Media Watch: Hard times | Pakistan Today

Media Watch: Hard times

It’s a lot of things coming together, merging into one big elephant-in-the-room.

Over the last two years, the increase in the suppression of the free press has been palpable. Yes, the last decade was never the poster-child for press freedom but at least it was, like most of the preceding decades, (barring the 80s) ratcheting up, slightly at times, quicker at others.

These last couple of years have seen a strict level of censorship. Now, even junior officials of the media wing of the establishment boss around TV newsroom officials with the sort of impunity that the spooks used to have.

Media management is jettisoning its khudday-lein status within the officer ranks and is increasingly becoming a career posting, one that leads to better prospects. Fifth Generation Warfare, and all that.

But invisible forces have now teamed up with Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand as well. Market forces just might do to the media what the powers-that-be couldn’t. How does one protest against lop-sided balance sheets?

With the government now seriously clamping down on newspaper ads, there isn’t enough money to pay staff.

Though that doesn’t mean all tax-funded ads are to be closed down. And no points for guessing which state institution is going to be doling out all the new (government) cash, that could replace the shortfall?

Meanwhile, as newspapers (and, to a lesser but definite extent, television channels) lay off staffers, the press bodies keep protesting against the “illegal” terminations. Some of these might indeed be without the serving of notices and that needs to be rectified but other than that, there is no law, really, that can prevent a commercial enterprise from reining in expenses.

If news media organisations were earlier able to muster the courage to stave off powerful forces, can they do the same for powerful and well-heeled forces?

As Talat Hussein notes in the video op-ed below (online readers only) that senior anchors and columnists might try to show bravery but the media owners (and here, no fault of theirs) simply show them the books, and then point to the rest of the staff: you can take the hit, but what about them and their salaries?

The Tube

Media Watch column is meant to offer commentary on the affairs of the media.