- By Muneeb Jamal
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The establishment of media outlets in Pakistan has its roots in the pre-partition times when most of the newspapers were established to promote the cause of independent Pakistan. After independence, the nationalist ideology was gradually infiltrated by the Islamic ideology as well. Today, the media groups in Pakistan are either a source of huge profits or are used mainly to cover business interests. The owners of some groups are no longer the media specialized personals but those involved in various businesses e.g. the owner of Century Publications which publishes Urdu “Daily Express” is Mr. Lakhani, who also heads the American Fast-food chain McDonalds in Pakistan.
The motivation for liberalizing media licensing came when the military government in 2002 realized that it could be used to strengthen national security and counter the threat from India especially after the Kargil War and hijacking of Indian Airline by Pakistani based militants. The electronic media in Pakistan was inferior to the Indian side at that time and therefore, it was decided that media licensing would be liberalized. The terrestrial rights are, however, with PTV, a state owned channel viewed in rural areas and places where cable cannot reach. This means that the government wants to have hold on the media but still, the private channels has played a vital role in keeping people informed and in formation of their opinion.
The media outlets have grown substantially after the liberalization in Musharraf’s regime. There are dozens of newspapers ranging from English-Urdu to regional languages. The number of television channels has increased from two or three state run in 2000 to about 50 privately owned channels. These include about 20 news channels and five religious channels which deal with social issues as well.
Today, there are three major media groups in print and electronic media i.e. Jang Group, Dawn or Herald Group and Nawai-e-Waqt Group. Besides these three, Express group and Daily Times group are also significant one. The chart below (published by www.initiaitveforpeacebuilding.eu) will give us a better idea about some of the newspapers, magazines and TV channels under these groups.
1. Jang Group:
Jang group was founded by Mir Khalil Ur Rehman in 1942 in Delhi which was moved to Karachi after independence. After the sad demise of Mir Khalil Ur Rehman in 1992, the group is headed by Mir Shakil Ur Rehman who started his career with the group’s English Eveninger “Daily News”. His main accomplishments include the launch of English Weekly “Mag” from Karachi in 1980, Daily Jang Lahore edition, Daily English “The News” International in 1991.
The Group’s flagship publication is the Urdu-language newspaper Daily Jang, which is printed from six stations across the country. The groups’ English publications are considered more critical while Urdu publications are considered moderate. The group tends to have a “moderate conservative perspective”.
On electronic media side, Geo TV is affiliated with Jang group. Its flagship channel is Geo News. It has a very large audience but has no terrestrial access. The channel is criticized for its exaggeration and sensationalism like other TV channels. It is said to be very close to “lawyers Movement” that is why its “live transmission” and programs with its famous anchors Dr. Shahid Masood and Hamid Mir were banned during emergency imposed by Musharraf in 2007. Its transmission was also blocked in evening in certain areas due to its coverage of “Long March for reinstatement of Chief Justice” during Zardari’s rule in 2009.
2. DAWN Group:
Dawn group also known as the Pakistan Herald publications was founded by Quaid-e-Azam in 1941 by launching English Weekly DAWN. Describing the objective og this newspaper, the Quaid said; “The Dawn will mirror faithfully the views of Muslim India and All India Muslim League in all its activities; economic, educational and social and more particularly political throughout the country fearlessly and independently.”
Dawn was converted into an English Daily in Oct, 1942. All its publications are in English. The groups flagship publication is the Daily DAWN. Its Eveninger “Star” is very popular. Dawn tends to have a moderate approach on almost all the issues and is considered an independent and neutral newspaper which has tried to follow the vision of its founding father.
The group’s electronic media channel DAWN News was launched in 2007 and is mostly followed by international community, policy makers of public and private organizations.
3. NAWAI-e-WAQT Group of Publications:
Nawai-e-Waqt group was established in 1940 by Hameed Nizami by launching fortnightly journal Nawai-e-Waqt from Lahore. It is known for its conservative approach. According to Javid Siddiq, resident editor, the paper stands for democracy and for an Islamic welfare state. It has also a very large readership.
On electronic media side, Waqt News is associated with this group and Dr. Moeed Pirzada is one of its most popular anchors and columnist.
Although these groups have a very large viewership but a lot of other channels like AAJ News and ARY News, Express News, Duniya News, Capital News are giving tough time to these groups.