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Too much media in too few hands

Most of the ownership of top 40 – by audience share – news television channels, radio stations, newspapers and news websites in Pakistan are concentrated in only a few hands, aided by lax legal restrictions on cross-media ownership. This environment, increasingly, restricts sources of information available to the public, thereby limiting news-and-opinion diversity and pluralism in the country’s media landscape.     

News media concentration in Pakistan, in terms of both ownership and audience share is very high. Top 4 television channels, radio stations, newspapers and news websites in each category have over 50% of the country’s entire audience share for each category. If diversity of ownership reflects diversity of sources of information, then both are restricted for Pakistani media audiences as most media in the country is being owned by too few. This means Pakistan needs more broad-based media ownership to ensure greater diversity in news sources.

This is amply illustrated through the Pakistan-related results of at least three of the 10 MOM risk indicators, namely indicator no. 1 (media audience concentration), indicator no. 4 (cross-media ownership concentration) and indicator no. 5 (regulatory safeguards against cross-media ownership concentration).

1.      Audience concentration in Pakistani media – key characteristics

From the sample of top 40 media outlets surveyed under MOM, based on audience share data from Gallup Pakistan 2018 for these media, a high degree of concentration of audiences was found among the top 4 media entities in each of the four sectors (TV, radio, print and online). This constitutes ‘high risk’ according to the MOM methodology.

 

Media Audience Concentration Among Mediums

MediumActual combined percentage of audience share of top 4 media entities in each category based on Gallup Pakistan Data Total category media in the country
Television Media 68.3%26 TV news channels (Source: PEMRA Annual Report 2018)
Radio Media 56.2%209 FM radio stations (Source: PEMRA Annual Report 2018)
Print Media 80.4%847 newspapers (Source: Audit Bureau of Circulation 2019)
Online Media56.9%No data available on total number of native news websites in Pakistan

 

 

 

Indicator 1 data analysis shows that the audience share for top 4 news TV channels in Pakistan (Geo News 24%, ARY News 12%, PTV News 11% and Samaa TV 7%) at the end of 2018 was 68.3% (total top 10 TV audience share percentage of 79% used as the 100% benchmark). This means that four of Pakistan’s 26 news TV channels with highest audience shares have an accumulative audience share of over two-thirds of all news TV viewership audience in Pakistan. 

The same analysis shows that the audience share for top 4 news radio stations in Pakistan (FM106 Gujranwala & Sadiqabad 9.3%, FM100 Lahore 6.2%, FM103 Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan 6% and FM107 Karachi 5.6%) at the end of 2018 was 56.2% (total top 10 radio audience share percentage of 48.2% used as the 100% benchmark). This means 4 of Pakistan’s 209 FM stations with highest audience share have an accumulative audience share of over half of all news radio listenership audience in Pakistan. 

The same analysis shows that the audience share for top 4 newspapers in Pakistan (Jang 27%, Express 18%, Nawa-i-Waqt 14% and Khabrain 11%) at the end of 2018 was 80.4% (total top 10 newspaper audience share percentage of 85% used as the 100% benchmark). This means 4 of Pakistan’s 847 newspapers accredited with the Audit Bureau of Circulation with highest audience share have an accumulative audience share of four-fifths of all newspaper readership audience in Pakistan. 

The same analysis shows that the audience share for top 4 news websites in Pakistan (dawn.com 4.96%, jang.com.pk 4.22, thenews.com.pk and express.pk 2.72%) at the end of 2018 was 56.9% (total top 10 newspaper audience share percentage of 26.4% used as the 100% benchmark). This means 4 of Pakistan’s native news websites with highest audience share have an accumulative audience share of over a quarter of all news website audience in Pakistan. 

Summary of key findings in terms of audience shares: 

  • Television: top 4 TV channels command over two-thirds of all TV news channel audiences.
  • Radio: top 4 radio stations command over half of the news radio audiences.
  • Newspapers: top 4 newspapers command over four-fifths of the newspaper audiences.
  • News websites: top 4 native online news websites command over half of all online media audiences.

1.      Cross-ownership concentration in Pakistani media – key characteristics

This is a measure of the concentration of ownership across the different sectors – TV, print, radio and online media – of the media industry. Cross-media concentration in a country is measured by adding up either the market or audience shares of the top 8 media companies in the country. In Pakistan, data on media market shares, based on revenues, is not readily or adequately available, hence is unreliable. Reliable data on audience shares, however, is available. The results, while not an indicator for economic strength in different media sectors, indicate relatively high levels of cross-media ownership concentration, based on MOM risk indicator no. 4, when viewed through the lens of audience shares. According to the Gallup Pakistan data on 2018 audience shares of top 40 media outlets (top 10 each in TV, radio, newspapers and online), there are only seven media groups in Pakistan that own media entities in more than one media category. This constitutes ‘medium risk’ under MOM rankings.  

Key findings

  • The cross-media ownership concentration in Pakistan is 60% of the accumulative audience shares of top seven media groups owning media in more than one of four media categories.
  • There are seven cross-media owners in Pakistan’s sample of top 40 media groups with highest audience shares, including Jang Group, Express Group, Government Group, Nawa-i-Waqt Group, Samaa Group, Dawn Group and Dunya Group – between them they constitute 60% of cross-media audiences shares of top 40 media outlets in terms of audience share in the country.
  • The government is among the top three cross-media owners (PTV and PBC + FM stations) in the country.
  • The biggest cross-media owner (Jang Group) holds over a third of all cross-media ownership landscape in the country among the top 40 media entities in terms of audience share and over one-fourths within the entire spectrum of top 7 cross-media owners in the country.     
  • TV media and online media are the most-owned media (5 of 7 media groups) in the cross-media mix of four categories and radio is the least-owned media (2 of 7 media groups).

2.      Lax safeguards against cross-media ownership in Pakistan – promoting audience concentration and restricting news diversity

The current overall legal framework governing the media sector in Pakistan does not aim to prevent cross-media ownership. It offers only loose restrictions in some cases providing for ceilings on the number of electronic media (TV and radio) entities that can be owned by persons or companies.

This has promoted a high degree of cross-media ownership in the news media landscape of the country – nearly a fourth of all top 40 news media entities in Pakistan by audience share collectively bring 60% of the entire news media landscape under cross-media ownership. This has helped concentrate all the news media audiences in Pakistan in the top 4 owners of top 10 media entities in each of the TV channels, radio stations, newspapers and news websites categories thereby restricting news diversity.

This constitutes ‘high risk’ under risk indicator no. 5 of MOM dealing with regulatory safeguards against cross-media ownership. This indicator measures the existence and effective implementation of regulatory safeguards (sector-specific and/or competition law) against a high degree of cross-ownership between media types (press, TV, radio, internet).

Currently broadcast and print media registration laws in Pakistan carry no restrictions on cross media ownership. However, prior to a 2007 amendment in the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance, 2002, a print media owner was not allowed to own television, radio or cable television media. The amendment ended the ban on cross-media ownership. The media laws are also silent with respect to any limits on audience share, circulation, distribution of share capital, voting rights ort revenue of media owners to prevent a high degree of cross ownership between different media.

Key finding

  • Media regulations in Pakistan undermine fair competition through unfettered cross-media ownership
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