Media market vs public interest

By Myrah Qadeer Khan 

The idea of media economy and public interest is very important. There is always a debate regarding free liberal press without a state’s influence. This alludes to free media with no external interest. Questions arise such as whether media serves public interest? Does it play a role for accountability of institutions?

Media justifies every piece of news coverage by stating that is what public demand. According to one of the senior journalists news is what somebody somewhere is trying to suppress rest is just an advertisement, that suppressed part id what public demands and are interested in. Public demands factual and accurate information free from interests which is impossible.

Media integrity is at risk when small number of companies and individuals control the media market. Media integrity refers to the ability of a media outlet to serve the public interest and democratic process, making it resilient to institutional corruption within the media system, economy of influence, conflicting dependence and political clientelism. Media integrity is especially endangered in the case when there are clientelist relations between the owners of the media and political centres of power. Such a situation enables excessive instrumentalisation of the media for particular political interests, which is subverting democratic role of the media.

Journalists are bound to report in specific channel’s interest. Whereas counter to this some Channels’ CEO stated that in nowadays suppressing news is impossible. Till 2015 there are 149 channels and 242 radio stations operating all over Pakistan. Cross media ownership has led to an increase in number of print, electronic media and radio stations. PEMRA Ordinance 2002  reads that ,’’In granting a license, the authority shall ensure that open and fair competition is facilitated in the operation of more than one media enterprise in any given unit of area or subject and that undue concentration of media ownership is not created in any city, town or the country as a whole. The issuance of private TV channels licenses and cross media licensing enables monopoly of media owners.

Today there are more TV advertisements which indicates corporate interests more and public less. The biggest and most influential are concerned only with corporate interests. They are designed from the ground up to generate profit so they will ‘filter’ out anything that harms that profit.

The problem with the identification of the free press with the free market is that newspapers and television stations owned by capitalist corporations make money almost entirely because of advertising. The central profit-making goal of owners, therefore, is to attract advertisers. Actually selling newspapers or attracting viewer’s matters mainly to the extent that this is translated into attracting advertisers. This dependence on advertising has a number of systematic consequences for the production of news. The marketing objective of the media is to be viewed by people who are as attractive to advertisers as possible and in general this means that media owners want their newspapers and television news programs to be consumed by affluent people who buy lots of stuff. The news is thus geared to what is of interest to the affluent, not the average person. As Robert McChesney, the leading academic critic of corporate domination of the media, puts it, the media market is “predicated upon one dollar, one vote. Affluent people therefore have considerably more ‘votes’ in determining the course of the media system, while the poorest people are effectively disenfranchised”. News that is relevant to the “public interest” or “common good” is generally marginalized unless it is also of interest to affluent readers and viewers. Also, because the media depends on advertising, news that might the press has an anti-business, left-wing bias should therefore not be understood as a credible position based on careful empirical research of actual news stories and reporting, but rather as a strategy of intimidation of the press by right-wing commentators, especially talk-show radio-hosts.

One of the senior journalists gave his opinion that government id the biggest player of having corrupted influence on media. Pemra is obliged to take action against this and protect faulty ratings. The rating is not reliable and adds sensationalism to the news content. There is a need to control rating mechanism. Chief Executive AD group stated a very important issue regarding ADD code of ethics, that there should be a co-operation between media group and its corporations regarding the content of ADD within ethics. This responsibility falls on both, media group and advertisers.

Mostly ads aired are not in accordance to what public demands hence check and balance plus accountability are required. This is the age of information thus giving correct information is necessary in order to keep people well informed.

Myrah Qadeer Khan is an intern at the Economic Corridor Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan.

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Foreign Policy News is a self-financed initiative providing a venue and forum for political analysts and experts to disseminate analysis of major political and business-related events in the world, shed light on particulars of U.S. foreign policy from the perspective of foreign media and present alternative overview on current events affecting the international relations.

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