Considered traditional rivals, there have been several misconceptions that have hampered peaceful relationships between India and Pakistan. Thus, any opportunity that brings the thinkers and decision makers of the two nations together is always welcome. One such platform that brought leading media personalities and decision makers together recently was the first South Asia Media Summit (SAMS). The Summit was jointly organised by All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and exchange4Media Group in Islamabad on February 20 and 21, 2013.
In a special address on ‘Preparing for the dawn of a new era in Media’ Hameed Haroon, CEO, Dawn Media Group of Pakistan affirmed that freedom of media is integral to ensure civic rights and promote India-Pakistan peace.
According to him, the whole system is “anti-learning” and added that freedom of the press is still under threat. Corruption in media is another challenge for this field. He felt that the future of print media is tied with the future of civic rights.
Speaking on ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, Outlook Editor-in-Chief Krishna Prasad spoke about the India-Pakistan conflict and added that conflict resolution has been restricted to a special class and area. The strife has become stereotypical and narrow in nature over the years. “If you are looking at conflict resolution, let us look at geography and let us be more tempered in our speech,” Prasad said, adding, “In India, especially electronic media has been guilty of jingoism than showing reality.”
According to Prasad, part of the problem is the race for ratings and market share, especially among TV channels, which gives them the incentive to sensationalise news. “However, governments, too, are part of the problem,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Information Minister of Pakistan, called for media to promote peace in South Asia, especially between India and Pakistan. “Media partnerships and an exchange of delegations can help make this possible,” he said.
The Minister felt that only media can play a significant role in softening and developing public opinion. Pakistani media has played an effective role in all movements for protection of democracy and the rule of law, he added.
At this point, Kaira pointed out that Indian channels and movies are watched in Pakistan with and without government permission. “Unfortunately, the same space is not given to Pakistani media products in India,” he lamented.
Outlook’s Prasad suggested that the governments in the region could come together to set up a South Asia school of journalism, to which Kaira remarked that work was already underway for such a school.
‘Newspapers need to re-visit their approach’
Print media, especially newspapers, continue to play a significant role in India as well as Pakistan. However, they need to stay relevant for the younger generation too.
Sam Balsara, Chairman and Managing Director, Madison World noted that newspapers need to focus on colour editions and reposition themselves to appeal to the young readers. He pointed out that newspapers’ ad share in India stood at a stable 40-45 per cent today.
Agreeing with Balsara, Fouad Hussain, General Manager, Mindshare Pakistan said newspapers need to revisit their approach. “Viewership of television is limited as compared to the circulation of newspapers,” he added.
Aly Mustansir, EVP & Head of Marketing and Brand Management of Pakistan’s HBL, too, urged newspapers to recreate their content in order to survive and grow further. “Print media faces a tricky situation, and if ads are to be placed on the basis of relations alone, then newspapers will ultimately die out,” he noted.
Speaking about the readership measurement scenario in Pakistan, Abdul Sattar Babar, MD, Ipsos Pakistan shared that a four-member committee had been formed to review the system of Audit Bureau Circulation (ABC). He said that as present, the ABC is under Pakistan government’s control. “There are serious questions about the authenticity of circulation data of ABC, for instance, a newspaper with a circulation of 20,000 could show having a circulation of 0.12 million to get more ads,” he added.
Maintaining editorial independence
Editorial integrity and freedom for external influences go a long way in maintaining credibility of newspaper brands. While speaking on ‘Editorial Independence vs Market Realities’ Arif Nizami of Pakistan Today pointed out that professional chief editors in Pakistan cannot sustain financial pressures. Mujeeb Shami, Chief Editor, Daily Pakistan added here, “We know that in order to run a newspaper we have to keep in mind the market realities. However, first and foremost we need to remember that we are for the readers not for the marketers.”
Indian media seems to be better placed vis-à-vis Pakistani media. Ashish Bagga, Group CEO, India Today Group said, “We are an editorial first company and no one can challenge in this. We are known for our quality journalism.”
“This doesn’t mean that we ignore our advertisers, but if we have to choose between a big story and a big advertisement, then we will definitely go for the story. Those who are not doing so, in my view they are irresponsible brands,” Bagga further said.
Converging digital world
Even as traditional media continues to grow, the emergence of digital media can’t be ignored.
According to Adil Ahmed, Director, Symmetry Group, “If you want to be part of the digital word, then you need to start with refreshing your digital thinking.” Adding to this, Faisal Sherjan, Digital Media Head, Geo TV said that though this is the era of digital, we need to understand that distribution is as important for the digital world as it is for other media. “If content is king, then distribution is King Kong,” he remarked.
Anant Goenka, Head - New Media, Indian Express felt that news publishers have to opt for reach extenders by providing added value through online editions and developing revenue models for digital media.