by Nargis Khanum
Pakistan Television was founded on November 26, 1964. It was born out of General Ayub Khan’s desire to influence the masses. PTV’s Karachi station however is not yet fifty years old. Anyone with a business sense would have launched the television from Karachi. But the General did not like Karachi or Karachi walas. He was the first in a series of generals who ruled the country who displayed the same kind of animosity towards this city and its residents. Ayub Khan preferred Lahore as the launching pad of PTV and realised too late what a financial blunder it was.
Lahore earned zero revenue as it failed to attract advertisers. The state-owned PTV piled up huge financial loss in the form of payment to artistes, actors, technictians, camera operators, news readers and producers. Lahore put up some good song items and humorous plays but at the end of its first year it was pockets-to-let. Most reluctantly, the general agreed to allow PTV to have a station in Karachi.
PTV was the catalyst of culture Pakistani. During the 1965 war with India a new genre, called “Qaumi Tarana” or National songs emerged. Those songs were on the lips of everyone. Cassettes were sold in the millions. Even today, if I hear Noorjahan’s “ai watan ke sajeeley jawano” it causes an emotion upheaval and brings tears to my eyes, as it surely does in the hearts and eyes of all Pakistanis, especially those who were witness to the terrible fiasco that war was. The Pakistani army, because of perennial martial law, is not loved, but the heroes of the 1965 war are. They were the first Pakistani heroes, and PTV played its role in promoting their image.
Once PTV’s Karachi station began telecasting, the market was chock full of TVs, a television set became the piece de resistance in the dowry of every bride, and the item demanded by the dulhawalas. Home life revolved round the TV. Architects included a TV lounge in the blueprint. Grandma complained television had caused bad manners as everyone sat glued to the TV and there was no social interaction. She was thankful the damn thing was not on the whole day. In the beginning PTV telecast in black-and-white and was on from evening till midnight.
Until the arrival of TV channels the state-owned PTV reigned supreme. It lost viewers as well as advertisement support to the private channels. The telecast from TV channels was crass in all sense of the meaning of crass: gross, vulgar, colossally stupid, utterly tactless and insensitive. Such an accusation cannot be levelled against the PTV. So what was the attraction? Why did viewers turn to TV channels and abandoned PTV?
Herein lies the principle of human motivation. The best thing will be abandoned for freedom. The PTV is state-controlled, the TV channels had freedom on expression. PTV could never give viewers the true picture or the real news about what was happening in Pakistan or internationally. PTV News was the tool of government propaganda. The TV channel boom was in the talkshows in which every veil was pulled off exposing the ugly face of corruption, money laundering, murder, dirty politics. TV channels became the vehicle of gossip and slander. One young CEO of a TV channel told me they treated talkshows as entertainment. That they were. Nevertheless, in the course of the past two years talkshow circus has begun to irritate. PTV launched its own talkshows and today I find sane persons mention what they heard on PTV talkshows, which reflect the PTV culture of high standards, dignity and sanity. Throughout its 50th year PTV telecast some favourite drama serials and music programmes. For a while it regained atleast a large part, if not the whole lot of TV views.
The drama and drama serials produced by PTV in its heyday were excellent on all counts: script, theme, acting, production, set design, costume and make-up and camera projection. The plays and serials had an international market. Expats asked for Video cassettes in the UAE, England, America, Australia. One of the most in demand. and the best gift, you could send to friends and family in India. The Pakistani TV channels present low IQ drama. They rely on Turkish and Indian soaps to attract advertisers.
PTV has expanded to include an exclusive sports channel. It has attempted to revive public interest but it is doubtful if it will ever regain its past glory. State-control is the dead-weight which continues to drag down PTV. Unfortunately.
SOURCE: BUSINESS RECORDER