Mapping Digital Media: Pakistan
Fig. 1. Courtesy of The Open Society Foundations, 2013.

The Open Society Foundations released its report Mapping Digital Media: Pakistan written by Huma Yusuf. "The Mapping Digital Media project examines the global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media. Covering 60 countries, the project examines how these changes affect the core democratic service that any media system should provide: news about political, economic, and social affairs."

Pakistan has long suffered from high inflation, led by soaring food prices, which has increased poverty levels. According to the United Nations’ 2011 Human Development Report, half the population suffers deprivations of all types. Only half is literate. Even then there are only 12 million television sets (surely a desirable medium for those who cannot read)—one for every 14 people.

This means a lot of communal watching of mostly state-owned channels of the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). At present, the only other terrestrial television channel is the privately owned ATV, in which PTV and the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation are majority (80 percent) shareholders. The sameness is deafening.

However, urban Pakistanis are getting richer and spending money on alternatives. Thus PTV has ceded ground to more than 20 privately owned broadcasters with 89 domestic and 26 foreign channels, with national television viewing split evenly between terrestrial on the one hand, and cable and satellite on the other.

This proliferation of channels has enabled Pakistani media to wield more influence over politics and public discourse than ever before. With this growing influence comes, however, a corresponding increase in attempts by the government to control media outlets. Indeed, state coercion and increasing censorship are among the greatest pressures on the media industry.

From the report's executive summary:

The most watched local private channel is Geo News: of the top 10 rated news programs in 2011, six belonged to the Geo TV Network, including four of the top five. PTV News gets 3 percent of viewers. This is almost certainly because the state broadcaster is widely perceived as a gray government mouthpiece, and it makes no effort to function as a public service broadcaster. Its organization, financing, and institutional cultures are bereft of any independence or balance.


Considering that Facebook is the most visited website in the country, it still attracts no more than 4.3 percent of the country’s total population and 27.6 percent of those online. Only a third of internet users in the country’s urban centers say they use the internet for news.

In short, Pakistan is not a very wired country. This does not, of course, stop those who are connected from being very connected indeed, as the lawyers’ movement showed. Even blogs with a small number of unique visitors can achieve a substantial impact, not least because they are regularly consulted by mainstream journalists. Despite the growth of the independent blogosphere, the blogs of established media groups dominate the Pakistani blogosphere. The top blogs in Pakistan in terms of traffic are published by the largest Urdu-language daily newspaper Daily Jang and the English-language dailies the Express Tribune, Dawn, and The News. The English-language papers, in particular, maintain rosters of dozens of bloggers who are allowed to submit posts; increasingly, independent bloggers prefer to publish their posts on established news sites because these offer greater exposure and they can make some extra money.


When General Musharraf, whose downfall was partly engineered by social media activism, returned to Pakistan in March 2013, he chose Facebook and Twitter to announce that he was doing so.


Mapping Digital Media
Executive Summary
Social Indicators
Economic Indicators
1. Media Consumption: The Digital Factor
1.1 Digital Take-up
1.2 Media Preferences
1.3 News Providers
1.4 Assessments
2. Digital Media and Public or State-administered Broadcasters
2.1 Public Service and State Institutions
2.2 Public Service Provision
2.3 Assessments
3. Digital Media and Society
3.1 User-Generated Content (UGC)
3.2 Digital Activism
3.3 Assessments
4. Digital Media and Journalism
4.1 Impact on Journalists and Newsrooms
4.2 Investigative Journalism
4.3 Social and Cultural Diversity
4.4 Political Diversity
4.5 Assessments
5. Digital Media and Technology
5.1 Broadcasting Spectrum
5.2 Digital Gatekeeping
5.3 Telecommunications
5.4 Assessments
6. Digital Business
6.1 Ownership
6.2 Media Funding
6.3 Media Business Models
6.4 Assessments
7. Policies, Laws, and Regulators
7.1 Policies and Laws
7.2 Regulators
7.3 Government Interference
7.4 Assessments
8. Conclusions
8.1 Media Today
8.2 Media Tomorrow
List of Abbreviations, Figures, Tables, and Companies

The full report is available for PDF download here.