INMA 2012: Managing complexity in South Asia

09 Aug,2012

By Shruti Pushkarna


Keeping in line with the theme of the 6th annual INMA South Asia conference, ‘Complexity Advantage’, one of the sessions focused on the complex media markets inSouth Asia.


Titled, ‘Managing Complexity In South Asian Markets: A Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh Experience’, the session was moderated by Mr Bhaskar Das, President & Principal Secretary to MD, The Times of India Group. Representing Bangladesh and Pakistan respectively, were panelists, Matiur Rahman, Editor & Publisher, The Daily Prothom Alo, Bangladesh and Mr Javed Jabbar, Chairman & Chief Executive, JJ Media (Pvt.) Ltd and former Federal Minister,Pakistan.


Mr Rahman started the discussion by sharing the complexities and challenges facing media market in Bangladesh: “Media industry can best thrive in a democracy but democracy in Bangladesh in only 22 years old. The dominant political parties are poles apart and can’t even come to a consensus on major national issues. People in the media are threatened, tortured and even murdered. Political interference is a huge challenge and yet there are some resilient media houses playing an important role.”


He added that another challenge is to keep the press free from its owners because many media houses are now being owned by corrupt business owners. Speaking of evolving technology, Mr Rahman said: “Earlier our competitors were only newspapers, but now all electronic media are competing with us. With mobile and digital growing at a fast pace, product offerings have to be modified to suit the needs of both consumers and advertisers.”


Speaking of complexities and challenges facing the Pakistan market, Mr Jabbar said that both India and Pakistan, two nations who have the single most complex bilateral relations, suffer from a lack of awareness about each other. He said: “Countries are societies and nations before they are markets. News media have played a pivotal role in determining a lack of awareness among these two nations. All media are inherently subjective, selective and suppressive.” Furthermore, he said that the question in Pakistani people’s minds today is whether media content eventually makes a difference in governance or violence. Does media content really change things?


As for advertisers, he said: “They are aggressive intruders voracious for media space. Editors and proprietors of newspapers are willing to debase to any level and they are even allowing advertisers to sponsor verses of the Holy Quran. In Pakistan, advertisers in collusion with news media have encroached on space that belongs purely to news content. But at the same time, advertisers are beginning to invest in research which was long overdue.”


Talking of technology and the onset of digital, Mr Jabbar said: “New technology is ubiquitous and pervasive. Media landscape in Pakistan is thriving, especially in terms of IT connectivity and television channels. However changes that are taking place in India in terms of mobile and devices are not as rapid in Pakistan. Innovations are not taking place at a desirable pace.”


Mr Jabbar concluded by stating a common challenge facing all three nations, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, with respect to media ownership. He said, “Ownership of media should be redistributed through publicly listed companies on the stock exchange so that profit doesn’t become greed.”


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