How government used tv advertisements to avert political turmoil in 2014

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By Azaz Syed and Basit Ali Khan


ISLAMABAD:  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) extensively used electronic media advertisements to overcome the political turmoil in year 2014.

A close study of the advertisement to the electronic media reveals that Federal Government spent more than Rs.341 million for defusing the political turmoil in year 2014 which many believe, was backed by the security establishment.

The data sans the names of television channels that the advertisements were given was shared with the Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage on April 11 this year.

On August 14, 2014 Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf led by Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri led Pakistan Awami Tehreek started a protest from Lahore which culminated into a protest sit in, in front of the parliament which was apparently aimed at toppling the Nawaz Sharif led Pakistan Muslim League (N). The longest ever sit-in in the history of the country, however, ended soon after the Army Public School attack by the defunct Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on December 16, 2014.

The political advertisement campaigns which were paid to the private TV shannels titled Maeshat pay hamla (attack on economy) , Riasat Par Dahawa (attack on state), Political Stability, Go ka matlab (meaning of go), one year achievement of Federal Government, Qoum ki Awaz (voice of the nation) , Long March and Ptv.Hamla or attack on Pakistan Television Network.

The data shows that Federal Government’s advertisement campaign “Maeshat pay hamla” (attack on economy) remained the most costly advertisement campaign during the year 2014 as Rs.150 million was spent on that. The campaign was released in December 2014.

The advertisement campaign, Riasat Pay Dahawa or Attack on State remained the second most costly campaign as Rs.89 million were spent on this. The advertisement of Political Stability cost Rs.51 million thus being the third most costly advertisement during the whole year.

After the political advertisements, the image building of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif became the second biggest priority of the Federal Government’s Information Ministry gave as it spent almost Rs.229 million in terms of advertisement. These advertisements to the electronic media included campaigns “11 month achievements of Federal Government” Rs. 49 million, Prime Minister Youth Program Rs.31 million, and Hazara Motorway Rs.27 million.

“Local and international media outlets are mostly driven by their economic interests. Governments particularly during their crisis apply advertisements to the media, in return media outlets turn positive towards them and often help governments by making non issues as issues , in a way that people could not judge,” says Ashfaq Gondal a former Federal Secretary Information,who closely dealt such situations in his career.

The country which is facing sever security crisis due to terrorism and extremism remained the third priority subject of Information Ministry as almost Rs.21 million of a total of almost Rs.100 million were paid to the electronic media on advertisements related to Operation Zarb e Azb . The advertisement campaign, United Against Terrorism which was initiated soon after Army Public School attack was paid Rs.79 million from the Federal Government exchequer. It is pertinent to note that military’s media office namely Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) separately issues advertisement campaigns whose budgets are never made public.

In four years 2012 to 2016, the data reveals that more than Rs3 billion of public money has been spent on electronic media advertisement by the Federal Government through its Information and Broadcast Ministry. Likewise government also spent almost Rs.9.8 billion on print media advertisement. The total advertisements given to print and electronic media have touched Rs.12.8 billion rupees which is almost more than half of the total health budget of the country.





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