There is little doubt that Pakistani media is facing one of its toughest battles for survival with revenues plunging as part of an overall economic slowdown. Several media houses appear to be on a firing spree as newspapers and news channels are cutting costs drastically to break even. In my opinion, most are failing because a proper strategy to correctly address the crisis and evolve is missing.

Not many in the industry are deliberating on how to adjust the model to make it profitable like it was in the last few years and how the media can come out of this crisis.

Although the crisis is partly global as well, in the case of Pakistan, the media has not ventured into innovation to address it, nor is it coming up with alternative models to generate revenue.

On the one hand there are falling ad revenues, but at the same time, traditional forms of media appear to be losing audience worldwide. In the case of Pakistani viewers, their dwindling interest in television can be explained by the fact that while the audience has evolved since the early 2000s when private channels were allowed to set up stations and broadcast in news and entertainment, the channels do not seem to have caught on well enough.

Zafar Siddiqi's new book *TV News 3.0* tries to explore what lies in store for Pakistani media in particular and global media in general.

A big chunk of the book talks about Siddiqi's own experiences on setting up television channels in Pakistan, UAE and other countries. The book also addresses his experience with grappling changing viewer patterns and a new economic model for media that no longer solely depends on advertising.

Siddiqi, currently Chairman of Samaa TV, says technological advances have led to change when it comes to TV viewership. Now viewers do not have to sit in front of a television at the time determined by channels through programming schedules and the younger generation is watching their favourite programmes online.

“The technological advances that allow a TV station to circumvent traditional delivery methods and stream directly over the internet to global audiences has changed the business — and the audience experience — more in a few years than cable and satellite did over the past few decades. And we have yet to see its full potential. Technology is dramatically altering how we experience entertainment and news,” he writes.

He explains how TV news will ultimately be more interactive than just news to only be watched and passively consumed and says that with the introduction of 5G and later 6G, costs of business will go down drastically.

He adds that “the quality of content, its trustworthiness, its relevance will remain the crucial factors and determinants of success or failure for existing and new players”.

As a media practitioner, I also believe that our TV channels need to offer much more than what they are currently churning out in their prime time. Shows after shows on a single political issue with more or less same sets of guests is leading to a dwindling of the viewers’ confidence and trust on news channels.

Little coverage of core issues, such as education, health, or social issues directly impacting peoples’ lives are ignored by the media which thrives on a highly faulty system of ratings. There are no offerings for the youth and children, turning them away from local TV news and leading them to explore their interests in international channels, and sensationalism is the name of the game. Siddiqi's own channel taglines itself as ‘no sensationalism only news’, but does it fully practice that motto?

But even as quite a few TV channels opted to tread the path of sensationalism, they too couldn't stop the slide in revenues.

In light of these realities, Siddiqi's concept of TV News 3.0 seems appropriate.

But how much innovation will we see in the media industry in Pakistan in the coming years is still a question to ponder. Particularly as new media outlets are being set up despite revenue slide whereas their content remains the same more or less. Aside from that, an environment of growing censorship and meddling in the work of journalists by the authorities is further damaging the process of industry stabilisation. Such insecurity can hardly result in innovative business models or even good journalism.

But while Siddiqi’s book may not be an ideal manual for streamlining the industry, it certainly opens up the debate for exploring new ways to increase viewership vis-à-vis revenues.

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