This is the worst times in terms of press censorship in the country’s recent history.
Any discussion on the media has to be prefaced with this statement, till even this lukewarm assertion is deemed unacceptable. A hyperbole, you say? Well, the bar for what is acceptable keeps falling lower and lower everyday. Standards from June seemed bold in August, which seem bold now. The insistence from certain state agencies to ‘blackout’ news items pertaining to certain groups are now made with the cocksure certainty that they will be acted up on. This swagger, once the tenuous domain of the spooks, is now even displayed by the corps of spindoctors.
It is natural for any and all changes in the structure of the industry to be viewed with this in mind. Even changes that were long overdue before there wasn’t such censorship.
The current revenue squeeze that the news media is seeing is big enough to irrevocably change the structure of the sector in its entirety, so naturally some dots are being connected.
Recently, a government memo regarding broadcast advertisement tariffs went viral. All of the channels’ tariffs were drastically cut down. Opponents would question why PTI-friendly ARY gets top-billing as opposed to the gadfly Geo, but before arguing that more people watch the former now, it should be pointed out that even ARY was socked in the gut as per the new plan. From a lofty Rs, 245,000 for a 60-seconds slot to a diminutive Rs 91,000. Geo, from its top billing of Rs 290,000 to Rs 89,000.
Then, of course, there are the channels about whom there is a consensus. D-lister Roze TV was charging as much as ARY! It has been cut to size at Rs 5,000. Though some would argue that even this is too much.
These, of course, are the rates that the government was paying. The corporate sector already pays much lesser. The government is simply responding to market forces, a change that was way overdue. Take the ad industries annual outlays and compare the number of players competing for it now. It’s a buyers’ market now, no question about it.
As opposed to the real government in the country, civil governments weren’t in the business of making veiled threats of physical violence and now they won’t need to. Their leverage has increased and they know it. Expect lesser coverage of the foibles of the civil government as the news agencies scramble to fight for the relatively smaller ad budgets.