Personalizing politics : producing accountability on Pakistan's news television

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2017-05

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Abstract

This dissertation, through analysis of news television texts and ethnographic study of new workers, identifies a movement in Pakistani society to close the gap between the country’s elite and the larger population and to rewrite the rules of political engagement to include the voices of ordinary people. This collective aspiration is both mobilized and manifest in a shift of the nature of Pakistan’s news television from its initial focus on national news bulletins and serious political talk shows to what this dissertation terms specific accountability news television. The programs of specific accountability news television are a cluster of platforms of expression, whose formats lend them to being a landing place for the collective pursuit of accountability from the elite and visibility for ordinary people. The shows of specific accountability news television are connected not by categories of genre, but their ability to satisfy two major incentives. First push for institutional response at local levels and/or material reparation to ordinary people. Second they validate the personal experience of struggle as a form of evidence in an arena where the personal and emotional is not considered part of discourse. Ethnographically the study focuses on news workers in Lahore, Pakistan at Samaa TV, Geo News and City 42, three privately owned, market-oriented, 24-hour news channels. The perspectives and practices of news workers are analyzed with an eye for how they are a response to those same forces with which society grapples. The dissertation concludes that the shift in the nature of news television is indicative of larger changes in Pakistani society in the terms of political discourse and engagement.

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