Television has become a significant social phenomenon in Pakistan. Though not yet investigated empirically, TV viewing is ,generally believed to generate social forces of undeniable influence. With more than 1.5 million sets in use and about seven hours of daily transmission, the number of viewers is now estimated to be over 12 million. These statistics may be modest by international standard but these are not insignificant in a country where' the rate of literacy and per capita income are still very low.
During the last 27 years (1964-91), the growth and grip of this powerful medium in Pakistan may be understood by the fact that various governments emphatically used it for image building. Whatever may have been the level of opposition to this practice, no regime dared think of democratizing television. Disregarding TV's one-sided policy in the fields of news and current affairs, common people, specially children and women worship it for the entertainment it provides. It is this part of daily programme, which gets full attention of the people. One might say, whatever impact television is able to inculcate, it is because of various plays, films and musical shows etc. which are telecast everyday.
Like every other country, the most regular viewers of TV in Pakistan also, are children who are roughly 45 per cent of the over 12 viewers. This largest single segment of the audience, has been receiving various messages through television in an environment where means of recreation are extremely limited. Since future belongs to them, effect of television on Pakistani children seems to be a matter of investigative interest and to a lesser degree, of some genuine concern.
Since the advent of TV in Pakistan, only one major study has been conducted on TV's effect on children. This, now ourteen years old, research was completed in Peshawar, where a mix of population was not available, and therefore its findings were not suitable for generalization. It was necessary, therefore, to attempt a study in Karachi, on the lines of Himmelweit and Schramm, the two famous pioneers of the field.
With this scenario in view, the present study was planned and carried out in Karachi, which is the largest city of the country. It also boasts a mixed populace of nearly all ethnic shades and income brackets. Since Karachi is truly a cosmopolitan city, the findings would have some bearing on the televiewing behaviour of Pakistani children. Such a probe was also overdue for a preliminary database, howsoever limited, for future research in this field.
This study is also an humble effort to put Pakistan on the map of studies about impact of television on children. Comparing this work with present research pertaining to this area in advanced countries would be too presumptuous as investigators there have covered a vast area since the pioneering work of Himmelweit et al. However, it may have some value in the Asian perspective where such inquiries have rarely been undertaken. Except perhaps in Japan and India, an extensive study taking into account the variables of viewing time, age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status has not been completed. The findings of this survey, although meaningful in Pakistani milieu alone, might throw some light on the televiewing behaviour of children in Asia. It might also encourage spirited new researchers to explore the world of the juvenile televiewer in Asian countries.
Televiewer behaviour of young people in Asian countries needs to be understood exactly as it has been so thoroughly explored in advanced countries of the West. As television is gaining more and more importance in the world today, such exploration would provide clues to understanding the unexplored colourful, innocent world of the Asian Child (Television for a child today, has become more educative than an elder who also imposes rules and norms. It is friendlier than pals around who sometimes fight and complete. It is more attractive than books which cannot show what they tell. For these reasons the young viewer consumes several hours of his waking time each day apparently for entertainment. But this entertainment also provides learning in the garb of several interesting formats. without a bit of boredom, television teaches them about other worlds, other people, significant events and what not. It enhances their knowledge, shapes up their perceptions, sharpens their skills and provides them with needed earning about their environment.
On the other hand television is also accused to augment tendencies of violence in a viewer inclined to aggression. It also adversely affects the capacity of -imagination, creativity and reading ability. Both its positive and negative effects go on to attract researchers year after year, yet the package of its influence of children has much more to offer~ In the under-developed world, however, even basic data on its influence is not available. This dearth warranted a dire need, of which the present study is only a partial fulfillment and that too on a modest level pertaining only to a city in Pakistan.
The present study -is primarily exploratory in its nature. For the numerous problems of data collection, the sample (468) had to be limited and methodology ---simple. Those who are knowledgeable, would understand that social research in semi literate, underdeveloped countries is an exercise of solving problems with perseverance. More so is the survey research in the field of mass communication because common people here believe that newspaper reading, radio listening or television watching is too personal a matter to be probed about by strangers. All such difficulties discourage even a motivated researcher to a degree where doing nothing is considered the only intelligent response.
Yet, opting for an empirical media survey was perceived a duty by me, when, leaving professional journalism I carne to the department of Mass Communication for teaching. with the guidance of senior teachers in the department, I decided to undertake a esearch project which might have some bearing on the future. Knowing that the earliest and seemingly ordinary media studies in the U.S.A. as mentioned by Wilbur Schramm in his article "The Challenge to Communication Research", could start a series of in-depth studies later on, such an exercise became needed and even interesting. That, its completion took about three years is an indication of problems a researcher faces in countries like Pakistan. Today, when this work is completed, it seems to be a miracle of encouragement I could receive from my mentor and teacher Professor Zakariyya Sajid ---a disciple of Wilbur Schramm. One cannot possibly thank one's mentor. Nor can I.
Fortunately, there have been several others who were keen to see me complete this work. They were help and guidance personified. This study renewed the affection of Professor Dr. Kazi Abdul Kadir for me. I cannot possibly thank him also, for his advice he was so lovingly ready to provide all the time.
I am also greatly indebted to Asian Mass Communication Research and Information Centre (AMIC), Singapore, and particularly its library staff who graciously extended their cooperation with research materials pertaining to Asian countries. Without this material some very difficult requirements could have hardly been fulfilled.
One difficulty which needs particular mention was that of data processing. Use of SPSS does not figure among the research facilities offered by our Faculty of Arts. Overcoming this problem was quite an ordeal. In the beginning the data was fed in the computer by an unskilled operator who failed to prepare correct frequency tables. Compelled by the circum-stances, I tried to prepare needed tables manually with the help of my sons, Rafey and Samra. But the effort failed as the sample was quite large. At this stage, certainly by the grace of Allah, I met Dr. Tasnim Ahmad of our Faculty of Pharmacy who is an expert in the use of computer for research purposes. He fed the data in his personal computer and provided dependable frequency tables. I am extremely thankful to Dr. Ahmad who, in spite of his several pressing engagements, took deep interest in this research project and saw it through.
And of course I am indebted to my wife Rashada too. She tolerated my absence from home and kept many distractions postponed to enable me concentrate on my work.
In the end, I bow my head with all gratitude to almighty Allah for completion of this modest exercise. It is through His blessing and guidance that I could carry out a work which appeared beyond me in the beginning.