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The Media Boom, Local Languages and Self-Help in Pakistan.

Byline: Sonia Jawaid Shaikh


The paper intends to examine the media boom in Pakistan and the possibilities it could provide to regional and local languages of Pakistan. Pakistan is a land of multiple ethnicities but national language is Urdu and constitutional language is English. I as an observer and student of Mass Communication wish to look how people can help themselves and their communities through advent of more media outlets in their respective communities. The paper will also look into Democratic Participant Theory that encourages multiple ethnicities in participating in media so that they can educate and help themselves. Participation in media will not only protect the languages but will create multiple opportunities for locals. It is a fact that people can explain themselves better in their first language, and so such media could help people disseminate knowledge to others. But most importantly, this paper will focus how multiple outlets help provide unity to the wheel of development rather than to the chaos of provincialism.

Various languages on the media will enhance confidence in their communities and give them voice of their own. This means such outlets are intended for purpose of shared benefits and not for creation of disharmony in already conflicted country.

The Media Boom, Local Languages and Self-Help in Pakistan

By Sonia Jawaid Shaikh

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is not just a name of one country; it represents a multitude of differences within one boundary. The land of Pakistan has various populations within it, enclosing and embracing various ethnicities, languages and regions. Pakistan has various languages with 5 languages dominating the state according to the population size. The statistics for percentage of people having major languages as their mother tongue is: Punjabi 48%, Sindhi 12%, Siraiki (a Punjabi variant) 10%, Pashtu 8%, Balochi 3%, Hindko 2%, Brahui 1%, Burushaski and other 8%. Urdu which is the national language understood nearly throughout the country is mother tongue of 8% population. Constitutional language is English, understood by only 3% and according to Encyclopedia of Britannica 1995 year book, 15000000 in population. The war between the application of constitutional language and national language has been a reason of discord since a long time.

Urdu is taught in government schools, those are within the reach of rural population and groups with little sources of income. On the other hand, private schools giving English education are allowed to flourish and can be afforded by well off families.

With such broad spectrum of languages within one country; differences and quarrels have appeared over the years. This paper however looks onto the aspect of media which has particularly blossomed in Pakistan post 9/11.

The Media Boom:

The media boom in Pakistan came after world changing incident of 9/11. The shift of events brought Pakistan in a whirlpool of attention and many local and international events led Pakistani audiences to be drawn toward the media. Soon private electronic media gained wide popularity and more channels sprung up including more radio channels. One of the first influential private news channels was Geo News, launched in October 2002. Since then there has been no turning back as channels like ARY One World, Indus News, Aaj, followed the suit and started catering to huge public demand for analysis and news. The Pakistani audience overwhelmingly welcomed the advent of media as they felt information freed from clutches of state television and radio. Such is the public dependence on news channels today that in the wake of 3 November 2007 emergency that banned news channels, BBC in its report, 'Pakistanis slake thirst for news' said, Newspapers have also benefited from the thirst for information.

A vendor in Karachi said sales had doubled since the start of the emergency; one report said circulation had been boosted by the "unprecedented demand" for news.

In the same report BBC said, The BBC, which has extended its daily Urdu broadcasts from two hours to three, attracted the "vast majority" of listeners.

Moreover, people were attracted towards radio and dish for news. This shows that media has entered into public life in a way not known before. At least it is safe to assume that urbanites are fully exposed to local media.

The channels that emerged, broadcasted in the popular, widely understood national language Urdu with programmes including English as well. Urdu is the popular media language Media has brought the good flow of information. It has the ability to empower people. Many different aspects of the same story can be put across to local audiences where they are left to decide for themselves.

When we talk of giving power to the people, we ask if really media empowers people in Pakistan. Here we focus the power of being aware, since the popular language is Urdu with English also making its way into the media very aptly, we must ask where the other local languages are. While media booms in Urdu and English, it must be questioned how much are we putting in our regional languages? Secondly why is it important to make local languages part of media in effective and qualitative ways? Before we answer those questions lets see the list of local language channels.



* KTN News

* Sindh TV

* Sindh TV News

* Kashish TV

* Mehran TV (Currently on Test Transmission)


* Apna Channel

* Apna News

* Punjab TV

* Dharti TV (Currently on Test Transmission)

* Ravi TV (Currently on Test Transmission)


* Rohi TV- the voice of seraiki peoples

* Waseb TV- Part of Airwaves Media Network

* Kook TV


* AVT Khyber

* Khyber News

* K2


* SabzBaat TV (Currently on Test Transmission)


* Aap TV (previously Aapna Des) - UK based channel available in UK

* KBC - (Currently on Test Transmission) - UK based channel available in UK, Middle East, Africa and Asia

* KBC 2 - (Currently on Test Transmission) - UK based channel available in UK

* Himalia Television (Covering Kashmir Valley,Jammu,Azad Kashmir,Gilgit Baltistan,Ladakh)

The Importance of Regional languages in Media:

Today, communication has revolutionized the world. In the era of globalization, people have access to different institutions. Media is one such institution and very powerful too. It has capability to shape public opinion.

Dawn newspaper in its report about a seminar organized in Peshawar by a German University quoted German Professor, Prof Dr Klaus Beck, chairman of Communication Science at the University of Greifswald, Germany,

"History reveals that development of new media and forms of communication there was nearly always the development of hopes and fears."

With the media boom in Pakistan, it is the time many local languages can become a part of recorded history and help empower their communities through self help. Self Help is when person or persons decide to help themselves without little or no help from others. It is a state of mind where dependence on others reduces and dependence on self increases. The principle of Self Help instills hard work, patience and sensibility with the determination of goal setting and achievement

The need for local languages in media is stressed so because it is highly possible that people when hearing analysts, commentators, interpreters and other intellectuals in their own language with knowledge, will come to be more aware. The same audience will not only be aware but will consider those on media with information as role models. The presence of role models induces motivation and encouragement in societies. Lack of role models in our society has made hopelessness and despondency and lack of motivation visible everywhere. If local communities start pouring in the investment in the local media, more people from their communities will come up to the fore front. This will depend on the quality of programming; the timing and the necessity of the occasion. If the trend continued, many local communities will find it easy to come up to the main stream of Media River.

Here comes again the principle of self help, very much required to strengthen continuation of progress in the country because it will be 'publ icly generated investment'. If public's money remains in public's hands, it can be assumed that there will be lesser chances of corruption and misuse.

Various communities can emerge to participate in media ensuring democratic participation of the public. The benefits could be shared by both; the audiences and the influencers in the media contributing to local languages of Pakistan.

It is a fact that people are more inclined to hearing their own mother tongue. It is a natural attraction. The people in the media who will belong to regional communities can attract those regional audiences and involve them in sharing knowledge and awareness. They could also help in bringing to limelight many regional problems of traditions that curb masses, rural problems, issue of women rights, issues of feudalism. Many times efforts to bring up the rural areas fail because the people are not even aware of their own rights. This way we many people together could flow the wheel of progress.

When we talk of feudal and feudalism that has halted the progress of many rural areas across the country, through media, the people can break the shackles. Media allows questioning, probing and answering. Our state in the past and in the present has seen much crisis in law enforcement. People do not have many outlets to uphold the influential accountable. In such scenario media could very well satisfy the needs.

Apart from major languages that are spoken throughout the country; it is very important to preserve smaller or dying languages in northern parts of Pakistan. Some of them are Badeshi, Chilliso, Domaaki, Gowro, Ushojo (Rahman). (This requires groundbreaking efforts).

The Power with the People:

In the past there has been much discord between the media and the government. The state TV is no more trusted and this is troublesome for government. The BBC report continued to say...

What is noticeable amongst all this is a reluctance to rely on state-run PTV as the sole source of information.

During the unfolding events of this year, Pakistanis have got used to the private channels' coverage and analysis. And even now, while these channels are unavailable to most of the population, government ministers are still appearing on them to explain their positions.

The media is blamed for crossing the limits while media claims that government wants to silence them for telling the truth. There has been amendment in PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) by Musharraf led government in 2007, but there has never been any serious debate or formation of media laws in the country.

Tensions between the two poles, media and the government remain apparent. In the fight between existing media and the government, the consumers that is the audience remains aloof from making decisions. Under section 301 of PEMRA ORDINANCE 2002, the Authority is subjected to ordinances and laws whenever they are imposed. Again in the entire process, where is the audience involvement.

Public opinion is rarely sought. Except for presence of international watchdog, there are no significant public institutions that could interfere and tell both the rival parties what actions are important. Democratic Participant Theory of Media encourages different segments of the society to take part in media building. Here, in a population of 160 million, this remains a rarity.

Here is the when local communities must become very effective. If there will be emergence of media from the public, then there would be emergence of media watchdogs from the public. We must remember that media could not be set loose too; it is important that public has share in the feedback and divert policies of media. In institutions of civilized societies, the power to decide does not rest with the few, though, in some cases it should and does, but in an open and diverse institution of media, everybody should involve. The local communities must join hands with each other for formation of media watchdogs that can influence government and agenda setters. But, here we are talking of power in media coming from recipients of media...the public.

The watchdogs should develop from public as well to keep an eye on fellow public, the media and the Accountable.

Various communities must come together to join hands and reduce exploitations by the few. The long term goals could benefit many. First of all the segments of the public that have been exposed to education and can find resources must invest in media building in their own language. As the paper already mentions the kind of benefits their people can share as in awareness, role modeling, another of creation of jobs can be made. If investment in media results beneficent, the public which will form the media can use the profit to aid rural areas in their communities. What can be better than publicly financed schools, hospitals? It is freedom from continued feudal dependence.

Another very important benefit from various quality channels in local language will bring about cultural acknowledgement within and outside Pakistan. Many stereotypical images might fade when local communities will see each other through media. In foreign states, these channels could send direct cultural publicity, leading to better image and of course, tourism. If we will be able to attract tourists to our rural areas, this means development will start in those areas to upgrade them for tourists. This also means increased jobs, knowledge, interaction and opportunities.

More than often, 61 year history of Pakistan has seen discord between various communities, rich leaders play blame game at the expense of common man. An ordinary working Pakistan is more concerned about generating stereotypes regarding other communities rather than learning about them. This is due to ultimate emotional dependence of people on the leaders of their ethnicities. All of this has hindered our development. With accountability being generated in the media, people can come out of their emotional dependence on leaders and focus more on their self improvement.

The state of Pakistan has also witnessed severe malfunctioning in its institutions of law due to one reason or another. It is difficult for a common man to uphold the rich or in power. Media from public spheres can highlight common man's plight through Creation of Accountability by Media that can lead to much change. Creation of Accountability by Media is very powerful and is can/will be put into action when the in charge are questioned in public, it is possible that there might be reductions in their negligence and offence. The bad will be discussed openly, even if judiciary is stabbed, people can depend on themselves to find means of objective accountability. This all may seem idealistic, but this is a changed world. We are talking of communication, public involvement and investment. The days of guns and swords can retire.

People are often exposed on little and foul means of violence when their basic needs remain unfulfilled and they keep stumbling in darkness of illiteracy and ignorance. If media can create jobs and awareness, sooner or later inter-provincial hostility will reduce. More than often these hostilities are fanned by power holders who wish to maintain status quo, but such tendencies could reduce.

The Models

The models encourage media, watchdogs (groups keeping eyes on situations), investment emerging from public.

The Development within Public Sphere if Media Is Within Public Sphere

The Overarching Watchdogs over Media and the Accountable, all from Public Spheres.

Note: The Accountable may refer to any moment in time to anyone or many who are negligent or criminal. This may range from government, organizations, personnel and others.

The Public Investment in Public Hands

Note: Public Institutions include media, watchdogs from public. Investment of public must surround it and operate it. Other sections like corporations and governments cannot be sidelined, they can continue with their outlets. Public involvement is a democratic consensus building sign.


* Rahman, Tariq. Language policy, multilingualism and language vitality in Pakistan,

* BBC Report, "Pakistanis slake thirst for news".

* BBC, Country Profiles, Pakistan,

* CIA, The World Fact Book, Pakistan,

* PAKISTAN: Media growth linked to social sector, Dawn, Monday, February 13, 2006,

* Distribution for English Speakers in Pakistan,

* Launch Date AAJ TV 2006

* Launch Date ARY ONE WORLD 2004

* Launch Date, Geo geo 1st oct 2002

* Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, Rules,

* Musharraf promulgates PEMRA amended ordinance 2007 - 41k (4 June 2007).

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh, Student of Masters in Mass Communication at University of Karachi
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Publication:International Journal of Arts and Humanities
Date:Dec 31, 2010
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