Let Radio Pakistan learn to live on its own
Radio Pakistan is dying or at least that is what I have been hearing for the past days on social media. With this sudden news, I have been collecting all sorts of information that this fine institution is providing. I wonder where this information was hidden and how all of a sudden someone has decided to wake up.
No matter how advanced the media has become, radio has its very own place even in modern developed countries. I believe given the circumstances Radio Pakistan holds a unique position only if it is allowed to unleash its true potential. The argument presented forth is about funding. My view of this is like sitting on a gold mine and asking for funds. I believe the key to this sad situation is incompetence of those running the institutions and those who appointed them. Government-run institutions have always had a bad time whenever there is a corrupt government.
Pakistan Peoples’ Party especially, has a history of destroying fine institutions by throwing jobs to incompetent and unsuitable persons. Whether it is giving PIA to Captain Ijaz Haroon or throwing in jobs to jiyalas and especially jiyalas from Sindh. Not that I have something against Sindhis, but I believe this attitude has created a lot of problems in itself. For this piece I met many employees of PBC and Radio Pakistan; I asked them questions and discussed various issues. 90 percent of them moaned about political hirings and specifically jiyalas who had no previous media or radio experience. Secondly, they complained about government influence and interference in running of the organisation and pressure to only broadcast PPP related news. Thirdly, they pointed out that the world has moved rapidly in a completely new direction while PBC and Radio Pakistan is stuck in old system, which is corrupt to the core and inapt with modern media.
This brought me to my own experience with Radio Pakistan when I went for an audition. I found the organisation moving at a snail’s pace where it seemed to me that people were not at work but on vacation. As a result of not using internet in modern media, people did not have emails let alone replying to the ones that existed. On the other hand I found favouritism and nepotism on the rise. From the appointment of an RJ to a producer, everything was up for grabs for the right amount or right reference. I might be convinced that now the situation is different as some claim, but I would not believe that it is a permanent change as I have seen it with the example of PTV.
On the other hand, I looked at the website of Radio Pakistan in which a majority of the information is about the ruling party and their bits and pieces. The pictures featured on the page were of Zardari and his kids splurging taxpayers’ money in India. First the man wasted taxpayers’ money on a personal visit along with his kids who hold no official position, on top of that the national Radio had the audacity to feature the pictures on their website. So there is a double wastage of taxpayers’ money on things that have nothing to do with the country. I am attaching the screen shot of the front page.
As someone from Radio Pakistan told me on twitter, Radio Pakistan has conducted interviews of Imran Khan and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi once in a blue moon but most of the time it talked about PPP. In the past two to three weeks, I paid attention to the radio transmission and could not bear it for more than 5 minutes because it was a barrage of propaganda on behalf of the government.
PPP government has systematically destroyed government institutions over its three tenures, and the state these government institutions are in speaks loudly about how these organisations are being run. How can I trust that the funds demanded by PBC would be used properly when I know for a fact that there are fat cats sitting who will eat 75% of the funds and maybe invest the rest of the 25%. I believe the solution is not funds but the demise of a system that is funds-hungry with a system that is commercially viable and self-reliant; a system that serves the masses and not the ruling elite by showcasing their private holidays. As if they are paid to splurge the taxpayers’ money on their private visits. I believe this is how things could be turned around.
Radio Pakistan has one of the biggest archives of Urdu music in the world. Still most of the music you find online is of Radio Pakistan but not provided by PBC. Every Tom, Dick and Harry is uploading stuff on Youtube but the organisation at the helm has done nothing to utilise this vast goldmine. Let me simplify it, for example if I have to find a “thumri” by Roshan Ara Begum, my best bet would be to search a doctor from Multan or a music fan from Lahore who has right connections in Radio Pakistan to get it. After that I can upload it wherever I want and this will go all over the web for free. If Radio Pakistan has ever decided to work on this medium it could have signed agreements with Apple’s iTunes and other online music stores to sell the music and generate revenue through it. Along with that, an aggressive anti piracy campaign on Youtube and other mediums would have hauled users to these online services. In my meeting with Radio Pakistan officials, I suggested and even offered my help in this regard. I have received no reply to date after at least two years.
Moreover, I believe PBC should be made an independent organisation on the BBC formula where an independent management board is set up to run the organisation with stakeholders from various parts of society and from across the country. The appointment should be made through a transparent method and no person with political affiliations should be allowed to hold the position. I know it is too much to ask, but that is the only way this organisation would be able to survive. Government subsidies should be removed and should be allowed only for public service.