It is imperative for a country to protect its national interest on every front by every means at all times let alone during tense situations with adversary. With the development of concept of ‘Soft Power’ foreign influence especially through cultural and ideological means is considered as a serious threat. In the era of Globalization, media is the most convenient and widely used tool for targeting the adversary through soft power with direct aim of shifting or manipulating public as well as social opinion and values.
Since 1947, due to prejudices and predominant biases India and Pakistan could not come out of rival relationship. This rivalry is seen mounting on every front may it be political, geopolitical, economic, military or even showbiz. Media industry exclusive of joint news ventures (which seems battleground on screens) has seen great coalition on public as well industries’ level. Cross border exchange of actors, singers, cable channels and now dramas became a usual practice lately. It is often alleged that only Pakistani artists travel to the other side of border or Indian content is seen in Pakistan while Pakistani content is not allowed in India. Recently, Pakistani hits were legally being broadcast on India on Zee Zindagi channel while Movie of Om Puri with Fahad Mustafa and drama of Sara Khan on ARY Digital was challenging the apprehension. Only when these two states were going on smooth relations on one front, least, governments of both sides inculcated deep rooted hindrances. Continuous threats by Indian extremists to Pakistani artists came into effect so much so that release of Raees, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Dear Zindagi with Pakistani lead roles had been made difficult while artists have been forced out of country until further notice.
It is judicious and indispensable for countries to protect their national interests, cultural and social norms I one way by restraining the foreign content but banning it out rightly suggests own sense of insecurity. If here the question is about preserving the culture, values, customs, norms and ideology by banning Indian content then it leads to further inquiries as well. Who allowed and why Indian content in Pakistan at first place? What our media is doing in strengthening and promotion of national cohesion and cultural solidarity? Why our culture became so vulnerable that if will be affected rather than influencing? Above all, why our policies are always reactive and not proactive? Since this blanket ban on Indian content has been imposed as a tit for tat move. Moreover, previously there was no check and balance on the limit of any foreign content let alone Indian. Channels had their 80% of transmissions based on Indian content heretofore.
Be that as it may, there is a contrast between restricting broadcast and forcing a sweeping boycott by and large. Clearly, PEMRA had been working for a long while to control the foreign broadcast particularly the flooding of Indian substance in Pakistan’s electronic media. While such work ought to have been done in a more comprehensive way it is still discerning since PEMRA must direct electronic media.
Let’s assess who has gained what out of this and who lost what? On political front, allegations of surgical strike are not taken back; firing across LOC has intensified even further. In media industry, extremist won by taking out Pakistani artists from India thus leaving a pronounced impression for future endeavors. Pakistani channels which were airing purely Pakistani content have even further ratings because of audience shift. Actual victim is viewer.
Another dimension of soft power influence is social media. Soft Power impact can not only be gauged by electronic media screens in 21st century. In post Uri attack development, actual battleground was not even prime time news talk shows but social media especially twitter. This is more precarious and people are more vulnerable because it incites public to public interaction and public is more susceptible for changing and influencing opinion of cross border masses.
To impose blanket ban on is both extreme and an entire invalidation of the privileges of viewers. Apparently, it is this very environment that PEMRA has exploited as of now to piece Indian substance from airing in Pakistan. Role of authorities in such scenario is dubious.They have both showed up as an energetic body that is securing Pakistani interests from hawkish India, and satisfied its target of controlling the flooding of Indian substance in Pakistan which previously was mismanaged and illegal.Apprehensions of Cultural invasion or soft power does not really advocate complete ban for the foreign content or Indian in this case. Sole sufferer of such scenario is audience and audience only. Steps must be taken to strengthen own values through media that our audience does not stay vulnerable for such reactive measures.
She is passionate writer and an avid reader. You can contact her on @reedi03