PKONWEB Report (ISLAMABAD) — It is not in the interest of Pakistan to subsidize the news media, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Sunday. “They must have a vested interest in the Pakistan economy”.
The Info Minister said “News channels across the world don’t build their models on the basis of the government.”
Addressing the participants of the third ThinkFest at Lahore’s Alhamra Arts Council, he said, “Is the government your savior or client? If I am your savior, then how will the media be independent?”
As part of its manifesto, the newly-elected Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had promised to make the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, Pakistan Television autonomous in order to ensure freedom of press, and to make the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority autonomous to prevent the watchdog from becoming “a political tool”.
The PTI government is also forming a federal Media Regulatory Authority and a Media University.
Mr. Chaudhry suggested that Pakistani media houses revamp their revenue models to maintain their independence and “mentally prepare” for the future when technology will change the way television and the news are consumed by audiences.
According to an estimate, the government spends approx Rs30 billion on print and electronic media advertisements–a whopping figure that trickles down the country’s ever growing media industry making it a formidable fourth estate–the paradox is government is its largest advertiser.
The PTI government wants to scale back the practise and let the media grow on its own merit and strength, but the strategy apparently has no takers among the big media houses.
The information minister told participants that whenever he told media houses that their revenue models “won’t work”, they get angry at him.
“The news media wants the government to sponsor them. How can the government sponsor them? It will either have to take loans or impose more taxes in order to give them money,” he said.
“If I pay, then I will decide what the headlines will be. The dependence of the media on the government must decrease in the interest of the independence of the media, and they will need to revamp their models,” he said.
The information minister complained about how print media and the Cable Operators’ Association take issue with his statements when he warns them that digital media and modern technology are outstripping them.
“For cable, this is also the last five to seven years,” he predicted, adding that although he is not responsible for the advances in technology, he is accused of “scaring” the media and cable service providers.
“But technology will take over print media and television media ─ in different forms ─ so you will need to prepare mentally,” he warned.
“Our contribution is that we’re building a modern university to impart new skills so that our students are apprised of modern media trends,” he said, explaining the steps the government is taking to stimulate the industry.