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Pakistan's Media and Publishing Boom

With the planned September launch of its Pakistan edition, Newsweek magazine is the latest publication to join Pakistan's media revolution, according to MediaBistro.com. Newsweek Pakistan will be the first licensed international news magazine for the country and the eighth local edition under the Washington Post Co.-owned Newsweek brand. Other country editions published by Newsweek include those in Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Mexico, Poland, Russia and Turkey. In addition to featuring more local content, the country editions target local and international advertisers with special pricing to be competitive in the targeted media markets.

Newsweek Pakistan will be published under license by AG Publications, a privately-owned media company in Pakistan. Fasih Ahmed, who has reported for The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek International, will be the editor of Newsweek Pakistan. Ahmed won a New York Press Club award in 2008 for Newsweek's coverage of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Initially, there will be 30,000 copies of Pakistan edition printed each week.

The current media revolution sweeping the nation began ten years ago when Pakistan had just one television channel, according to the UK's Prospect Magazine. Today it has over 100. Together they have begun to open up a country long shrouded by political, moral and religious censorship—taking on the government, breaking social taboos and, most recently, pushing a new national consensus against the Taliban. The birth of privately owned commercial media has been enabled by the Musharraf-era deregulation, and funded by the tremendous growth in revenue from advertising targeted at the burgeoning urban middle class consumers.

According to Daily Times, Chairman Mushtaq Malik of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has said that the cable television sector “is the fast growing segment among the electronic media ventures”. In the first 100 days of the current government, he has claimed that new licenses for 16 satellite TV channels, 10 FM radio stations, and 232 cable TV channels have been granted. It is anticipated that this would lead to additional investment worth Rs. 2.5 billion, generating 4000 additional jobs in this sector. The cable television sector alone is employing some 30,000 people in the country.

Foreign media, such as the business channel CNBC Pakistan, have also found a niche with the stellar performance and increased viewer and investor interest in Karachi stock exchange in the last decade. The Gallup Pakistan estimates that the number of TV viewers age 10 and above has increased from 63 million in 2004 to 86 million in 2009. Though exact numbers are hard to find, it is estimated that the rapid growth of Pakistan's media market over the last decade has attracted significant investment in the range of billions of dollars, and produced hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. There are 150 advertising agencies and 74 production companies. Given the rising power of the media to shape Pakistani society, public opinion and government policy, it is important to have greater transparency on sources of investments and revenue in the media business.



More than 100 private FM radio stations have been licensed in the last ten years.
Scores of unlicensed FM stations are said to operate in the tribal areas of North-West Frontier Province. They are usually operated by clerics, some of whom are accused of promoting violence.

There are more than 262 publications in print, according to All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS). Pakistan's press is among the most outspoken in South Asia, although its influence is limited by a literacy level of only 56%.

World telecoms body the ITU estimated in March 2008 that there were 17.5 million internet users, and the Internet access is continuing to grow rapidly. In addition to the established print, radio and television media websites, the Internet is also providing a platform for activists and emerging journalists to express their views through myriad online publications, blogs and social networking sites. With over 56% penetration of mobile phones in Pakistan, the widespread availability and affordability of modern communication technology has helped generate tremendous interest in the use of voice calls, photo or video uploading and text messaging to share news, opinions and ideas broadly.

Pakistan has a population of over 170 million and daily sales of only about 100,000 copies of English-language publications. The English language print media is dominated by local newspapers and magazines published by Dawn, Jang and Nawai Waqt media empires. The entry of Newsweek's Pakistan edition in the market will offer both local and international content, and is expected to start off with a print run of 30,000 copies, according to the Financial Times.

The media boom in Pakistan has also brought attention to a new crop of Pakistani writers writing in English. Names such as Mohsin Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), Daniyal Mueenuddin (In Other Rooms, Other Wonders), Kamila Shamsie (Burnt Shadows), Mohammad Hanif (A Case of Exploding Mangoes) and Nadeem Aslam (The Wasted Vigil) have been making waves in literary circles and winning prizes in London and New York, according to the Guardian newspaper.

I personally experienced the pervasive effects of Pakistan's media boom last summer when I visited the country. I saw multiple, competing channels catering to almost every niche, whim and taste---from news, sports, comedy and talk shows to channels dedicated to cooking, fashion, fitness, music, business, religion, local languages and cultures etc. The media have had a profound influence on how many young people talk, dress and behave, emulating the outspoken media personalities, actors, preachers, singers, sportsmen, celebrities and fashion models. The growth in Pakistan's media market has resulted in more advertising, more competition and more choice.

Pakistan finds itself in the midst of many crises, ranging from a deep sense of insecurity and economic stagnation to low levels of human development and insufficient access to basic necessities of life such as proper nutrition, education and health care. My hope is that the mass media will effectively play a responsible role to inform and educate Pakistanis on the fundamental issues of poor governance in Pakistan, and help in shaping the debate and policies to solve some of the most serious problems facing the nation today.

Related Links:

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Poor Governance in Pakistan

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

The Real News From Pakistan

Pakistan's Economic Stagnation

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performance

Newsweek Pakistan Edition Launch

Brief History of Media in Pakistan

Eleven Days in Karachi

Pakistan Country Profile By BBC

Pakistan Media Cyberletter

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Tags: Boom, Media, Newsweek, Pakistan, Publishing

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 24, 2014 at 8:00am

Here's a Wall Street Journal story about the heyday of Lollywood:

Sadar Iqbal once worked 18 hours a day producing hand drawn posters for Pakistan’s booming film industry.

“At that time I would not have been able to talk to you,” he said sitting as his artist’s desk in his small studio in Lahore, “I was too busy.

Now Mr. Iqbal, 68, who is Pakistan’s last remaining hand-drawn film poster artist, has plenty of time to chat.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore had a booming film industry. Nicknamed “Lollywood”, the city produced hundreds of films a year and the road where Mr. Iqbal’s small studio sits was lined with more than 400 artist studios all churning out hand drawn posters for Pakistani-made films, says Mr. Iqbal.

The area is known as Royal Park and buttresses onto Abbott Road, a short stretch that used be home to 20 cinemas. Today, there are six.

After nearly 30 years of neglect thanks to repressive government policies and creeping Islamic fundamentalism in parts of the country, the art form has all but died. Mr. Iqbal now makes a living doing commissioned paintings from his studio, surrounded by the film posters of a nearly-forgotten era.

The neighboring studios in Royal Park have been replaced by rows of small printing shops.

Mr. Iqbal started working aged 17, in what was then his father’s studio. He says he would to come there every day after school, and learn the art form from his father. Mr. Iqbal uses pencil and watercolors, and when Lollywood was booming, he’d produce at least four posters a film.

It’s a subtle technique, he explains, “I am the crowd puller of the film. When someone sees the poster of the film, they want to come and see the film.”

Most of his posters are laden with visual metaphors: the film’s villain appears in monochrome next to the colored image of the beautiful heroine. A rose tangled around the film’s title weeps blood, symbolizing the pain of love.

Last year, Mr. Iqbal’s talents were called on once again. The directors of the Pakistani-made film, “Zinda Bhaag”, asked him to draw the poster for the movie.

The film is set in Lahore and co-director Meenu Gaur describes it as a stylistic tribute to the Lollywood films of the 1970s. It premiered in September and was Pakistan’s first entry for best foreign language film at the Oscars for 50 years.

“Zinda Bhaag” is part of a nascent revival in the domestic film industry, which has been partly supported by a recent boom of Western-style multiplex cinemas across the country. In the past seven years the number of screens has surged from just 20 to 104, according to distributors and cinema owners.

“People started talking about a revival in Pakistani cinema with the release of ‘Khuda Kay Liye’ (In the name of God),” said Ms. Gaur the co-director, referring to the 2007 film by Pakistani director Shoaib Mansoor. The film received rave reviews in Pakistan and went on to gross $10 million worldwide. “But then it was a hope,” Ms. Gaur said.

Now, she says, the revival is actually happening. In 2013, seven Pakistani-made films were released, and there are currently 25 in production. But most film projects are funded through generous donations from altruistic backers and grants, rather than being driven by market forces. “Zinda Bhaag” received funding from Let’s Talk Men, a film initiative supported by various United Nations agencies.

The artist Mr. Iqbal isn’t very hopefully that a renaissance in Pakistani cinema will rekindle his art form though. He says the new multiplexes are just about money and have no appreciation of art.

“There is no aesthetic investor,” he said, referring to modern movie theaters. “The tragedy is that the investors have just brought property and built cinemas..

http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2014/03/24/pakistans-poster-boy/

Comment by Riaz Haq on Wednesday

Here's an excerpt of a NY Times Op Ed by Bina Shah on new media censorship in Pakistan:

But having experienced decades of political oppression and dictatorship, Pakistanis are used to finding alternative ways to get access to and spread information. So when YouTube was shuttered, they started using proxies to gain access to it, while also uploading to other video-sharing sites.

Of course, the government began blocking the most popular proxies, but couldn’t always keep up. Even today, YouTube occasionally becomes accessible on some Internet providers for a few hours.

In any event, young Pakistanis, having been raised on satellite television, the Internet and smartphones, already have an insatiable thirst for information and the public space in which to think freely. So their appetite has been whetted, and many of them now are challenging the establishment’s societal mores.

“We are building a movement of defiance among the youth and larger Internet users by providing them tools to circumvent the government’s policy of censorship,” says Shahzad Ahmad, the country director of Bytes4All, an organization of young Pakistanis who use digital technology to promote human rights and sustainable development.

Since 2012, Bytes4All has been petitioning the Lahore High Court for a writ against the ban on YouTube, and lately the issue has become dramatically politicized; Mr. Ahmad has accused government lawyers of threatening that if YouTube is opened, there will be “bloodshed on the streets of Pakistan.”

Anusha Rehman Khan, state minister for information technology and telecom, was ordered to appear at a hearing in March, but failed to show up; it was the third time she had done so. Instead, lawyers from banned religious outfits appeared in court, an indication of how far the government would go to sway the judges and intimidate Bytes4All.
---------
Alongside the legal battle, an irreverent social media campaign called #KholoBC has also emerged. Engineered by the Pakistan for All movement, a collective of young Pakistani tech enthusiasts, it features a song released by the Pakistani musician Talal Qureshi, the rapper Adil Omar and the comedian Ali Gul Pir with lyrics too rude to print in this newspaper. (So is a translation of the campaign’s name.) Ziad Zafar, the head of Pakistan for All, says the vigilante-style campaign has been successful on social media, and has struck a nerve in the government: A senior figure in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the party of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, complained to Ali Gul Pir about being “mocked” in the video.

Officials repeatedly assure the public that YouTube will be unblocked soon, even as the government tries to build a huge firewall modeled on the one in China. It’s a cat-and-mouse game that speaks volumes about the impossibility of damming up an ocean, but also about the amount of energy the government is willing to expend trying.

Technology-savvy Pakistanis are determined to thwart the government’s dreams of a toothless Internet, even though, as Mr. Ahmad says, “In Pakistan, there will always be a reason to block the Internet.” Needless to say, any videos that are part of the movement have to be posted on Vimeo, Dailymotion and other sites, because they still can’t legally be seen on YouTube.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/11/opinion/shah-trying-to-dam-a-digi...

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