- Country Overview
- Communication Habits by Demographic Groups
- Religious Media Content - A Cable TV Phenomenon
- News Television in Pakistan: Who's Watching?
- News on the Radio: What Choices do Pakistanis have?
- Attitudes towards News and Information
- High News Consumers: A Profile
- Media Outlet Matrix
- Country Statistics
- Survey Methodology
KEY COMMUNICATION AND DEVELOPMENT WEBSITES AND PROJECTS
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Television in Pakistan: Who’s Watching?
The biggest change in the Pakistan media landscape has been in the television market. The state-run Pakistan Television Corporation still operates six terrestrial channels, but residents with cable and satellite access can watch more than 90 private television stations licensed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).
The new satellite television networks are popular with the urban middle class in Pakistan. In fact, according to the Pakistan Institute of Public Opinion (PIPO) 2010 Media Report, 81 percent of Pakistanis said that they watch television (both terrestrial and cable combined). Compared to television viewership figures from the BBC 2008 data analyzed by InterMedia, there hasn’t been a substantial increase in these figures (the two surveys are not directly comparable due to methodological and sampling differences).
Of the 81 percent who watch television, watch 78 percent are regular watchers  (meaning they watch more than four times a week, see figure 1). Of these 81 percent respondents, 55 percent said they have access to cable and satellite channels (see figure 2).
Following the 2002 media reforms initiated by then-President Pervez Musharraf, PEMRA effectively bisected the television market between terrestrial TV broadcasting (limited to the state-run Pakistan Television network, or PTV and the private ATV) and new privately-run satellite and cable channels. PEMRA cites two main factors for the increase in satellite channels: the relaxation of cross-media ownership restrictions by the Pakistani Legislature and the recent boom in national advertising revenue, especially of fast-moving consumer goods. This boost in new electronic media coincided with a large boost in Pakistan’s overall economy in the early 2000s. Gross domestic product growth was driven by gains in the industrial and service sectors, with growth hovering between 6 percent and 8 percent from 2004 to 2006.
According to PEMRA, some 8 million Pakistani households now have access to cable TV. The PIPO 2010 media report states that in 2010, more than half (55%) of the TV-viewing population interviewed in the country were subscribers to cable or satellite TV (See Figure 2). Pakistanis who can afford a cable or satellite connection have wide access to all genres of channels broadcasting in English, Urdu and regional languages in all provinces. Many of these channels have a news or religious focus. News channels are popular for their primetime talk shows that combine news and discussion in an entertaining format, while religious channels are popular for their talk shows focusing on social issues through a religions lens. There are also more entertainment channels on cable and satellite television than on state TV, giving Pakistanis more options.
Figure 2 Figure 3
As Figure 3 shows, 89 percent of television viewers watch at home, which implies that household television ownership is fairly widespread.
There isn’t much diversity in regular viewership levels across demographic groups- at least 75 percent of Pakistanis from all income levels, age groups, and education levels were television viewers, except low income Pakistanis (67 percent).
However, there are clear regional divides (See here for regional breakdown) Viewership was lowest in Southern Punjab (55 percent) and Northern Punjab (65 percent). Satellite and cable television access is also variable by region (see Figure 4). More developed regions such as Karachi have almost universal access to satellite among television viewers, whereas television viewers in Hazara, Malakand and Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are largely watching terrestrial television.
Television Content Preference
The Pakistan Television network still rules the roost in overall national television popularity and it is one of the few terrestrial (no cable required) networks with a national reach.  However, the introduction of privately-run cable and satellite television stations in 2002 triggered significant changes in Pakistan’s media landscape (See Figure 5). PTV operates a few channels nationally, of which PTV Home and PTV News are the most prominent. Even though PTV Home (PTV network's general entertainment network) rules the roost nationally, PTV News has been displaced by the private Geo News in the list of top 5 channels and many other private news stations such as Express News, KTN News are growing in popularity.
In fact news channels such as Geo News have been steadily gaining in importance in the last decade. Geo News was the second most popular channel in the 2008 BBC national survey analyzed by InterMedia. Interestingly, PTV news has slid in popularity since the advent of a plethora of news channels- its popularity has slid from third most popular channel in 2008 to the sixth most popular channel in 2010.
Seen this way, the previously mentioned regulatory changes have had significant implications for how news and information is disseminated, giving Pakistanis a wider choice to choose non-state perspectives on news and current affairs in their nation and around the world. Figure 5 and Figure 6 show the popular channels as chosen by television viewers and especially by cable viewers respectively. Besides news channels, general entertainment channels such as Star Plus (with sitcoms and tele-serials), religious channels (QTV) and cooking channels seem to be popular. International news broadcasters do not command much attention. However internationally-owned entertainment and sports channels such as Star and Ten Sports are watched in large numbers.
The respondents were given a list of TV channels and asked to identify the channels they had watched in the previous week for more than fifteen minutes. Hence, this list provides channel viewership, not channel ratings.
Focusing only on cable and satellite subscribers, more distinctions are apparent. PTV Home is less dominant in this market and PTV News disappears altogether from the list (Compare Figure 5 with Figure 6). In fact, popular cable/satellite channels such as Star Plus, Geo News, Masala, Madani, QTV, Geo TV and Geo Sports each rise in popularity by at least one and a half times compared to the situation among all TV viewers.
Media Houses and Market Monopoly
Although there are more than one hundred cable channels available in Pakistan, most of them belong to one of a small number of television networks or media houses. Many of these media conglomerates, such as Jang Group, own prominent newspapers and magazines as well as the Geo Television Network. As media groups become more powerful in Pakistan, some journalists in Pakistan complain that the groups can project political bias and a subjective slant across all of their media outlets. Some of these are profiled below:
The PTV Network includes six channels. Two of these, PTV Home (the main channel broadcasting a variety of programs) and PTV News (dedicated to news and current affairs), are terrestrial channels catering to all TV viewers, including the 45 percent of TV viewers who do not have regular access to satellite TV. Four other satellite channels are also part of the PTV network: PTV National, PTV Bolan and AJK TV cater to regional audiences, while PTV Global is broadcast across the world via satellite.
Independent Media Corporation
The Independent Media Corporation is one of Pakistan's largest media conglomerates. It originally owned the Jang Group of Newspapers and later added the GEO Television Network to its offerings. The Jang Group publishes some of the most popular newspapers including the Pakistan Daily Jang, The News International, Mag Weekly, and Awam. GEO TV Network includes four satellite channels: its flagship channel GEO TV, a news channel GEO News, a sports channel GEO Super, and Aag, an entertainment channel dedicated to youth. Among cable homes, GEO News enjoys the highest viewership levels in the country (61 percent) and is the most popular channel among cable/satellite connections. Even in non-cable homes, 12 percent claim to have watched the channel in the past week, possibly at their neighbors’/relatives’ home, at a public place, or at work. GEO TV's other channels, GEO TV and GEO Super, also enjoy a significant viewership levels.
ARY Television Network
The ARY TV network comprises several satellite channels as well as foreign affiliates. ARY Digital is their main channel promoting programs for a general audience, ARY OneWorld is a news channel, Musik is an entertainment channel, while QTV is dedicated to programs with religious content. ARY OneWorld and ARY Digital are far less popular than QTV, which is watched in 30 percent of all cable homes. The ARY TV Network also recently launched its food channel, ARY Zouq. Apart from these channels, ARY is affiliated with some international channels including VH1, HBO, Fashion TV Pakistan, and Nickelodeon.
STAR Television Asia is an international media house (owned by News Corporation) which broadcasts a large number of channels in Pakistan, the most prominent being STAR Plus, STAR One, STAR Movies, STAR World, Channel V and STAR Gold. STAR Plus is one of the most viewed channels in the country with 54 percent of all cable homes and 30 percent of all non-cable homes saying they have seen the channel in the past week. Its Hindi entertainment programs, especially soaps, are highly popular throughout the country. It is also one of the foreign channels on which advertising does not appear.
Kawish Television Network (KTN)
Kawish Television Network is a regional language network promoting channels in Sindhi. It includes its flagship channel KTN, KTN News and Kashish, a Sindhi music channel. While at the national level their viewership levels are not very high, these channels enjoy a large viewership base in Interior Sindh where 36% claim to watch KTN, 30percent watch KTN News and 33 percent watch Kashish.
Express News is an Urdu-language Pakistani television news channel which launched on 1 January 2008. It is owned and run by the country's third-largest Urdu daily, Daily Express. The owners of the channel, Lakson Group, later launched "Express 24/7," one of the few 24-Hour Pakistani English news channels. It has become the second most-watched news channel after Geo News.
Shalimar Television Network
Part of the Shalimar Television Network, ATV is the only other terrestrial channel in the country and has the second largest viewership levels in non-cable homes (28%), after PTV Home. ATV enjoys relatively higher viewership in the KP region due to better reception.
Viewership Preferences by Content
News, religion and soaps are the most popular programming among Pakistani television viewers.
With an increased choice in programming, news channels have become very popular in the Pakistani media landscape. In fact Geo News (private) is the second most watched channel according to the PIPO 2010 survey. The private channels have made people more aware of their political and constitutional rights and made them more informed about news and events outside Pakistan. The empowered group of new television outlets was willing to expose and challenge the authoritarian behavior of the Pakistani government, especially after the political turmoil of 2007 during the Musharraf government. Soon, these new outlets had become important conduits for political news and information.
However, by 2009, the Pakistan media, especially the news channels were facing criticisms for their lack of credible information and a tendency for sensationalizing. Besides news and reporting, many of these channels also known for their popular talk shows that bring together a famous anchor with a panel of retired military and intelligence personnel, politicians, analysts and activists every week night. Journalist Huma Yusuf, at the Wilson Center has said that “The animated, opinionated and conspiracy theory-laden discussions that ensue have helped make news programming more popular than entertainment offerings among Pakistani audiences.”
Wajahat Ali, prominent Pakistani journalist says that whenever a terrorist attack is covered- journalists are encouraged to flash death tolls and gruesome images. In many of the news based talk shows, cantankerous pundits polarize debates. While the media in Pakistan has played a crucial role in criticizing the government corruption since 2007, its coverage of the recent political turmoil and increase in terrorist violence has been inflammatory, emotionally charged and dangerously subjective. The Western media has also recently commented upon the anti-American stance of the private media. The USIP reports that women, ethnic and religious minorities are often portrayed in a negative and disparaging fashion, if their circumstances are addressed by the media at all.
Another important consideration to this expanded news and information space is the high cost of access that low income and rural residents may not be able to afford. Although the introduction of new satellite and cable channels has helped to educate and inform much of Pakistani society, PEMRA’s bifurcation of the TV market between terrestrial and satellite/cable has actually limited low-income and many rural residents from being able to consume independent media. PIPO 2010 data reveals that some 87 percent of urban residents possess home access to cable or satellite TV, versus only 34 percent of rural respondents. In many regions, such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA, people have fewer sources to news.
The popularization of religious issues through the introduction of privately-run religious channels and programs is another major development in Pakistan’s media. With the advent of private media, new formats for religious shows are beginning to emerge.
Quran TV (QTV) is one of the most watched television channels in Pakistan (featuring in the top 10 nationally and in the top 3 among cable/satellite owners; ). QTV, part of the ARY Digital Network of channels in Pakistan, is a private religious channel broadcasting Islamic programming, including talk shows. Madni is another popular religious channel that watched by 10 percent of all TV watchers and 18 percent of cable homes. At first glance, a majority of the content on these channels seems to focus simply on imparting the direct teachings of Islam. However, many of them also feature a series of discussion, talk and call-in shows.
This report was written by Gayatri Murthy- Senior Research Associate at InterMedia
 TThe PIPO 2010 Media report classified media users for each medium in the following order: Casual (less than once a week), Occasional (at least once a week and upto 3 times a week) and Regular (4 times a week or more).
 The PIPO 2010 media survey divided Pakistan into the following regions: Karachi, Interior Sindh, Western Punjab, Central Punjab, North Punjab, South Punjab, Peshawar Valley, Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Malakand, Hazara, Quetta Zone (Balochistan), Kalat Makran Zone (Balochistan).
 The respondents were given a list of TV channels and asked to identify the channels they had watched in the previous week for more than fifteen minutes. Hence, this list provides channel viewership, not channel ratings.