Television was formally introduced in Pakistan in 1964. Prior to that, Radio broadcasting was the only mass contact medium. In the past two decades, radio and particularly, television industry has rapidly grown. Now, there are countless TV networks. There has been a rumour that more TV licenses may be granted. After years of experience in this industry, I believe, while it is good that licenses to private TV channels are issued, the policy is faulty and will lead to a disaster. More than half a century has passed, and my engagement with this industry has continued. I have seen the industry from different sides i.e. as a writer, actor, producer and director. Therefore, it is worthwhile, as a veteran, that I look back at the policies and the performance of this industry over the years, and share with you some of my thoughts on why I feel that we are headed towards a disaster. For any industry to prosper and stay viable three elements are important. Firstly, adequate supply of the material to be sold, which is production, secondly, an effective marketing setup to sell and lastly, adequate sales to maintain a healthy cash flow. Production material for a media company includes television serials, series, sitcoms, documentaries, sports shows, films, news, discussions, etc. as its products. These intangible items deal with the collective psyche of the society. They have the power to affect and change individuals as well as the society. This is why the worldwide belief is to define the responsibility of TV Broadcasting to include: “information, education and entertainment”. This objective should be carried out with a sense of social responsibility. After the initial licenses, the upcoming issues should have been studied and resolved but additional cross media licenses to print media owners were issued, this added further complications before consolidation. Consider the potential of TV channels in particular, then chart a course of action for the future before deciding to expand. The TV industry is different from cinema. In cinema, people go to see a product of their choice; they pay for it and sit in a hall where different groups are present. The content from TV reaches homes; it interacts with families and influences the society, therefore, paying special attention to it is justified. The TV media industry seeks to market its product and gets its income from sponsorships and advertisements of other industrial products. The product is either planned by itself or acquired from contracted producers. To make the TV Industry viable and to avoid oversupply, and consequent cut-throat competition, the market potential of sales revenues, as well as, the supply of the product must be balanced. A responsible media policy for licensing needs to be made after assessment of production potential, the standard of marketing setups, referred to as channels, and potential of advertisement revenue. Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) was established to monitor and regulate the activities of the industry. The licensed channels need to be monitored to ensure that the licensees remain within the limits of their social responsibility and the law, and perform to provide information, education and entertainment. PEMRA, as the regulatory body needs to ensure the availability of data to make correct decisions. Licensing needs to relate to the potential size of the market. Pakistan has a population of about 200 million people. And this is a population that is acquiring TV sets as fast as possible. So there are a very large number of households which own at least one TV set. Most businesses compete to have their share of the market and therefore, advertise on TV. To assess the market potential and the audience mix, professional companies setup systems to assess the popularity of the programs and these are known as rating systems. The results obtained by the rating systems work as guidelines for the advertiser to decide as to which programs they should advertise in and the frequency of the advertisements. This feedback also affects the decision making of the TV channel as to the kind of program it needs to buy from the producers to make a saleable mix attractive to the advertisers. So rating provides the research results which hold the key to programming. The present rating system is a mystery. It is managed by a private organisation and results are said to be manipulated. Therefore, this rating system needs to be replaced. It can never provide the necessary data for guidance in programming and is misleading. For example, if it reports that family disputes between the mother in law and daughter in law are interesting, then production companies will try to meet this requirement. If it reports that indecency in speeches creates interest, then this will become the trend. How far these trends can be followed is to be regulated by a sense of social responsibility. The real issue is that the rating system is based on very limited sampling, which is not fully representative. Also, it must not be in the hands of private organisations, because these may have temptation to fabricate the results if more money can be made through malpractice. A possible alternative to be considered is a modern rating system based on a much larger and appropriate sample size, which receives the satellite signal, the terrestrial signal, and even measures internet viewing. It would be better if the responsibility is taken by public organisations, namely PEMRA and PTV, jointly, and the results are made available to all licensed channels. The cost of this setup is not something that needs to be discussed here, however it can be self-supporting. The result will guide the PEMRA in advising a program mix and to ascertain the number of type of licenses to be issued; for example for current affairs, composite entertainment, sports, or other specific subject. The assessment of the size of market, and the number of TV sets is not hard to know and can be determined from license fees. The basic principle of providing information, education, and entertainment must be strictly observed and a decent balance should be maintained. Of course, all segments of society including men, women, children and minorities are to be adequately catered to in the program mix. Media affects society and if every kind of popular trend is made the basis of programming then limits of decency can be violated. Current program mixes are damaging and destroying national values. There is over presentation of political programs of poor quality. These have deteriorated to bickering, cross talk, even fisticuffs and abuses in some programs. The viewers look at the leaders and respected TV personalities behaving in a foul manner and conclude that such behaviour is acceptable. Gradually, it becomes a social norm. Presently, the programs of political orientation are trying to do everything, comedy, conflict, analyses, promotion of point of views etc. This mix up cannot be advisable. The media also chooses to show all kinds of negative events. A fire somewhere, a murder, rape, corruption, miseries and so on, are repeated, and repeated and repeated endlessly. Only bad news is considered news. It results in creating anger, intolerance, disappointment, depression etc. This is extremely damaging and destroys society and its faith in the country. There is no doubt that lot of good also happens every day, there are events and actions which could build national pride and feeling of wellbeing. These should be reported. The civil society should be given a balanced view so it gets confidence in its systems and values. The quality and understanding of arts and culture and heritage is another ignored sector. Good programs for children are almost non-existent. The media industry in Pakistan needs much more attention than it has been given so far. Civil servants and politicians should help, but not dictate solutions. The state should not use it only for promoting their policies and persons After determining the size of the market, and the number and kind of licenses to be issued, the next, and perhaps the most important step, is to organise the production setups for the size of media business. Presently, there are several production houses. Some of these are in-house setups that belong to the host channels. Then there are freelancers who produce their work through some understanding with a channel, and some who just take a chance. This production sector needs the most attention of a regulatory body. The discipline achieved between the licensed channels and production houses is key to the health of the media industry. I am inclined to suggest that production houses should also be licensed by PEMRA as the TV channels are. If these two are regulated and firmly supervised, the other constituents of the industry will get disciplined. Currently, there are serious problems cropping up between channels, producers and talent. Most producers have complaints about the conduct of actors or non-fulfilment of the terms of the contracts by channels. On the other hand, actors complain of non-payment. The technical crew has no institutional training, and is almost totally learning on the job. To license the production companies, their scrutiny of experience or training, financial strength, and awareness of the social responsibility to select appropriate content, must be kept in mind. Producers are very likely to run into cash flow problems in case of default or some other circumstances. Such cash flow problems upset schedules and completely put off performers. Those involved in the creative process should be given reasonable consideration, respect and honour, because sensitivity is the basis of their creativity. All recognised industries use banking facilities to ensure cash flows. If the government recognises the media industry and film industry then it needs to notify the banks and State Bank accordingly. The commercial banks will indeed put some requirements of standards and securities before extending financial facilities. But on part of the Government, it must give some initial support to let the industry grow.It is likely that the media industry will have a lower chance of defaulting, when compared to other industries. But the setting up of licensing of producers will be the first step to ensure the quality. A good thing has happened that the actors have also setup a national organisation, known as ACT. So, the constituents of the media industry are already aware of the need to organise and streamline the working systems. Pakistan television is the ‘mother’ and the radio broadcast the ‘grandmother’ of this industry; these two have a very special role to play. It has been a serious oversight that full advantage of the accumulated experience, archives and systems has not been brought forward. ‘New’ is attractive but if the ‘new’ has a strong base to stand upon; it grows and develops better and with grace and wisdom. Re-planning and restructuring is required for state TV and radio institutions to play a significant role in the industry. The government recently announced a culture policy and a film policy. Film is a part of the industry but different from TV and Radio. These ‘Policies’ will need a separate review. There is also an important role of the media industry in improving cultural understanding and creating international relations. Several countries have powerful and dedicated organizations set up with expert advice to use the media industry in enhancing the national image.TV productions, Films, and live shows are important instruments of cultural diplomacy. The media industry in Pakistan needs much more attention than it has been given so far. Civil servants and politicians should help but not dictate. The state should not use it only for promoting the policies and the persons of political incumbents of a particular period. The accumulated experience of the better performers and veterans in culture, literature, and media need to be benefitted from. There is no shortage of talent and experience. This region historically had a leadership role and it is very much capable of performing again if the political will and resources are available for support. Let us not forget that even the first international film of the silent era was made in Lahore in 1928. The writer is Pakistani theatre, film and television actor, scholar, public speaker, columnist, teacher and dramatist Published in Daily Times, July 1st 2018.