Tag Archives: PTV

The Evolution of Television in Pakistan

Shahbaz Siddiqui

By: Shahbaz Siddiqui (Founder Director CMPRP)

The television industry in Pakistan has seen an evolutionary process in the last 50 years starting with the launching PTV (Pakistan Television) in 1964, as licensed privately owned channel licensed by the Government of Pakistan. It was initially financed by a leading industrialist by the name of Mr. Wajid Ali in collaboration with NEC (Nippon Electric Company) of Japan and Thomas Television International of United Kingdom. PTV first started its transmission from Lahore in 1964, followed by Dhaka Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan), then Rawalpindi/Islamabad. In 1966, PTV started its transmission from Karachi (Baig, 2012). In 1971, the government of Pakistan took total control of PTV through the nationalization process.
PTV had originally started with black and white transmission but soon upgraded its facilities to broadcast color transmission. The television content was originally based on live broadcast due to lack of recording medium such as video cassette recording systems. Most of the early PTV dramas were also “performed” as it were live stage productions as it was broadcasted in real time without any editing or enhancements. The initial recording medium in the 1970s was the one inch spool format which recorded sound and electronic moving pictures as a combined stream on a magnetic recording medium. However, due to lack of diligence on part of the PTV archive department more than 50% of the old archival content has been lost due to lack of air-conditioning facilities in the archival rooms (Abdurab, 2014). The one inch magnetic spool containing all old archives were eventually lost and thus the Pakistani nation lost a great treasure of the golden era of public broadcasting television.
The evolution in the television industry continued with the formation of Shalimar Television Network (STN) as a public-private partnership entity in 1988. STN first started its transmission with CNN rebroadcast under agreement and later on signed an air time sales agreement with M/s Network Television Marketing (NTM) in 1990. NTM started its transmission through terrestrial boosters of STN spread across Pakistan and was an instant success with the launch of hit drama serials such as Chand Girhain, Dasht, and Kashkol etc. People attribute the success of NTM as a breath fresh air post-Zia-ul-Haq military dictatorship era (Paracha, 2014). NTM’s programming was more culturally open as opposed to the tight censorship policies of Zia-ul-Haq’s military-administered government.
NTM represented a renaissance in narrative content on television (Paracha, 2014). It represented a true picture of the cultural values of the time. With PTV, people were tired and bored of seeing artificial portrayal of family setups as, “drama serials were subjected to strict censorship on account of male-female interaction, and any narrative that displeased the military government” (Rasool, 2014)
NTM further encouraged the singers and musicians to perform on live events broadcast on television that enthralled the musically starved nation that was deprived of such talent-based exhibition during the martial law years of Zia-ul-Haq (Paracha, 2013).
The launch of NTM also represented another important milestone in the evolutionary history of Television in Pakistan, the emergence of private production houses. These private production houses were powered by renowned PTV producers who “moonlighted” after their work hours at PTV, and worked as producer/directors with private production houses using pseudo-names. Later PTV gave it a legal cover by devising a policy of giving “official permission” to their producers/directors to work with private production houses.
Soon the quality of private productions broadcast on NTM soared while the absence of renowned producers/directors created a vacuum at PTV. Subsequently, as a natural consequence, the viewership of PTV declined giving into high public demand for NTM programs.
In 1999, PTV entered into the digital satellite television arena with the launch of PTV World (Khan & Rahman, 2013) on Asia Sat 1 satellite owned by the People’s Republic of China. PTV World for the first time provided opportunity to purchase airtime (similar to the strategy used by STN with NTM). The difference in PTV World’s case as compared to STN was that instead of selling airtime to one party (e.g. NTM), it divided the airtime sales to two parties, Monday through Friday was sold to M/s Tele World, while Saturdays and Sundays was sold to M/s Weekend World. The PTV World experiment was an instant success as there was no private sector content being shown at the time. NTM in 1999 had already closed its operations and there was only PTV as the remaining broadcast network platform for television content in Pakistan
The evolution of television in Pakistan went through yet another iteration in the year 2000, when due to onslaught of propaganda from a neighboring country against Pakistan on locally established cable networks irked the Musharraf government (as well as the military establishment) and it decided to formulate a strategy to counter this propaganda. News broadcast from PTV had lost its credibility due to the inherent bias toward the incumbent government, and the audience as result turned towards foreign television sources (majorly toward India based television channels). There was therefore a need to generate “credible” content and as a result Indus Television Network came into being in the year 2000 as Pakistan’s first independent satellite channel.
Before the launch of Indus television, a concurrent strategy was to develop a private television news bulletin at 10pm on PTV World. This task was delegated to CEO of GAAZA Entertainment and was presented to the Musharraf government. The presentation was so well-received that the government gave a go ahead to Mr. Ali to launch Indus television network in December 2000. Mr. Ali had a very tight deadlines to build infrastructure, gather resources to formulate a library of quality television content to create an alternative to Pakistani audience who were glued to Indian soaps and feature films. The influence of India-based television networks was so powerful that even the in-house cable systems at the army bases in Pakistan were broadcasting mostly Indian entertainment channels.
ARY Digital followed the launch of Indus TV in 2001. The launch of ARY Digital coincided with the events on 11th September 2001 and global geo-political scenario that was subsequent to the terrorists attacks on the American soil. ARY Digital is owned by the ARY Gold group (major UAE-based dealer in precious commodities). The launch of ARY Digital also satisfied political needs of the sponsors: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s era preceding the General Musharraf’s rule saw a great deal of accountability cases against the ARY Gold Group as it had a political inclination towards Pakistan People’s Party. As a political retribution, the second Nawaz Sharif government influenced National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to structure multiple cases against the ARY Group (WorldBank, 2013). Starting a news and entertainment channel was a ticket for Mr. Razzak to have political clout through media. The ARY group eventually succeeded and all cases against them at NAB were rescinded (DawnNews, 2011). ARY Digital was later also given accolades for their news coverage of the war against terrorism in Afghanistan.
GEO TV was the third largest television channel to be launch in August 2002. The GEO TV launch coincided with general elections in Pakistan organized by the Musharraf government and played a pivotal role in communicating political policies and messages of various political parties and their respective candidates.


The private television channels were also highly successful creating awareness among the people of Pakistan to come out and vote as democratic awareness was still very nascent in the general mindset of people at that time. The private channels were although doing due diligence in producing content, but were increasing becoming financially challenged due to lack of advertising and the rates of media buying offered by the media buying houses. There was a catch-22 situation: the advertising industry demanded an increased level of costly content and channels needed advertising revenue to produce and broadcast quality content.
The answer came from a company called M/s Media Logic, who in 2008 launched People Meters in Pakistan. A set of 400-odd anonymous households across major hubs in Pakistan were selected and people meters were install to get accurate data of viewership pattern extrapolated to the entire Pakistan television audience scientifically to ascertain the viewership ratings of television channels in Pakistan (Andrew, 2012).
Earlier in 2002-03 a regulatory body by the name of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority was authorized by the Musharraf government as an ordinance that was later ratified as law by the subsequent parliament at the expiration of the ordinance. The major purpose of PEMRA was to issue licenses to electronic media entities and also to regulate their operations as per the PEMRA rules.
The journey that started in 1964 with the launch of PTV, has exponentially evolved into more than 80 licensed satellite channels by PEMRA. Each of the 80 licensed channels is the race for commanding the biggest share of the television advertising spent of nearly Rs. 22 Billion (data pertains to 2012-2013 advertising spent). The total media spent across all media platforms according to 2012-13 data is around Rs. 30 Billion.
Although the growth in electronic media industry (especially in television) is quite commendable, but even more interesting is the freedom given to the channels in expressing their respective point of view. Recent turn of events in ARY Digital versus GEO TV has put a strain to this freedom with media groups accusing each other for anti-establishment propaganda.
The recent turn of events has resulted media entity versus media entity rivalry which is unprecedented in region (ARYNews, 2014). The media vs. media confrontation is the latest challenge that is facing the relatively nascent independent television media that is still a fledgling 14-year-old child that just started to achieve make a mark in the South-Asian region with its quality narrative programming that is even making waves in a much evolved television market in Pakistan’s neighboring countries.


Abdurab, A. (2014). The story behind the loss of PTV’s precious archives – Blogs – DAWN.COM. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://www.dawn.com/news/1125500/the-story-behind-the-loss-of-ptvs-precious-archives
Andrew, M. (2012). Failing to measure up? Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://aurora.dawn.com/2012/07/02/failing-to-measure-up/
ARYNews. (2014). Mubashir Lucman & ARY vs Geo & Jang Media Group – Khara Sach vs Safed Jhoot. tune.pk. Retrieved from http://tune.pk/video/2697417/mubashir-lucman-amp-ary-vs-geo-amp-jang-media-group-khara-sach-vs-safed-jhoot
Baig, N. (2012). Pakistan Television Corporation | Mass Communication on WordPress.com. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from https://mcnuml.wordpress.com/pakistan-television-corporation/
DawnNews. (2011). Five acquitted in ARY Gold reference. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://www.dawn.com/news/648259/five-acquitted-in-ary-gold-reference-2
Khan, G., & Rahman, A. (2013). Blurred vision: Where is Pakistani television headed? Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://tribune.com.pk/story/543008/blurred-vision/
Paracha, N. (2013). Catch 79. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://www.dawn.com/news/1019332/catch-79
Paracha, N. (2014). The Pakistan zeitgeists: A nation through the ages. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://www.dawn.com/news/1109105/the-pakistan-zeitgeists-a-nation-through-the-ages
Rasool, S. (2014). The PTV paradigm. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://nation.com.pk/columns/30-Nov-2014/the-ptv-paradigm
WorldBank. (2013). StAR – Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative – Corruption Cases – Asif Ali Zardari / Benazir Bhutto (ARY Gold). Retrieved April 14, 2015, from https://star.worldbank.org/corruption-cases/node/18729