market driven programs took momentum. As a marketing gimmick, channels used to target programs for women while rightly believing that sponsors were and still are more inclined towards programs that are watched by women as they are the one who usually influence purchase decisions in Pakistani households. It seems funny but is true. The channels also learned to add scroll at the bottom of the screen to retain viewers while airing entertainments programs (Initially it was believed to be a compromise on quality). Now the scroll covers not only classifications in the shape of local news, domestic news, economy, sports and entertainment etc. but recently some channels have started to add teaser lines regarding upcoming programs so that viewers stick to their channels.Uggs Black Friday

Initially private channels used to air programs from Hong Kong which used to cause unnecessary delays, since they did not have uplink licenses from Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) during embryonic stages. Soon PEMRA started issuing licenses. Some of the channels operate from Dubai also. PTV still has wider coverage as compared to private channels because of well established network of boosters; hence they enjoy edge over the digital channels in terms of attracting advertisers. It took a great deal of time to private channels to enhance their local and international coverage. TV channels fight to get their channels tuned on the first ten slots i.e., 0-9 as research shows that since these buttons can be easily traced and used on the remote control so naturally people scroll through theseugg boots black friday

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options first. Also there are technical categories of tuning channels at the head end (hub) which improves reception.

Also, in early days, when the electronic media revolution started, there was a ban on cross-media ownership which prohibited print media owners to enter electronic media. But soon the government realized the mistake (or maybe the pressure from media groups) and allowed cross-media ownership which made it possible for a single person to own entities in print and electronic media simultaneously. Unlike many countries the cable operators do not pay any fee to the TV channels rather they generate revenues through advertisements and program sponsorships apart from other revenue sharing mechanisms including event management and telephone calls from viewers. Today domestic TV channels cover a diverse range of themes. For example there are religious, sports, food & cooking, living & style, regional language channels. Popular TV networks include Geo, Aaj, Dunya, Hum, DAWN and Express.

A brief walk through all the channels reveals that mostly there are directionless rather useless talk shows being aired on social issues and politics on most channels (maybe because they are cheaper options and less creativity is involved to produce them, at least this is the case if we analyze the depth, insightfulness and

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outcome of these programs). There are no regulations regarding the extent of advertisements due to which viewers face problem. Re-telecast of the old programs and monotony is another problem for viewers. So channels change a couple of programs to show diversity and dynamism in the transmission cycles which runs on six or eight hours repeated thrice or twice in 24 hours daily opportunity time.

Even though Government pretends to be open to criticism but there have been instances when some programs or channels are banned. Some channels are funded by political parties to highlight their agendas and there are journalists who take bribes to air news items or give testimonials. Communications skills is a basic problem with Pakistanis as you ask a basic question about a practitioner about his job which he has been doing for ages and he won’t be prepared to give a concise and easy to understand answer. Due to security reasons one can say that security agencies might have some sort of control over cable operators as to when stall a channel or make a program go off-air (who knows). One can also see the urge to westernize the society on some channels (seems like a foreign agenda).

Here are some categories in which private channels may like to develop telecasting material. A person who has worked in media knows that only workable ideas in terms of cost and competence of the production team are adopted.

Quiz Programs: It is no doubt difficult to find a professional quiz master these days in Pakistan. This is the reason why ARY opted for legendary multi-talented comedian Moeen Akhtar, a great entertainer in his own right interestingly also with good academic qualifications, for the local version of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’. The program failed to leave an impact as compared to the one hosted across the border by Amitabh Bachan which without doubt became a benchmark for others to emulate. Later on Shahrukh Khan failed as a quiz master to impress audience on Indian versions of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ (new season) and ‘Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader’ which shows not everyone can become a quiz master. One must acknowledge the class of quiz masters of PTV golden era. To name a few Quraish Pur, Obaidullah Baig, Ghazi Salhuddin, Zia Mohyeddin, Khushbakht Shujaat, Salma Baig, Laiq Ahmed, Dildar Pervaiz Bhatti, Adil Najm, Abbas Najmi and legendary Tariq Aziz who is still dragging on the format of ‘Neelam Ghar’ with new program titled ‘Tariq Aziz Show’. The quiz masters of today have no colors to match the charisma and presence

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of Indian Derek O’Brien of ‘Bournvita Quiz’ and Siddhartha Basu of ‘MasterMind India’. Indus TV did try to bring on Rahat Kazmi some time back to host a quiz program but unfortunately not a single sponsor turned up. Although the idea did not materialize, but one could visualize Rahat Kazmi as a very nice quiz master as he has a great deal of general knowledge and charismatic personality too. It may be a successful strategy to involve educational institutions i.e., schools, colleges or universities etc., in the shape of inter-institutional competition to attract sponsors. Difficulty of complying with (unless they are woven with our cultural realities – the back drop) foreign formats seems another problem. It might be difficult to copy programs like ‘The Weakest Link’ or to match the touch and class of Anne Robinson, Jeff Foxworthy or Chris Tarrant.

Documentaries: Geo has started a program ‘Geomentary’ which is very informative. Similarly other channels also show good documentaries but limited time is dedicated to documentaries. National Geographic, Fox History, Discovery and Animal Planet channels show documentaries in Hindi and there is a large viewer-base for these channels in Pakistan, still this area seems pretty much neglected. Why are Pakistani viewers deprived of documentaries on Pakistani cultural heritage, landscape, flora & fauna, historical sites and architectural marvels etc.? Perhaps PTV enjoys edge over private channels in this field still. Why not after all Rs. 35 is deducted per month through electricity bills as PTV surcharge from subscribers across Pakistan. BBC had telecast a series of very nice documentary programs at the turn of the millennium under the theme ‘The People’s Century’. The interesting thing about these documentaries was that they were based on interviews of the people who had themselves experienced the events as they happened. Documentaries made by Noor Ellahi Warraich, Nargis Hashmi, Dur Muhammad Kasi and Affifa Sofia ul Hussaini aired on PTV were world class by all means. Even PTV’s English documentaries were of international caliber. PTV’s English voice-over artiste Altaf Hussain’s renditions were so powerful, as they still ricochet across the minds of those who have watched those magnificent documentaries. Pakistani viewers would love to watch informative documentaries on religious places and civilizations mentioned in the Holy Quran.

Reality TV: The out of the box or one can say monumental ‘George Ka Pakistan’ show is considered first reality TV show which revolved around the UK Journalist George Fulton who had three months to become a Pakistani national aired in 2005 on Geo. Viewers crave for such programs. How about developing a local version of ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’ starring popular actors – comedians.

The Unsung Heroes of Pakistan: There are so many programs which depress the viewers by portraying negative image of Pakistan. There are many

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exemplary common folks whose interviews and life sketches may be presented to boost the morale of public and to show the beautiful side of the country. Media should strive for nation development more sincerely and shut the recent hype in anti-Pakistan propaganda for good.

Botanical Heritage of Pakistan: Pakistani general public is not very well informed about the remarkable plants and trees in Pakistan. So cable channels should think about starting these types of programs as well. Hamdard & Qarshi laboratories, agriculture universities and HEJ Institute of Applied Chemistry may be involved to make the program accurate and meaningful.

Interviews with Business Tycoons: There is a program going on air on Waqt TV in which notable business entrepreneurs are interviewed. For instance recently a program was shown on Dentonic mouth wash powder. The pioneer of the product highlighted his business strategy in a remarkable detail. There is a business class which needs to watch these programs. One such program was aired by BBC in which interviews of Indian business magnates were telecast.

The Character Actors of PTV: We have a general tendency of not appreciating the works of those actors who usually do not play leading roles. They deserved to be portrayed as our national icons by all criteria. Some of our cherished character actors became immortal in their roles for instance who can forget ‘Chaudhry Hashmat Ali’, ‘Deputy Sahab’, ‘Durrani Sahab’ and ‘Parri Pekar’ to name a few. There is a long list of actors whose work must be acknowledged and documentaries on their career and life might be of tremendous interest to a great deal of viewers. Younger generation will also be able to generate these actors par excellence. A review of their work can also serve as training to new actors and will surely make viewers adept in examining true performances. To name a few while feeling guilty of omitting a deserving one, Begum Khurshid Mirza, Subhani Bayunus, Firdous Jamal, Mahmood Ali, Azra Sherwani, Arsh-e-Muneer, Zaheen Tahira, Tahira Naqvi, Qazi Wajid, Khayam Sarhadi, Ishrat Hashmi, Azm-ul-Haq, Saba Pervaiz, Qurban Jeelani, Shujaat Hashmi, Masood Akhtar, Mehboob Alam, Sarwat Atiq, Akbar Subhani, Sikander Hayat, Ibrahim Nafees, Shehnaz Sheikh,

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Yasmin Ismail and Shafi Muhammad etc. It seems we are good at paying tribute to leading actors, singers, producers, directors and poets.

Educational / Awareness Programs – Food & Hygiene and Public Safety: There are no doubt very effective public service messages aired on private channels which are mainly sponsored by Government departments and foreign NGOs, however, it may be worth mentioning that there used to be a program aired on Shalimar TV Network (STN) in which Quaid-e-Azam University’s Dr. Abdul Bari used to educate people regarding food & zoonosis. The program was interesting and informative. Best part is, it is not expensive to make such programs so instead of filling surplus transmission time with comic strips why not air cost effective public service programs. Programs on civic sense, ethics and moral values are also a need of the day.