Monday, August 11, 2014

News or documentary?

There are dozens of 24/7 news channels in Pakistan and a few news items. They have to fight like dogs to get the scoop out of the news. What they do with the news is what dogs do with a small piece of meat.
The typical reporter’s eye is only trained to see what his predecessor has been seeing for decades. The only two things he is trained is converting a press release into a news and reporting what has been said during a press conference.
His rise in profession starts from dropping out of school, , working at bus stop or barber’s shop, becoming a newspaper hawker, visiting police station with his ustad jee a few times, witnessing how bribe is taken by reporters and how they threaten junior government officials with their press cards.
It’s always disturbing to see amazing documentaries running on Discovery Channel about India and the dog fight going on Pakistani news channels. There is a certain amount of dog fight associated with news channels, but we have to tell the world the softer and better side of Pakistan.
The state institutions responsible for governing media are as useless as the state itself. When was the last time we heard about the Information Ministry holding a documentary competition on any issue of public or government interest? The public relations department of the army is better but army officers are never trained to handle the media unless they have read and became too much of a Napolean. The visuals that ISPR hands over to news channels are at least two decades old. The people want to see the slice of action going on in the tribal areas, but what they are forced to watch is stale visuals.
The media regulatory authority can ask channels to allocate a certain amount of time before every bulletin for public awareness programmes. It can also hold competitions and award the best campaign awards. A one minute segment on traffic awareness can improve our worst driving. A few seconds on health can educate the masses.
Youth is making outstanding documentaries on social issues. They are very popular on social media, but how many people in Pakistan are on facebook. Other than refrigerator, television is the only device which runs in a house continuously. It has more penetration than the social media.
Every other month a couple of polio vaccinators are killed. No television channel has ever made a moving documentary on their plight. The average reporter can’t think of anything better then ending his report with a stereotype sentence. We need better copy writers. The language of a television report must be musical to ears. If visuals are not good, language still glues people to the television.
You don’t require millions of rupees to make a documentary. An ordinary mobile camera can do what an expensive professional camera would do a few years ago. We need an eye which is trained to see something new out of routine and we need a resolve to educate our countrymen.

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