During the current period of the democratic government, eminent journalists faced various problems and restrictions due to which they shifted to YouTube. The main reason for the trend of these journalists and other vloggers toward YouTube was freedom of expression. But the passage of time made them realize that just providing quality content on YouTube will not work. Because of some unknown YouTubers who were in the race to earn dollars with the help of substandard content, the quality of journalism started to be questioned and there were echoes of regular registration of YouTube channels as well. While some YouTubers’ content became a nightmare for them instead of getting views and followers.
In 2002, the private channels in Pakistan got boom and soon there were many private news channels, and the institutions had a shortage of skilled staff. This gap was filled with time with the help of students who got journalism or related degrees from different educational institutions. In 2008, the trend of using media as art in a business context emerged and YouTube became the priority of vloggers, and in 2018, government restrictions on media led journalists to shift to YouTube.
According to the director of NEO News, Muhammad Usman, in 2018, more than 3 thousand employees had to say goodbye to the media industry due to the 50% reduction in advertisements given to the media by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. While General Secretary PFUJ, Rana Azeem claims that many more employees have been fired after these employees. Regarding the reduction in government advertisements, former Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain confers that Pakistani media houses need to improve their revenue models to reduce their dependence on government advertisements, and this does not imply any form of media censorship or hidden restrictions.
YouTuber and reporter Express News Lahore, Mian Aslam says that until 2018, the race of more views and followers among non-professionals becomes the result of raising questions due to the non-standard journalistic content. There was a substantial increase in the poor quality of YouTube channels due to the outbreak that occurred when a large number of people were staying at home. The quality shifted from “watch our channel” to “must subscribe to our channel”. For the same reason, the implementation of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016 (PECA) and the establishment of the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA) were strengthened. So that every sector of the media industry can be controlled by a single act and with the help of a single institution.
Raza Dotani, the founder of Tribal Post, believes that even if there are no government restrictions or editorial policies, YouTube is a sustainable solution to keep regional journalists’ practice alive, which would not only provide economic stability but also give them more freedom to work. Is. But all social media platforms, governments, and NGOs have some responsibilities in this regard. Social media platforms should create criteria first for judging the journalistic abilities of a person sharing journalistic content and later rank them based on the content they had produced. The government should make these social media platform part of the accountability stream. While social institutions need to train people who are involved in the sector or want to be a part of it. Raza Dotani believes that individual YouTubers are more vulnerable than those employed by an organization.
Tahir Shafiq, representative of Rohi Channel from Sanawan, a suburb of Muzaffargarh, shares that with the help of his YouTube channel, he draws public attention to the lack of interest of politicians in regional issues, due to which the media cell workers of the political leaders harass him on social media. He thinks that it is difficult to convince the public that it is their responsibility to identify regional problems. Tahir Shafiq believes the threats to life due to their work as a regional trend that journalists in neighboring countries are also facing similar problems where it is easy to identify vloggers who work individually instead of journalists who work in an organization.
Journalist Sajjad Malik, who has written a paper on the role of media in Pakistan-India relations, believes that adopting YouTube is proving to be beneficial for journalists, but the profession of journalism is becoming discredited because substandard content has the potential harms these platforms as well.
The Federal Investigation Agency appears to be quite active in this regard. According to information obtained through Right to Information, 19,505 requests were received against Facebook pages and 363 requests against YouTube channels in 2021, while 11,361 requests were received against Facebook pages and 246 requests against YouTube channels in 2022 so far. While in 2021, inquiries were made against 4174 Facebook pages and 100 YouTube channels, while in 2022, inquiries were made against 1993 Facebook pages and 53 YouTube channels.
Asad Ali Imtiaz, the editor of the daily Shab-o-Roz, considers most of the content on YouTube as a result of unbalanced thinking and poor communication because it is based on sensationalism to grab views. While this substandard content that does not meet the definition of journalistic content becomes a bane for YouTubers. Objections to forums like YouTube have their place, but there is no denying the usefulness of this platform. A YouTube profiling study shows YouTube’s current usefulness, with 78 percent of respondents choosing YouTube as their top choice for finding any type of video.
In a study on the effectiveness of social media forums in the eyes of journalists, the results revealed that YouTube has caused a decrease in viewership of traditional media, most journalists use social media to maintain the impact of their journalism. Social media is providing opportunities for new journalists, so using social media effectively will lead to opportunities for journalists in the future. Social media users considered individual journalists more reliable working for public welfare rather than organizations promoting hidden agendas
Farrukh Raza Tirmizi, president of Press Club Kabirwala and correspondent of Daily Jang, believes that the usefulness of YouTube cannot be ignored because of the content of a few substandard YouTubers. It is up to the user to see quality content or settle for substandard content while classifying the available content. While registering YouTube channels, they should be regularized so that their content does not lead to the promotion of any negative thoughts in our society. Realizing this problem he is working like the Karachi Press Club, in the future, they will work on the idea of providing training to YouTubers and vloggers through the forum of Kabirwala Press Club and mutual exchange of information and transfer of technical skills between traditional journalists.
Najia Ashar, president of the Global Neighborhood for Media Innovations, sees YouTube as a breath of fresh air for freedom of expression where a person can gain autonomy to work and control their earnings while working on the triangle of journalism, technology, and business. He needs to be taught better strategies so that his efforts are meaningful. Because this is the future of journalism.
Maryam Ali, a winner of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award, thinks that understanding the changing trends, and adopting the popular medium is the need of the hour in which complex but popular topics like money laundering can be easily explained to the public with the help of visual narratives and common scripts. The hard work of a journalist also gets rewards and the awareness of political and social issues is also awakened in the people.
It is clear from the usefulness of YouTube and other social media forums that social media is the most effective form of the future where users can view their favourite content and express their feedback in response. While YouTubers will face the dual trials of government regulations and public backlash, they will reap the rewards of their efforts in the form of freedom to work and economic prosperity.
Faisal Saleem is a PhD. Scholar in Media Studies. He is a freelance journalist for various news blogs. His core interests of reporting are social issues and interesting facts.