India should lift the ban on Pakistani channels before attacking Pakistan for banning Indian content

Published: December 13, 2013
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Lahore High Court banned the screening of Indian films and television serials in Pakistan. But ideas cannot and should not be banned - not in India and not in Pakistan. DESIGN: AYESHA AMIN

I am not a TV buff, and only switch on the idiot box to watch news channels and occasionally cricket matches, even though there are as many as 906 channels available on my cable connection. But at the same time there are millions of Indians like my mother who spend most of their spare time switching from one channel to another, watching daily soap operas – Ekta Kapoor’s Saas-Bahu type serials being the most watched. 

906 channels, that’s quite a number, isn’t it?

Now I would like you to guess the number of Pakistani channels in them – 20, 15, 10, 5, anyone?

The correct answer is zero.

Yes, indeed, not a single Pakistani channel is allowed to be shown in India, even though scores of Indian channels are freely available in Pakistan.

My mother, who laments the deteriorating quality of Indian TV shows, would have welcomed the Pakistani channels as a breath of fresh air. The popularity of PTV’s soaps like Deewarein, Waris and Jungle in the 1980s in India should not be forgotten and current programmes on Pakistani channels have the potential to become as popular.

Alas, this is the state of affairs in India and when yesterday, the Lahore High Court banned the screening of Indian films and television serials in Pakistan noting that they were included in the ‘negative list’ under the current bilateral trade regime, Manish Tewari the Indian Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting posted an angry reaction on Twitter,

“Pakistani jingoists should know films and TV serials are ideas and ideas can’t be barred/banned. Pak govt must remove them from negative list ASAP (as soon as possible).”

After all, Indian politicians just need a reason to bash Pakistan, especially during election season.

I second him when he says that ideas cannot and should not be banned. But can we walk the talk, Mr Tewari?

I, as an Indian citizen, would like to know why Pakistani channels were not being allowed to be shown in India even as a number of Indian channels were freely available in Pakistan until this court judgment?

What have you done to make regulatory regimes more flexible so that Pakistani channels could be viewed in India?

What steps have you taken to improve relations between the two countries?

The answer is nothing.

I have been watching Pakistani news channels for a long time on the internet and can say with certainty that barring a few channels, most of them are pro-India. I vividly remember watching a Pakistani news channel recently when fierce clashes were taking place between Indian and Pakistani forces on the Line of Control. When a Pakistani politician pledged to take a tough stand against India while talking to the news channel, the female anchor retorted with a faint smile on her visage,

“Janab, aapko aisa nahi lagta ke hamein Bharat ki taraf dosti ki paishraft karni chahiye?”

(Sir, don’t you think that we should extend a hand of friendship towards India?)

Alas, I have never seen Indian anchors talking in this friendly vein.

Such is the level of pro-India sentiment in Pakistan and it is a pity that we, on the other hand, are still living in the past when PTV’s ‘anti-India’ campaign over internal issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, had been a concern.

We must never forget that media is the most effective tool for shaping perceptions and we ought to utilise it properly in order bring the people of India and Pakistan closer to each other.

I, for one, am very disappointed with the judgment of the Lahore High Court and hope that the Pakistani government will take adequate measures to make sure that Pakistani viewers are not deprived of Indian movies and TV content.

I doubt this ban will have any positive effect on Pakistani film and TV industry.

Leading Bollywood banner Balaji Telefilms CEO, Tanuj Garg, tweeted in response to the ban,

At the same time, there’s much that needs to be done in India in this regard. It would be great if the lesson which is being preached by Mr Tewari to Pakistan is first learnt by him and his government. The Indian government must not waste any more time and lift the ban on Pakistani channels in the country.

Let’s play a fair game.

Sapan Kapoor

Sapan Kapoor

A history buff and India-based journalist, the author has worked with the Press Trust of India. He blogs at sehar-anawakening.blogspot.in/ and tweets as @dRaconteur.

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