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 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 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?”