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Uks-NED Project on ‘Media Literacy’

 

Abstract

Uks aims to improve journalistic standards, promote issue-based programming, and positive portrayals of women and gender-related issues in the media.  In October 2009, after successful completion of various projects on media, Uks approached NED with a proposal to fund a project on media literacy in Pakistan, the first project of its kind. The project is based on Uks‘s monitoring and analysis of media content in Pakistan in collaboration with its partner universities, and bringing forth the results of this research to the media practitioners. This media handbook compiled as part of this project points out the need to educate, both the audiences and practitioners of media on key media literacy concepts and that it is the only tool that can equip them with the skills to comment, critique and influence change in the way media content is packaged.

Project Details

 

Background of the Project

The media scene in Pakistan is changing with such break-neck speed that even the most seasoned media practitioners are finding it difficult to keep pace with the new realities, and the challenges that such a situation poses. The relative freedom given to independent televisions and FM radios as well as the print media, and their impact on the largely illiterate but news-starved society has made the new media look like an engine of change in the country.
But is this really the case? Has the new found freedom of expression really being used to bring about a positive change in the society, or the lack of understanding of its constructive role turning it into a tool for further chaos or despondency? Not a day passes by when something horrific, tragic or plain brutal does not happen in different parts of Pakistan. What do the media show? Repeated visuals of all kinds of violent acts, talk shows with a lot of blame game, editorials, articles? There are very few stories with a human angle. How all this had impacted upon ordinary citizens? One does agree that these are, no doubt, the initial years for the new media, and with the passage of time, maturity is expected to come in the coverage of political and social aspects of the society. But this is also the right time to make the media practitioners realize the need to taking a step back to understand and analyze various aspects of the use of electronic media, and if possible to make amends in order to ensure more meaningful use of television and radio, and to some extent also the newspapers. For instance, the new media need to understand that even if their main focus is politics, their overall coverage or programming neither is, nor it should be entirely devoted to political developments. No matter what happens their main prime responsibility is, or should be, raising public awareness, particularly on human interest issues. And here, it is observed, that the new media has largely failed.
It can be argued that with the kind of political developments taking place in the country, there is neither any time, nor the appetite for any coverage beyond the ―Breaking News Syndrome.‖ But then this is where there is a greater need to make the media managers realize that only through a conscious effort they can diversify their coverage in order to educate people. One feels that even if the present media managers agree to this kind of consultations, the problem is of first making the journalists working for them aware of the need for this kind of conscious effort. Most of these journalists are new comers, with little or no training in the understanding of news, in-depth reporting, and more importantly, about the impact or consequence of a good or bad news report. On the other hand, political developments of the last couple of years have overnight made many of them television/radio stars, and they are not really interested in shifting gears to do more meaningful journalism. Little are they aware that whatever they tell the audiences-listeners, viewers and readers- also have their views on what is being reported and how, whether or not they want it the same way-with every anchor, presenter shouting at top of his/her voice and many a time creating differences rather than bringing people closer? 
This is where we see our role as media monitoring and advocacy group come in. In the light of above mentioned arguments, we believe that the masses are not willing recipients of the content being generated by today’s media. That if democracy must prevail then audiences must also have the right to analyze and decide the media content.
Though, many in Pakistan may not have heard about this concept or strategy, it is time that we explore it. In today‘s world of multi-tasking, commercialism, globalization and interactivity, media education isn't about having the right answers—it's about asking the right questions.  Uks has initiated this process of dialogue and analysis that is hoped to result not only in strengthening democratic values by initiating media debates but also help towards empowerment of the media and its audiences.  

 

Project Aims & Objectives

The project hopes to achieve the following objectives:

  • To impart the skills of media monitoring and content analysis to university students.
  • To inculcate the ability to sift through and analyze the messages that inform, entertain and sell to us every day enabling us to accept or reject.
  • To bring critical thinking skills to bear on all media— from live reports on terrorism or conflict to representation of women in soaps and popular digests.
  • To be able to ask pertinent questions about what's there and noticing what's not there.
  • To develop the instinct to question what lies behind media productions— the motives, the money, the values and the ownership— and to be aware of how these factors influence content.
  • To bring forth professionalism, ethics and social responsibility in media.

The Project will

  • Involve selected educational institutions (universities) for effective representation of youth.
  • Continue with the support of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, and Press clubs, PEMRA and PBA (Pakistan Broadcasters Union) and Pakistan Advertisers Association
  • Continuation of the debate that Uks has initiated on the need for media literacy in Pakistan.
  • University students being taught monitoring and analysis of the content of the selected media -print and television on selected issues and themes.
  • Inclusion of Media Literacy in Mass Communication and Gender Studies Department as a subject/tool
  • Skills of desk and field research imparted to students based on media monitoring, audience feedback to gauge viewer reception across strata, cities and demographic groups through Audiences' Forum.
  • More informed media and audience on issues of democracy and freedom of information.
  • Regular columns by students as well as regular writers in the print media on the project activities.
  • Talk shows based on Media Literacy and the focused group discussions.
  • Capacity-building of the media and audiences in networking and advocacy involving the major stake holders such as: Media, Judiciary, Parliamentarians/Political representatives and NGOs/Community representatives.
  • Sharing of best practices examples through information booklets, fliers, kits on what the audiences want and designing modules for demystifying/altering media images.

 

Outreach and Impact of the Media Literacy Initiative:

  • First ever initiative in Pakistan, the concept of media literacy entwined with gauging audiences opinion through Focus Group Discussion (part of Research Methodology).
  • In itself, the Focus Group Discussions are targeting high, middle, lower, minority and youth’s opinions on the media scenario. The opinion is gauged from different regions, covering rural, metropolitan, rigid segments and in several cases rigid social settings.
  • Media Literacy project and its research activities are increasing enthusiasm amongst involved universities and young students as the domain is relatively new.
  • The developed feedback mechanism is a way forward to take opinions from masses to the media and get their feedback. Uks believes that this will help bridge the gaps between media and public and will result in “responsible media” approaches. 
  • Overall impact of the project brings forth the interest and keenness of varsities, and they have welcomed the initiative and stressed upon continuation of the process and media literacy dialogue.
  • Educational institutions have also extended their support to continued partnership with Uks in this regard.
  • Uks engagement involves gauging the public opinions and taking the feedback in a systematic manner to the monitored media.
  • Uks proposes “Consultative Media Forums” with the monitored media and policy level interventions. 

Partner Universities

Year 1: 6 universities

  • Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad
  • Fatima Jinnah Women‘s University, Rawalpindi
  • Lahore College University, Lahore
  • Federal Urdu University, Karachi
  • University of Peshawar, Peshawar
  • Islamia University, Bahawalpur

Year 2: 8 universities

  • SZABIST (Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology), Islamabad
  • Federal Urdu University, Karachi
  • University of the Punjab, Lahore
  • Kohat University of Science and Technology (KUST), Kohat
  • International Islamic University, Islamabad
  • Bahauddin Zikriya University, Multan
  • Islamia University, Bahwalpur
  • Hazara University, Mansehra

Links to Galleries

Newsletters

Spring 2011
NED Newsletter
National Endowment for Democracy

Summer 2010
NED Newsletter
National Endowment for Democracy

Spring 2010
NED Newsletter
National Endowment for Democracy