Tuesday, August 7, 2012

International Mass Media: July 24

By Lindsay Boyle

On Tuesday, July 24, the sixth International Mass Media summer course was held in Copeland Hall at the Ohio University campus. During each class, two SUSI scholars give a lecture about their own country’s media systems, journalism practices and political cultures. All of the lectures are streamed live through Ohio University distance learning and are available online to 35 students who are taking a summer class instructed by Dr. Brook Beshah.

The SUSI summer institute — in which scholars from all over the world come to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at OU to study journalism and media — is funded by an annual renewable grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Study of the U.S. Branch in the Office of Academic Exchange Programs.

Prof. Aazadi Burfat

First, scholar Aazadi Burfat introduced herself, followed by her country, Pakistan. Pakistan has the second largest Muslim population in the world, many ethnicities and religions, and more than 300 languages, though English is the official one. According to Burfat, Pakistan is full of cultural festivals and social adoptability because of the many different cultures.

However, Burfat mentioned multiple problems faced by Pakistan. Fifty-six percent of those living in Pakistan are considered literate, with literacy often being defined as being able to write one’s name. Twenty-six percent are below the poverty line. Other problems include overpopulation, terrorism (from 2002 onward), natural disasters, cross border migration, corruption, illiteracy, and political riots and killings.

Since its independence in 1947, Burfat explained that Pakistan has gone back and forth between military and civilian rule, with more time under the military. Only one civilian parliament has ever completed its entire five-year term uninterrupted.

The current president of Pakistan is Asif Ali Zardari, but Burfat said that his presidency has not been without controversy. Adding to an unstable environment in Pakistan is the ongoing war in neighboring Afghanistan. Burfat explained that many Pakistanis have faced violence in the midst of others fighting for control.

Until the formation of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority in 2002, Burfat explained that TV and radio channels in Pakistan were solely state-owned. Now, there are 77 TV channels and more than 100 radio stations covering a variety of topics. All were licensed by PEMRA. About 8 million Pakistani households have TV, Burfat said.

SUSI scholar Aazadi Burfat presents a lecture that is streamed live through OU distance learning, and is available online.

In Pakistan, there are about 17,000 newspapers in many different languages. In 1947, there were only four major Muslim-owned newspapers, but Burfat said there are now many more. Jang is one of the top selling papers.

According to Burfat, 2011 was considered a year of social media in Pakistan. Social media were responsible for alerting Pakistanis of things such as Osama bin Laden’s death. In addition, videos that have gone viral on YouTube in the past have brought about pressure for governmental change.

Historically, Burfat explained that Pakistani media has suffered from censorship. Despite the media revolution of sorts that has occurred during the past 10 years and continues to occur, Burfat said that Pakistan is still the second most deadly country for journalists.

In addition, journalists have a lack of training and receive little or no salary. Also, media owners often place commercial motives above actual journalistic interests.

As a result, many associations are working to promote a free and mature media in Pakistan, Burfat said. Although some censorship still exists, she explained that most media now strive to be the fourth pillar of the government by reporting scandals. Their focus is typically on promoting awareness and a civic sense.

Prof. Hugo Zarate
The Bahamas

SUSI scholar Hugo Zarate began his presentation with an introduction of himself, followed by an introduction of his institution, The College of The Bahamas.

Zarate then explained a bit more about The Bahamas. Eighty-five percent of the population is made up of blacks, while the other 15 percent is composed of whites, Asians and Hispanics. The Bahamas is considered a Christian nation, with 68 percent of the population practicing a Protestant religion. Common languages include English — the official language, “Bahamian slang,” which formed as a result of British colonization, and Creole.

Two big cultural events that occur annually in The Bahamas are Junkanoo and The Bahamas International Film Festival. The College of The Bahamas also hosts its own Short Film Festival each year.

The Bahamas’ economy is based on tourism, Zarate explained. The country operates under a constitutional parliamentary democracy with three primary political parties. Societal problems include immigration, natural disasters, unemployment and more.

Zarate said that The Bahamas do not have big numbers media-wise. The government owns three radio stations and 2 TV channels, which cover many things, including religious programming. Such stations also become important during times of crisis, such as when destructive hurricanes are near.

According to Zarate, there are several Bahamian institutions responsible for different regulatory actions. He explained five of them. Some examples were the Bahamas Information Service, which covers the actions of the prime minister, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority, which licenses and oversees electronic communication, and the Bahamas Christian Council, which judges movies and censors them accordingly.

SUSI scholars and staff listen as scholar Hugo Zarate presents a lecture that is streamed live through OU distance learning, and is available online.

Media can also be owned privately or independently, Zarate said. Privately owned media include outlets owned by media houses. One such media house is Jones Communications, which owns one paper, one TV station and one radio station, and focuses primarily on hard news. One private paper, The Tribune, is considered one of the most important papers in the country. It can be found in print as well as online.

Media owned independently do not belong to a media house, Zarate explained. Such media include The Punch newspaper, which focuses on yellow journalism and gossip, as well as several radio stations that cover a variety of topics.

In addition to Bahamas-wide media, Zarate said that some islands also have their own local stations and papers. Bahamians also have access to many AM radio stations, satellite television, and even some television channels broadcasted from Cuba and Florida.

Social media is a great tool for breaking news and citizen journalism in The Bahamas, according to Zarate. He explained that access to Internet and computers is quickly growing in The Bahamas, as evidenced by wi-fi networks popping up in restaurants, shops and more. Although online news is not yet as popular as printed news, Zarate said that students' influence on media is noticeable.

Zarate explained that there is not too much political influence on Bahamian journalists, though they sometimes practice self-censorship regarding news about the prime minister. He said that lack of training is the biggest problem facing journalists in The Bahamas.

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