Friday, May 3, 2013

Election Ads Money Buys Favorable Media Coverage in Pakistan

Fear of violence has reduced the number of traditional mass rallies this year, particularly in  Balochistan, KP and Sindh provinces of Pakistan. Instead, the political parties and candidates are increasingly relying on electronic and social media to reach out to voters in preparation for May 11 general elections in the country.

Pakistan Elections 2013 Signs
Top channels are charging as much as $2,200 a minute for prime time, a source in the advertising business told AFP, adding that up to $300,000 is being spent every day by three major parties: cricket hero Imran Khan's PTI,  former Prime Minister Bhutto's PPP and  former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's PML (N). 

Insiders say that politicians are using  money to buy support of media owners and journalists. A TV journalist told AFP that his bosses were favoring Imran Khan by ordering staff to cover all of his public meetings and rallies, because PTI had paid so much more money for ads.  "Special teams and the best equipment has been deployed for this purpose," he told AFP on condition of anonymity. "When we cover other politicians and send reports, they are trashed," he added.

Another popular TV anchor, Sana Bucha, quit her job at Dunya TV saying she would not sell her integrity. "This elections in Pak, every1 - channel and anchor - is up for sale. I refuse to put a price tag on myself,"she tweeted.

Source: BBC Pakistan  Survey in 2008

In addition to the use of television, there is a lot tweeting, texting and facebook campaigning being done to appeal to the younger voters who could turn out in record numbers to tilt the elections in Imran Khan's PTI's favor.

The 2013 elections will be the first to see the full impact of Pakistan's media and telecom revolution which began on President Musharraf's watch. The number of TV channels rose from one in 2000 to over 100 in 2008. In this period, the cell phone penetration exceeded 50% and Internet access became available to over 10% of the population.

To conclude this post, let me share with you an excerpt of a report by BBC's Lyse Doucet:

"Pakistan can be an unpredictable place. But in a chequered history that has kept lurching from crises to coups, one event has kept coming back, with reassuring certainty - elections. I've covered almost every one of them since 1988 when martial law abruptly ended and a people who fought for democracy directed their energies and enthusiasm towards the battle for ballots. What boisterous campaigns there've been - massive rallies that packed stadiums and fields, convoys of vehicles snaking, horns blaring, through villages and down highways - a chaotic carnival in every constituency. But elections in Pakistan can't be like that anymore. It's simply too dangerous. Not a day goes by without a report of an attack by one of many armed groups on a politician, or a public space, or the police".

As the onslaught of Taliban's bombs and bullets against people's ballots unfolds,  their main targets in ANP, PPP and MQM are continuing to affirm their faith in the ballots by defying the Taliban terrorists.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Impact of Youth Vote and Taliban Violence on Elections 2013

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Poor Governance in Pakistan

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

The Real News From Pakistan

Pakistan's Economic Stagnation

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Pak Judges' Jihad Against Corruption

Pakistan Rolls Out 50Mbps Broadband Service

Mobile Internet in South Asia

Media and Telecom Sectors Growing in Pakistan

Internet Service Providers of Pakistan


HopeWins Junior said...

^^RH: "As the onslaught of Taliban's bombs and bullets against people's ballots unfolds, their main targets in ANP, PPP and MQM are continuing to affirm their faith in the ballots by defying the Taliban terrorists"


How are they "defying" the terrorists?

All we can see is that they are totally helpless. All we can see is that they are being killed.

What else?

The Jews were also being killed by the Nazis. Does that mean the Jews were "defying" the Nazis all the time they were being killed?

Please explain yourself.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "How are they "defying" the terrorists?"

They are defying the Talibs by refusing to drop out of the electoral contest in the face of significant threats and daily carnage.

Anonymous said...

They are defying the Talibs by refusing to drop out of the electoral contest in the face of significant threats and daily carnage.

What would they do for a living if they dropped out of contesting elections ?
A virtue out of a necessity?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Aljazeera on Pak elections 2013:

Much of the violence - which has taken the form of shootings, rocket attacks, grenade attacks, improvised explosive device explosions and bombings - has been claimed by the TTP. On April 30, Hakeemullah Mehsud, the TTP's chief, said his group was focused on "end[ing] the democratic system" in Pakistan.

The Taliban's campaign against the country's three main secular political parties - the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the ANP - has some analysts terming the attacks a form of pre-poll rigging in favour of parties such as the religious political forces of the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam. The TTP considers these to be softer in their stance against extremism and militancy.

In Balochistan, 13 of the 30 districts have been
classified 'very sensitive' [Asad Hashim/Al Jazeera]
Not all of the violence, however, has been carried out by religiously motivated groups. In a country where voting in both rural and urban areas is often along ethnic or tribal lines, there have also been incidents of political rivals targeting one another - such as the shooting of Abdul Fateh Magsi , a provincial assembly candidate, on April 30.

In Balochistan, the country's largest but least densely populated and least developed province, there is also the added threat from armed ethnic Baloch separatists, who have said that they would not allow polls to go forward. They have carried out a spate of attacks against several parties in a bid to discourage campaigning.

"I was never expecting something like this to happen, it just wasn't on my mind at all," said Muhammad Shafi, whose legs were badly injured in a grenade attack on a political party office here in the provincial capital Quetta on Wednesday.

"I was checking my name on the voter lists [at the office]. Then these men came and hurled a grenade into the room. All of the windows broke, and it was chaos - I couldn’t understand what was happening. I lost consciousness, and then they took me to the hospital in a rickshaw," the 27-year-old told Al Jazeera from his hospital bed.

The situation in the unstable province is further complicated by the existence of pro-government militia - known locally as "death squads" - which Baloch nationalist political parties say have been targeting their members.

"They are attempting to sideline us from the political process," said Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini, a senior vice-president of the Mengal faction of the Balochistan National Party (BNP-M). "We are not being allowed to campaign freely […] and our supporters are being openly told that if they go to vote on polling day they will be killed."

'No question of turning back'

The scale of Pakistan's election - with 15,629 candidates running for 849 provincial and national assembly seats - is huge. The country's election commission says that it is on course to set up more than 70,000 polling stations across the country, but that security remains their overarching concern.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's BBC on Pakistan Elections 11 May 2013:

Polling stations open from 8am to 5pm local time.

There are 86,189,802 registered voters - 48,592,387 men and 37,597,415 women

Five thousand National Assembly candidates will be fighting for 342 seats. There are 11,692 Provincial Assembly candidates

Fifty-one candidates are vying for the NA-48 constituency seat in Islamabad, the highest number in the country.

More than 600,000 security personnel including 50,000 troops will be deployed to guard against militant attacks

There are more than 73,000 polling stations - 20,000 of which have been earmarked as a security risk

Five security personnel will be stationed at each polling station, with up to double that number at those facing the gravest security threats

Polls will mark the first time that a civilian government has completed a full five-year term and handed over to an elected successor

Riaz Haq said...

I was shocked to hear PTI NA-146 (Okara) candidate Prof Abdur Rauf Dola admit to GeoTV's Suhail Warraich today that ISI helped him get the PTI ticket from Imran Khan over the objections of local PTI officials. Does the military see Nawaz Sharif as a problem in its fight against terrorists? Is the ISI working to try and keep Nawaz Sharif out of power?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a France24 story on virtual electioneering in Pakistan:

...More than 30 TV screens line the walls of the room, broadcasting continuous coverage of the election campaign. This is not a TV studio – although it certainly looks like one. It’s the headquarters of the MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement) party, one of the most powerful parties in the southern Pakistani province of Sindh.
"We try to minimize our appearances while optimizing our visibility through Twitter and Facebook," said Faisal Sabzwari, an MQM candidate who regularly receives letters threatening him with death.

To do this, the MQM has increased the size of its communications team. "At first, we had 80 members in the department and about a thousand volunteers in our constituencies,” said Sabzwari. “But over the past two months, with the upsurge in violence, we have recruited nearly 2,000 additional volunteers."

It’s a large network that enables the party to conduct one of the most active social media campaigns. According to Sabzwari, the MQM has broken the record for the number of tweets posted per day. "In April, we tweeted up to 19,000 messages per day - this is a record for Pakistan,” said Sabzwari.

The PPP, the party of outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari, has also been forced to keep a low profile. "In the last elections, we organized up to ten public meetings per day in Karachi,” recounts Taj Haider, the PPP’s general secretary for Sindh province. “Today, to campaign, we sit behind our computers.”

Indeed, it is through television commercials or emails that the most threatened PPP candidates communicate with their constituents and transmit their instructions to thousands of activists....

Here's a Bloomberg story on Pak elections:

Movie makers, celebrities and cafe owners are appealing to Pakistanis to vote in the May 11 general election to help pull the nation out of a slump caused by chronic energy shortages, poor governance and terrorism.
Chambaili, a film that opened in cinemas on April 26, depicts a young population bullied by the ruling elite. Television spots feature 29 actors, singers and sportsmen urging people to cast ballots. Espresso, a local chain of coffeehouses, is offering a free coffee on election day to those bearing an ink-marked finger that shows they voted, and Ginsoy, a Chinese restaurant in Karachi, is advertising a 25 percent discount to voters.
The messages are aimed at Pakistan’s youth, many of whom will be voting for the first time. Over one-fourth of voters are under 35, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan, and 87 percent of young adults are unhappy with the current political system, a December survey by advertising agency JWT Pakistan found.
Security threats have forced major political forces, including Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, to rely on advertising as they avoid public rallies which have targeted by Taliban insurgents. Nationwide violence since April, including attacks on election candidates, has left at least 114 people dead and 470 injured.
The Peoples Party is projected to spend the most on advertising followed by Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf, according to Dialogue Pakistan, a media advisory company in Karachi.
The PPP’s campaign shows images of slain former leader Benazir Bhutto’s grave, while Khan’s party is running video clips of its leader, who attained hero status by leading Pakistan to victory in the 1992 cricket world cup, speaking from his hospital bed after suffering fractures in a fall during a campaign stop in Lahore on May 7....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP report on technology used in Pak elections:

ISLAMABAD: It was targeted by the Taliban, women and minorities were vastly under-represented, and videos of irregularities went viral online – yet Pakistan’s 2013 election may still have been its fairest ever.
A much improved voter roll, near-record turnout, and vigilant citizens tweeting alleged rigging all played their part in what former Norwegian PM and election observer Kjell Magne Bondevik called “a credible expression of the will of the people”.
Saturday’s election saw about 50 million Pakistanis vote, with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif emerging the winner nearly 14 years after he was deposed in a coup.
It represented the first time a civilian government was to hand over power to another, in a country where sporadic attempts at democracy have been interrupted by three coups and four military rulers.
Violence in the run-up to polls and on election day itself killed more than 150 people, according to an AFP tally, as the Taliban set their sights in particular on secular parties that made up the outgoing government.
But despite the threat, nearly 60 per cent of the country’s registered 86 million voters went to the polls, moving Pakistani columnist Murtaza Haider to hail his country as “the world’s bravest democracy”.
“The results of May 11 elections prove once again that if given the opportunity, Pakistani masses would embrace democracy against the religious orthodoxy,” he wrote in Dawn newspaper.
The process was far from perfect. Eleven million fewer women voted than men, with militant threats and social conservatism excluding them altogether in parts of the northwest and tribal areas, including the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan.
Yet overall women’s participation was higher than ever, particularly in urban areas, and almost three times as many women ran for office as in 2008.
“The main thing was serious interest in the election and we have a very heavy participation by women everywhere. So I think this was a good election,” said IA Rehman, a veteran human rights activist.
Some of the credit goes to Pakistan’s database authority, which oversaw an increase in the registration of women from 50 per cent during the last polls to 86 per cent by adding all adults with an ID card to the voter roll.
The agency culled the dead from the electoral roll, and clamped down on ID card fraud that resulted in some people voting dozens of times in the last election.
It put in place measures that allowed polling stations to access would-be voters’ photographs and even check thumb impressions against the national database in cases of suspected fraud.
The agency also allowed voters to SMS their ID card number to instantly find which polling station they should use – a serviced accessed 55 million times.
“Technology has strengthened democracy in Pakistan, enhanced turnout, eroded corruption and enhanced transparency,” Tariq Malik, chairman of the National Database Registration Authority, told AFP.
But he warned that technology can only do so much and poll officials remained susceptible to corruption.
As in previous elections, allegations of fraud were made around the country, with particular focus on claims by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Karachi and Lahore....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on growing ICT use in Pakistan:

Pakistan has crossed a historical milestone. Elections were held on time, and for the first time in its 66-year history, a democratically elected government completed its term and handed over power to a new one. At the same time, the elections recorded a voter turnout unprecedented in recent years.
Much of this renewed political interest has been driven by Pakistan’s telecommunications revolution. Over 50 million voters verified their polling stations through their mobile phones and the elections were tweeted, blogged, and plastered across Facebook. In fact, the way I see it, the elections presented a major victory not only for Pakistan, but also placed a massive feather in the collective caps of telecom companies.

The Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry in Pakistan has registered a prolific boom in the last few years. With affordable pricing and 122 million connections showing mobile penetration at an all-time high, Pakistanis are amongst the highest SMS users in the world – the average Pakistani sends up to 178 text messages in a month.
And recent months have seen the launch of mobile financial services by various players, with transactions worth Rs3.76 billion via online banking already taken place.
Internet and broadband penetration is at a similar peak. According to World Bank statistics, by July 2012, Pakistan internet users showed a double-digit growth in the past five years and the Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (Ispak) estimates that internet users have reached 25 million thanks to broadband and mobile phone operators.
Moreover, thanks to large organisations such as PTCL and Wateen Telecom, over 250 towns and cities across the country are now connected through an extensive fibre optic network.
Universal Services Fund
The government also intends to use approximately $700 million available with the Universal Services Fund (USF) to further develop the infrastructure and network that has already been put in place. The USF’s aim to “improve the working of the Universal Services Fund (USF) and utilise its resources to bridge the rural-urban digital divide and establish WiFi hotspots” is certainly a welcome one.
Smart grids
The auction of licences itself will give an impetus to the economy and provide the government with FDI. However, the regulatory body will need to rely on more than just consumer uptake in order to achieve the scale necessary for sustaining growth. This means formulating policies that encourage the uptake of data services by vertical industries, for example solutions for smart grids.
Indeed, smart grids should be a top priority for the new government – not only will they enable growth and scalability within the ICT sector, they will also provide significant value for the power and energy sectors.
Currently, there are several pilot projects under way using cellular technology, however, according to industry leaders, cellular solutions for smart grids are not scalable.
Moreover, utility companies require constant data streams on their networks for telemetry, oscillography, usage and meta-data. Data usage is rapidly increasing and demand is likely to increase once 3G services are introduced.
Telecom operators, on whom electricity distribution companies currently rely, will likely be in a challenging position in the next few years as demand on their networks grows for ambient video and other data-heavy services.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on "paid news" in Indian elections:

In recent years, India has seen a growing phenomenon called 'paid news'. This is where money changes hands in return for sympathetic press coverage.

There have been hundreds of cases involving politicians, celebrities and businessmen paying for favourable reports in the media dressed up as real news.

With the country gearing up for elections soon, the issue has been in sharp focus, but is there any chance of tackling the problem?

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting piece from Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) on Pakistani media:

Pakistan’s raucous and increasingly lethal media sector is exerting a powerful effect on decision-making in the country, even though journalists themselves are divided on whether their influence is positive or negative. That’s the key finding of a survey of more than 350 Pakistani journalists, policymakers, and academics. ..... More than two-thirds of policymakers surveyed said the media has a “significant” effect on their decision-making and 94 percent said they “always” or “sometimes” take media reaction into account before making a decision. That group includes current and former government officials and analysts at policy think tanks and civil society organizations. Those policymakers actually have a more positive view of the media than journalists themselves. More journalists and academics believe the media makes societal divisions worse than say media helps heal those divisions; it’s exactly the reverse among policymakers. Likewise, far more policymakers than journalists and academics believe the impact of private TV has been positive. Pakistani foreign and domestic policies are inextricably linked, shaped by a complex web of political, military, and sectarian factors. Media is one element in that equation. Just over half the journalists defined as “significant” the media’s impact on relations with the U.S. and with India, Pakistan’s key rival for power in South Asia; policymakers and academics agreed with the journalists regarding the U.S., but slightly more than half the policymakers and academics said the media’s influence was “minimal” or “none” when it came to relations with India. All three groups surveyed are united in overwhelmingly believing the media has played a “significant” role in exposing corruption, though a sizable minority of journalists were more cynical, seeing their role as “insignificant.” Pakistan is locked in a virtual civil war with Islamist militants, both home-grown and from Afghanistan. Even on this complicated issue, more than one-third of those surveyed from each group believes the media has a “significant” impact on relations with the militants, who recently issued a fatwa against the media, which it declared to be a “party” to “this war on Islam.” The willingness of Pakistani journalists to speak truth to power has consistently proven lethal. In the four years since TV deregulation sparked an explosion of private television channels, there have been almost twice as many deaths as the previous decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the most infamous of which was the 2011 torture and murder of investigative reporter Saleem Shahzad, who, like Hamid Mir, claimed he had been threatened by Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence wing, but who also had just published a book on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Yet the complex calculation involved in determining what kinds of stories could prove fatal and which push the envelope just short of that point is reflected in the responses to the question, “Can journalists report sensitive stories without fear of reprisals?” Almost 30 percent of journalists responded “yes,” double the percentage of policymakers and academics who thought that was the case, and another 30 percent of journalists said they could “sometimes” tackle such stories. Pakistan is a nation of contradictions, not least when it comes to the news industry. Nothing better sums up those contradictions than the response to the question: “Should government officials mislead the media if they think it is in the national interest?” At a time when Pakistani journalists are dying in the pursuit of truth, the response seemed to turn reality on its head: More policymakers than journalists said “no,” the government should not have that right.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times' Declan Walsh on the Hamid Mir Affair:

...The vituperative exchanges have exposed troubling aspects of Pakistan’s oft-lauded media revolution: Along with the military’s concerted campaign to muzzle the press is the heavy hand of querulous media barons who, driven by commercial concerns and personal grudges, may be endangering the sector they helped create.

“The way this has played out is extremely disturbing,” said Zaffar Abbas, editor of Dawn newspaper, one of the few media outlets that have stayed out of the dispute. “I’ve never seen the media like this, really going after one other. If better sense doesn’t prevail, whatever we have earned in press freedom will be lost.”

The stakes are high on all sides. Since 2007, when television coverage played a key role in fanning the street protests that led to the ouster of General Musharraf, the news media has grown into a powerful factor in Pakistani society. Television news has widened public debate and exposed abuses, but it has faced sharp criticism for shoddy reporting and for giving a platform to Islamist extremists.

The exploding market has also turned prime-time talk show hosts like Mr. Mir into powerful figures, and made fortunes for a handful of newly minted media tycoons.


“It is supremely dangerous to be a reporter in Pakistan,” he said.

The military, in particular, has squirmed under the media’s relentless scrutiny. Tensions have been bubbling for some time between the Jang Group, the country’s largest media conglomerate, and the ISI. Jang is owned by Mir Shakil ur-Rehman, a reclusive editor who lives with his two wives in Dubai, where he keeps a tight grip on a media empire that includes Geo News, several sports and entertainment channels, and a stable of newspapers in Urdu and English.

Last fall, Mr. Rehman came to believe that the ISI was sponsoring a new television station, Bol, to dilute his commercial and political clout. His newspapers ran hostile reports about Bol, prompting competing media organizations to hit back with stories that painted Geo as sympathetic to Pakistan’s old rival, India.
Unlike in the Musharraf era, when journalists united against military attempts to muzzle them, virulent rivalries between the businessmen who own the major stations have pulled the news media apart.

Mr. Rehman of the Jang group has a rancorous relationship with Sultan Lakhani, who owns the smaller Express media group, which includes a television station and several newspapers. (One of those papers, the English-language Express Tribune, prints The International New York Times in Pakistan.) A third station, ARY, is owned by a family of gold dealers that has little love for Mr. Rehman.

“The control of the owners and their say in what happens has increased tremendously,” said one editor, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “No editor or journalist can take a stand against them.”

The turmoil has partly obscured the plight of Mr. Mir, who has an ambiguous history with the ISI. He shot to prominence after interviewing Osama bin Laden in 1998, and was initially seen as sympathetic to the pro-jihadi agenda of the Pakistani military and the ISI. But in recent years he has championed the cause of Baluch nationalists, angering the army, and highlighted human rights abuses during military operations.

He is now under close protection at a Karachi hospital, where flowers are piled outside his door and doctors report a steady recovery. In a statement issued through his brother, Mr. Mir vowed to “continue the fight for the rights of people till my last breath and last drop of blood.”....

Riaz Haq said...

From NY Times on the role of money in Indian elections:

This is the new world of Indian elections, where costs have soared in recent years; overall spending this cycle is expected to reach $5 billion, second only to the amount spent on the 2012 presidential election in the United States. This increase has a number of causes, and far-reaching consequences.

First, as India’s population has grown, so too has the size of its political constituencies. The average parliamentary constituency in 1951-52, when India held its first post-independence election, had roughly 350,000 voters; today that figure stands at 1.5 million. More voters mean more money spent on outreach and handouts.

Second, elections have become more competitive. In 2009, when India last held national elections, the average margin of victory in a parliamentary contest was 9.7 percent, the thinnest since independence. Candidates in close races have become locked in an arms race of campaign spending.

Third, the scope of elections has broadened. Thanks to constitutional amendments in the early 1990s that established new tiers of village and town governments, India went from having some 4,000 elected positions to nearly three million virtually overnight. Funds must be raised for every rung on the political ladder.

Fourth, since 1971, when Indira Gandhi called an early national election, state and national election cycles have been uncoupled. As a consequence, parties and politicians must collect money more frequently while contributors can no longer get away with a one-shot gift for all elections.

Finally, Indian voters expect more handouts as parties compete to outdo one another with costly pre-election “gifts.” This practice is, of course, explicitly forbidden yet routinely pursued. Gifts range from the obvious (cash and liquor) to the surreal (opium paste or bricks for home construction).
One evening in Andhra Pradesh, I asked a candidate from the Y.S.R. Congress Party whether the huge expenses he was incurring would be worth it. He paused, and then said that he did not know: “If I am lucky enough to win, next time, I’ll need even more money. How does one remain honest and succeed in politics in this country?”