Pakistan TV opens space for opposition politicians

Foreign media says state-run TV giving coverage to rivals’ views as part of govt’s liberalising media policy

Islamabad; Contrary to past practice, Pakistan’s state TV is giving coverage to opposition politicians’ views on a regular basis, as part of the PTI-government’s ‘liberal media’ policy.

According to BBC Pashto service, a marked change has been witnessed in the news bulletins of state-run Pakistan Television.

The move is part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) policy of doing away with government monopoly of public broadcasters, and censorship of opposition political parties.

According to the report, after taking charge, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry announced plans to end political interference and censorship in Pakistan TV’s news bulletins.

The media report highlighted that in order to get first-hand information of the veracity of the government’s claims that the opposition parties were being given adequate coverage and their criticism of the government was being aired, a survey was conducted.

“A significant change has been witnessed in PTV bulletins as far as stories are concerned after the government has done away with the censorship,” a producer working in PTV centre Peshawar said.

Sharing details of the priority list of news stories, the producer said, “Earlier PTV used to air news stories of the prime minister, the president and federal ministers, chief minister.”

Likewise, he said, the activities of judges, the army chief and other government functionaries used to get prominent coverage earlier.

According to the PTV producer, the priority list of airing news had changed altogether.

He said that, in the past, PTV did not air any news story criticising a sitting government, but now, news stories scrutinising the government regularly feature in the news bulletins.

“No matter, who the opposition parties criticise, whether the government or any other, the news bulletin gives it adequate coverage,” he said.

A journalist working for PTV Islamabad said staff had been directed to ensure more coverage to opposition leaders in PTV news bulletins as compared to the past.

He said he had seen such directives for the first time in his four years with the state-run television.

As part of the overhaul, PTV has also started giving coverage to social media trends, which was prohibited earlier, he added.

PTV has been following a conservative editorial policy regarding the coverage of opposition and criticism to the government. However, now there is 180-degree change in state-run TV’s policies.

After the end of censorship, the PTV has posted on its Twitter account the news of the use of a helicopter by the Punjab chief minister. Many people had seen the post in their utter disbelief and astonishment. These are winds of change as promised by the PTI-government, said Afshan Farooqi a viewer and a supporter of the PTI while talking to Gulf News.

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