Politics Dominate TV Debates, Gallup Survey Reveals

ISLAMABAD: A new survey of seven talk shows on Pakistani TV news channels has revealed ‘politics’ remained the main staple for discussions (45%) with the ruling PML-N getting the most airtime representation (35%). Women remained under-represented in these shows as only 8% of guests invited.
According to a monthly research study conducted by Gallup Pakistan Media Research Consultancy during December 2014, majority of the guests were politicians (58%). The analysis comprised seven current events talk shows (Off the Record, Capital Talk, Meray Mutabiq, Sawal Yeh Hai, News Eye, Aapas Ki Baat and Tonight with Jasmeen). A total of 102 episodes aired on different cable television networks were monitored. The topics discussed fell into seven broad categories: economy, governance, law, politics, media, security and miscellaneous. Issues that were discussed less frequently, for example sports and socio-cultural subjects, have been included in the miscellaneous category.
On average 3 guests appeared per episode for each show. While some guests were frequently invited on different talk shows, overall there were 120 unique guests out of a total of310 guests in the 102 episodes analyzed. Furthermore, majority of the guests were Politicians (58%), followed by Academics including professors, defense analysts and senior analysts at 16%. Media persons such as Journalists and Experts took the next spot at 14%, while 7% of the guests invited were former Judiciary Members. Guests from various miscellaneous professional backgrounds such as art, cricket, civil society and bureaucracy occupied a 2% chunk of the total airtime and Religious authorities also took only 2% of the air-time, while only 1% of the guests invited were Military Personnel.
The fight for major airtime was won by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) at 35% followed by arch rival Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) at 23%. Pakistan People’s Party stood third with 18% share of the representation on talk shows while Awami National Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) both had 5% share of the representation.
As expected, politics remained the most dominant topic consuming 45% of the discussion. The second most popular topic of discussion was security at 25%, followed by law taking up 10% of the total airtime. Only 7% of discussion time was given to governance while 6% was devoted to miscellaneous issues. All important, economy took 4% of total discussions while media was the least discussed topic at 3%.
The most frequently discussed political topic was Imran Khan’s rallies and agitation call in various cities (25%), PTI and government negotiations (20%), formation of investigation commission for 2013 elections (15%) and Speeches and agitation of politicians against each other (13%). The new national security plan after Peshawar school Incident occupied the major chunk of discussions at 77%. Miscellaneous security issues such as counter-terrorism and Operation Zarb-e-Azab had a 7% share.
Issues pertaining to law were the third most discussed category. Among the sub-topics, 82% time was taken by constitutional amendment for anti-terrorism law and military courts.
Gallup Pakistan says this study is part of a continuum and hence a comparison of current trends with past ones is helpful in establishing changing developments. A topic-wise comparison from September to December 2014 analysis reveals that although political issues continued to dominate the media landscape in Pakistan, this category saw a gradual decline in the past four months. The most striking change in trends was the increase in discussions about security situation in Pakistan from 7% in September to 25% in December. This was a consequence of the Operation Zarb- e- Azab and Peshawar APS Tragedy due to which the discussions about countering terrorism in the country gained momentum.
The study was released by Gilani Foundation and carried out by Gallup Pakistan, the Pakistani affiliate of Gallup International. This data was obtained after reviewing over 61 hours of video.

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