Media Jumping from TV to Internet

By: sally on 13 December 2007
Posted in Pakistan, Venezuela, Asia

In May of this year, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez decided not to renew TV station RCTV's license, and troops seized the station's equipment.

In Pakistan, President Musharraf ordered some TV stations to be shut down in June, and an apparent media blackout has accompanied Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule, police intimidation included.

With the crackdown, some networks turned to the Internet. In Pakistan, TV network Geo emphasized its Internet channel when first shut down, and they continued to film content and streamed it on the Internet. Viewers around the country, albeit a much smaller, wealthier subset than their usual viewers, were able to watch the news online. The site received so much traffic, however, that it could not sustain the bandwidth for so much streaming, and it has gone back to text-based news. The loss of Geo as a TV news source for Pakistanis without Internet access is troubling, but the streaming did give a brief window to the Pakistani news media from outside the country.

The crackdown on the media is set to continue beyond the anticipated end of emergency rule this weekend, in the form of agreements that were signed by media networks before they were allowed to return to the air. This 'code of conduct' bars networks from speech against the government and especially against the head of state, among other things.

Governments can and do mandate similar 'codes of conduct' for news on the Internet, but the mechanisms for implementing them are distinct from that of traditional media crackdown--perhaps different enough that if one is shut down, the other will remain.