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Pakistan’s Media and the Propaganda Model

Tuesday 20 November 2018, by siawi3

Source: https://wp.me/p4psWk-33s

Pakistan’s Media and the Propaganda Model

Turyal Azam Khan

November 20, 2018 at 5:03 pm

It is no surprise that there is no such thing as objectivity when it comes to Pakistan’s corporate mass media. The average Pakistani while at times may easily be manipulated by the media but would certainly not rule out the fact that the media spreads lies. However their credibility to this claim is questionable.

Some would consider the media as a tool being funded by foreign agencies in order to malign Pakistan, some would consider the media as pandering to the interests of the elites and the corporations who run it and some would just not care. There are more than these three categories here as every individual would respond to media messages in a different manner.

I recently came across Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s book “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” and to my surprise I was baffled by the fact that a book released in 1988 seems so relevant to the current state of the Pakistani media today.

While freedom of expression, when it comes to Pakistan, is a vague concept, the media as a tool for mass manipulation cannot be ruled out either.

The Propaganda Model which is discussed in the same book talks about how mass media functions in order to spread propaganda and maintain the interests of the elite and the corporations by deceiving the public who consume mass media. There are five classes of filters which discuss how mass media manipulation takes place through the aid of these filters.
These are Ownership, Advertising, Sourcing, Flak and Fear which will be described here with context to Pakistan’s media.

Ownership

This filter states that any information presented will be in favor of the major corporations that run mainstream media outlets considering what their interests and motives are.

In Pakistan’s case, an incident at a housing scheme comes to mind. A TV show recording went sideways when the audience seating place collapsed, injuring many people and killing one person. The channel in question did not cover the incident and neither did the organization that owned the property.
The silence of other television channels even rivals of the said channel did not make a single mention of the incident proving that corporate interests matter more for the media in a third-word capitalist state.

Advertising

This filter talks about how advertising is a main source for the media to gain profit and how it chooses to present the news in favor of its advertisers because otherwise losing an advertiser means losing money.
Pakistan’s media relies heavily on advertising and without it, it would nearly make it impossible to survive and as expected there are strings attached. There are many drinks and foods items that people might be aware of are health risks, but have you ever heard that even once in the media? Take a closer look at any television channel and see if you can connect the dots.

Sourcing

Media houses, even those run by big corporations, place their reporters and other utilities they require in places where news stories more likely take place. It is impossible to place reporters everywhere and it is also a waste of money and resources. The issue is that in order to report from these places, the media has to apply “positive journalism” so it can keep presenting stories from these places.

In Pakistan, if the media reports against an institution that is of public interest chances are it might be working for a foreign agency according to most people here.

Flak

Flak is a negative response to a media statement.
There are certain institutions, groups and powerful individuals in Pakistan of which the Pakistani media cannot run a story against and if done, it is basically signing off their own death warrant. A certain media organization is known for being critical of a powerful institution in the country and every time it enhances its criticism, the odds do not seem to be working in its favor.

Fear

Since the model was presented in the late 1980s and was based on the US mass media, initially the fifth filter was referred to as Anti-Communism and fear as it was the height of the cold war during that time. Since 9/11, Anti-communism was replaced by the War on Terror.

In Pakistan’s case, a certain neighboring country comes into mind that the media blames for all things going wrong in the country while in reality this may not necessarily be the case but the media exaggerates it to such a point that it makes many people believe that perhaps the neighboring country is responsible for everything wrong with Pakistan.

While I agree that freedom of expression, when it comes to Pakistan, is a vague concept, the media as a tool for mass manipulation cannot be ruled out either. With news spreading faster especially in the age of social media, it is important to fact-check even if it’s from a trusted source because one cannot be really sure because in this day and age, news spreading faster is dangerous considering what consequences it holds if the wrong kind of news spreads like wildfire.

Turyal Azam Khan is a Pakistani writer, blogger, and journalist who mainly focuses on current affairs, social issues, lifestyle, and culture. He has written for Daily Times, Dunya Blogs, The Nation, Naya Daur and The Diplomat.