It’s true, trash TV sells

Published: January 25, 2012

Their agenda is to get attention, and some will go to any length without realising the aftermath.

I entered the world of television in Pakistan aiming to inform and educate people through this powerful medium of expression. I took immense pride in my job but the comfort bubble burst soon enough.

Not so long ago, I realised that everyone on TV is like a salesman, trying hard to sell a product. Sometimes the salesman goes to any length to make a living out of the product being sold.

When you go to buy a product, every salesman tries to get your attention and aims to convince you that his product is the best (even if that product can kill you). That is exactly how our television industry works.

Every television journalist, anchor, cameramen, editor, director, producer is out there to get your attention. And they don’t care if you like them or hate them. Their agenda is to get attention, and some will go to any length without realising the aftermath.

Let’s take the recent example of Maya Khan who was trying to bust poor couples in public parks.  We all hated her for it but she got attention for her behaviour. She had the perfect recipe for something that sells. The aunty and mummy brigade running after couples in public parks, morally policing them, checking their note books and so on. The drama in the park got attention. The show was a hit.

It inspired me to prepare a list of what sells on TV. You are welcome to add to it:

1. Religion, especially moral policing sells like sex and violence in our country. Example: Mullah Maya and Aamir Liaquat.

2. Showing poverty in any form is the emotional pornography of Pakistan television. Example:  Shabbir Tou Dhekhae Ga)

3. Depicting reality as a re-enactment – it doesn’t matter how exaggerated it is. Example: Meri Kahani Meri Zabani.

4. The exploitation of women sells in all forms, whether it’s poor innocent women at the mercy of a rich husband and mother-in-law (example Humsafar) or poor innocent women in farms/ seeking jobs who are raped by landlords or directors. Rape sells like hot cakes, even in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

5. Horror shows are big hits no matter how fake and staged they may look.  Example: Woh Kya Hai, Pur Israr and so on.

6. Outdoor shows purely based on vox pops of citizens bashing the government for being corrupt. According to these shows the government is responsible for everything wrong in Pakistan.

7. Morning shows. Gaudy clothes and loud make-up sell, along with all the emotional drama and staging of marriage ceremonies. Every morning show hosts’s favourite topic is shaadi, shaadi and shaadi.

8. Late night political talk shows. Our very own senior journalists-cum-Nostrdamus-wannabes predict every evening that Pakistan is coming to an end the following day. Example: Aaj Kamran Khan Kay Sath, Kal Tak, Jasmine Manzoor, MeherBhukhari etc.

9. The Indian soap opera inspired dishum dishum  sound effects that have become a requirement for all editors and is used as an important tool to sensationalise a story for the masses. (Example Adhi Raat Tak).

10. Crime shows are every channel’s star products. They are usually aired during prime time to get higher ratings.

11. The use of Bollywood ‘item numbers’ in news bulletins. From Munni Badnaam Hui and Sheila Ki Jawani to Jalebi Bai, all are a visual treat for the audience.

12. The chappa (raid) shows.  We all love watching other people getting busted. Whether it’s a poor sabziwala who is selling high priced vegetables or Maya Khan in parks hunting for a nikkah nama. In these shows, the host is playing judge, jury and executioner. Here’s another example:

If you think that television producers analyse the aftermath of any telecast, then you need to wake up. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. The only aim is to sell sell and sell!
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Jasmine Manzoor as Jasmine Khan.


Madiha Javed

Former Broadcast Journalist at Express News, still a news buff, currently works as Communication and CSR Manager who blogs at madihaqureshi.wordpress​.com/ and tweets as @EmmJayNews (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fauzan Sohail

    Well written Madiha! Freedom of press is being openly violated, used and abused in Pakistan as a means to an end for getting higher ratings and a larger viewership based. A sad example of this being the fact that upon the occurrence of every unfortunate accident in this country, every news channel is in the race to have it’s person reach on the spot and triumphantly announce that XYZ channel showed it to you first! It’s not about the incident as much as it is about the channel then. As pathetic as it is, what’s more disappointing is that we as viewers have adjusted ourselves to these sales pitches and are not bothered any more except for a voice of reason here and there.. Recommend

  • Uza Syed

    If this is what “Freedom of Press” is then —– CURTAIL it!

    Nobody, no one has and can be allowed the freedom to violate my rights to my privacy. Recommend

  • sana

    WOW…… girl you are on rite track :)Recommend

  • Orangzeb Khan

    Very well written, logical and to the point… Keep it up \m/ Recommend

  • Sara

    Well done Madiha!! it actually sums up everything wrong about our tv channels these days!!! Recommend

  • http://Karachi Madiha R.

    Spot on! Recommend

  • Hina Tariq

    I absolutely agree with Madiha! They dont care we hate them
    Or love them, all they want is money n nothing else!Recommend

  • Maira

    You forgot oen thing i.e. Negativity about everything like your blog. Can you tell, what else is left to show on TV? Thanks you didnt mention Cricket, Memogate and 9pm News.Recommend

  • Sana Khan

    Very well written article… 100% agreed with your list. And love the new “Maulvi Maya” callsign.

    Anyways, After so much pressure from the civil society and people “Unliking” the SAMAA TV Facebook Page, they have offered an apology… a very soft one, but an apology indeed.

    Maya Khan Karachi Park APOLOGYRecommend

  • Shaizy

    Where are the Ufone Ads…:)Recommend

  • Manzar Mashhude

    Maya khan in her own life what ever she b none of our concern..yahan koi bhi dhud ka dhula nahi hay…she shouldnot apologise for something rightRecommend

  • Hamza Shams

    I’d like to add something up.

    The reality based daring shows (public drama) to be exact something on the lines of roadies and those that waqar does. I even remember seeing another one of his shows about magic I guess, where he staged a fight with one of the entertainers who quoted to have treated lung cancer by showing fake lungs.

  • SAJ

    To the point and with a clear message.. this is very well written.!! Recommend

  • Usman Ghani

    Its true, media should start thinking about its own role in society and stop chasing people. If the editorial team could just think about its 24/7 performance perhaps they can improve. The other way is to denounce these jokers where possible, perhaps they would one day see with their own eyes what their character is in public. Recommend

  • Naveed

    If Maya did wrong then couples are walking away from him. Couples like these converted family parks to dating points.

    To intervene in privacy is wrong but keep you privacy private. Don’t show it on public family parks

    Well Done Maya…Recommend

  • Tariq

    I have long maintained in my circles and still believe that the mess we are in today as a country is the making of three personalities and they are Musharraf, Chief Justice and Hamid Mir (read media). Musharraf was better of the three who left us but other two will continue to be a nuisance for this country for some time.Recommend

  • Hosh Muhammad

    Very well written. Thumbs up to you Madiha. The way you have an portrayed the whole media scene I appreciate you. It is ironic to write here that our media has abused the so called freedom. The question arises is about PEMRA, who is held responsible for encircling the media behaviour.Recommend

  • zehra

    after a long long time a sensible logical and rational blog on ET, keep it up. and many thnaks for giving us a chance to us to actually read something without feeling like banging the head on the pc!!

    Media is in the evoloution process and it needs to be evaluated and have certian guidelines, they simply cant beocme gods simply on the chant of free media!!Recommend

  • Zain

    A sensible blog written…Excellently written!!Recommend

  • Wajiha Mohsin

    Informatively correct representation of current media producers .Recommend

  • waleed

    technological and media advancement did develop our country on about social controlling but we are far our true Islamic life…..our leadership is a bigger sinner and we are all follower of this game……so world for last chance to give Pakistan to come on new world map with new strategic strenghtRecommend

  • Hammad Haneef Pasga

    Well written I must say. Please also mention “Living on the edge” in your articles as it is the pathetic program based on immoral and unethical vulgarity. Do go to the auditions of this program on youtube. I would like to see your views on this as well. Recommend

  • Zaid Hamid

    Terrorists I tell you, these people are the real terrorists!Recommend

  • Major Dude

    Very well written truth.

    I don’t live in Pakistan anymore but some friends once showed me some clip from youtube regrading a person who claimed that he could do some “Jaadoo” and can cure people having some kind of blood cancer, if I remember it correctly. Then he put the lad in kind of a wooden drum and did some strange acts and took out about 3 pounds of flesh from inside.

    In short it was even against common sense and it was coming, I guess, live on one of the channels. How can TV channels allow such kind of gross things to go on air?Recommend

  • Mangal

    Nicely written….. when are you resigning??Recommend

  • Haris Javed

    the way writer has emphasized on emotional PORNOGRAPHY, exaggerated re-enactments, morning shows cum SHADI plays, mm(MULLAH MAYA), special sensational DISHUM effect, journalists cum WANNABES Nostradamus …. rapes selling like HOTCAKES in our ISLAMIC republic of PAKISTAN..!!!! superb!
    it couldn’t be any better!!!!Recommend

  • Seriously Non-Serious

    The only article to get 5 stars from me !

  • madiha

    good job madihaRecommend

  • Fahd

    Well written ….but

    Its just like how ET gets most views on Homosexuality related articles… Isnt that cheap publicity? ..Recommend

  • WM

    Our news channels have become pathetic. Songs during news, rhyming lines, useless headlines, anchor shouting in news extra, old funny videos being shown in 9 pm news, these things are totally unbearable.Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    Really? What “indecency” were they portraying in public parks? Were they fornicating in public? Were they naked in public? Not everyone was running, there was a guy who was constantly asking them to go away but Maya kept telling him oh the camera is off (while it wasn’t -UNETHICAL!). The bottom line is, she has NO RIGHT to ask anyone what they’re doing in public property! She’s no law enforcer, she’s a no body.Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    Excellent article, Well doneRecommend

  • ghaffar

    All that hoopla from one Maya Khan, I just tried to watch it on you tube, believe me I just couldn’t watch it after 2 minutes. All this look so absurd; women running around and yelling PAKRO PAKRO, BHAAG NA JAE, does this sound anywhere near morality, treating human as prey.
    And now for us, do not give these moralists any heed, for me they don’t exist.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nice blog.
    Question is what does one do with bad television ? Answer is turn it off and read a book or go spend time on the ET web site, at least they allow you to shoot your mouth off.Recommend

  • shoaib malik

    you are saying right, but how to make it correct from entertainment to talk shows or adds to documentries every thing is going wrong then what to do for it, i dont unbderstand one thing that all media persons denay that media is going on a wrong direction everyone…. if everyone is right then why they are doing this to us…..Recommend

  • wasi khan

    maya khan’s busting of couples in the parks is an unacceptable act where the freedom of the people has been taken away. I mean who the hell is she to ask someone to produce a marriage certificate?stupid! Does everybody keep their certificates in their wallet or bags? Then at one point a boy ask her to turn your Mic off and she replies its off and the camera is off too , what a hypocrite/lair. Do These people ever realise that there is a thing called ethics. Now how about people doing stuff in hidden places. Recommend

  • Nabeel Pervez

    Absolutely brilliant and bang right on the head. This is the very reason I had principally decided and stopped watching Local Channels,Animal Planet and Discovery have enough of animals barking, howling biting, leaving no room for “barking news”, unReality shows and of course not to forget the Rooster Fights AKA talk shows.

    Wonder what happened to Ethics, morals and Responsible reporting.Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed


  • Asif Khan

    agree… but we the viewers do not like the serious and infotainment talks na.. Recommend

  • hasnain

    very true… thumbs up..Recommend

  • Rahat Khan

    But, even with all of this flash and drama, NO-ONE really does anything concrete to solve any of the ills eating away at our nation. Recommend

  • arsalan

    I am not confuse about Maria khan . she is a hungry woman and she had to eat dust . But my concern about the news itself. look at the selection of news and views in news hours . scripting and building of a news is becoming pervert and indecenct . Language is bad and they are showing real bad graphics. Geo is scumbing due to unknown ” experts’ and forgeting what is a breaking news is . ARY airing WRONG news. PTVs date line news hour is like a street show of worst qulity, no script and no coordination . the quality anchor is losing his grip due to Sifrashi girls Aaj kamran key sath losed magic and logic recently .and he is a new shaid msood . Recommend

  • abid

    Dear Madiha: I agree with you to some extent. What I can’t agree is that you have mentioned some good & positive types of program also to show maximum your above list. e.g. 1) Aalim On-line is good that it doesn’t pick controversial topics to sell the religion for viewership but it unite the Ulema of different school of thoughts together. Is it wrong? 2) Why mentioning of Drama ‘Humsafar’ that is on a family life and politely/gently handled by director. What exaggeration in it? 3) “Shabbir to Dekhe ga” is based on some news item that need to be ponder upon by all quarters i.e. Govt, NGO’s, media, society itself etc. So plz dear madiha “Sub Ko Ek Hi Lathi Se Mat Hankiye”. I agree on all others. Also I would like ot add something in your list. 1) Indian Film / TV Award Shows that shows all dances be it in bikinis etc Recommend

  • Ahmad Saleem

    No doubt it is a good article but it is a bit harsh. It crosses the boundary of reasonableness by making a sweeping statement including all and sundry. No doubt what has been written in the article is very near to the truth. But we should realize that our media, specially Electronic Media is still in the infancy stage. No doubt programs are produced and presented to gain what is known to all to attract maximum ratings. As a civil society we should tolerate these infringes as our Electronic Media unleashes it’s new found power it did not dream of.

    As the the time passes the events & time would take their own natural course. Meaning Electronic Media would realize, with the passage of time, that the audience are no more interested in these kind of (Shortcut Rating Attracting) programs. This would be the time time where intellect and objectivity, slowly & gradually, would come come into play gaining more and more strength with each passing day.That time is sure to come. All we have to do is to be patient and if possible watchful.

    Attention is drawn to the era of early ninetees when our TV Screens were lit up by Satellite TV Channels. A questions is posed for you. What were the most watched TV Channels in those days up to Mid Ninetees or close to the 21st century. I think the channels most watched in those days, specially by the then young generation, were the channels which were offering more obscenity and sex like MTV etc. May I ask how many people people are watching the same sort of channels these days?. The answer obviously, I hope, a very less percentage of people.

    We, all, should believe in the COLLECTIVE WISDOM OF THE PEOPLE. Cheap tricks & method, also known as shortcuts, may prove to be successful for a short time. Subsequently, it stiks and it stinks like hell.

    our Media (Electronic specially) Managers would also come of age. They would learn to cope with the power they can yield. They would channelize this power in a more positive manner and would find constructive avenues. That would we the day when the things would get rolling and we would be galvanizing in action in our rightful path to our destined destiny.

    By the way, what Ms. Madiha Javed is trying to sell?.Recommend

  • Ahmad Saleem

    Buster1, where is my my earlier comment. What moderation is needed and for what?.Recommend

  • Stewie Griffin

    I hate Pakistani TV.Recommend

  • LivePakistan

    Very well written article. Immature and fake media hell bent to destroy the country and the nation. We can’t blame this media but the responsibility lies with the people who appreciate these programs. If there is no buyers, sellers will die automatically. Six months ago, I stumbled upon Pakistani channels and started to watch them on regular basis and was glad to see that current affairs are playing a vital role in the dark nights of our nation. But, within few months, I realized that all these are salesman and working aimlessly and dividing this nation upon the direction from internal and external masters. I got fade up very soon with all these non-sens where anchors and analysts are speaking typical statements and lack of basic knowledge. Recommend


    I miss PTV..!!Recommend

  • Jasmine Rafique

    Hahahaha – Maya Khan taken to new heights by this Fellow :D

    Maya Khan Blair Witch Project


  • Noise

    We need fantasy shows like Ainak Wala Jinn.

    To much political shows on TV. There is not escape, its drving the country mad.Recommend

  • Anum A.

    True…i am quite sick of the media and the over sensationalization of every aspect of life. It is infact sometimes so frustrating to watch TV that i have almost zero-ed my TV viewership. Depressing news and portrayal of Pakistan as an everyday War-scene is too horific. When you are in Karachi, and moving around peacefully and you hear a relative or acquaintance abroad call you up and ask if u are safely home, it annoys alot. If you say you aren’t home, there is panic on the other end! On inquiry, it would always turn out that a news channel gave some breaking news! And then it has given quite a negative image of our country.

    As for the Maya Khan stuff and all that i saw on Youtube after seeing alot of hype on Facebook relating to this, i was disgusted at the idea! Live and let live is one idea the media can never come to terms with! If you are going to go around teaching people lessons especially making religion as a basis, try charity at home and become a good Muslim yourself. A woman without pardaa is also an Islamic concept, not women chasing and running around in parks. Shameful acts by not only this 1 lady being named but all those others who were having a good laugh running around with her!Recommend

  • Umay

    I wonder u didn’t mention “Waqar Zaka”..;/Recommend

  • Javed Zia

    Very well written, now we want Ms Madiha Javed to write another article on programs she like on our TV channels, with which they can retain their ratings, as Madiha does not pay them but advertisers and they surely see the ratings before they put their money.Recommend

  • sadam hussain

    madiha madiha wonderful job i realy like ur article exelnt work may u live long lifeRecommend

  • Haider Ali

    Flawless words written by madiha . its really harsh bt i think its the reality and we should accept this reality and need to wake up right now….. Kepp it up Madiha Recommend

  • Anum

    Thats just the reason why I have stopped watching TV :pRecommend

  • femib

    finally someone pointed it out. brilliantly written.Recommend

  • femib

    so true ptv and stn too. it was pure, ptv team perfectly designed shows for every age. it was different before when u have to watch a drama at 8 n thats it, shows like VJ were a treat. Recommend