BBG Research Series: Pakistan — audience realities in an unstable media landscape

Pakistan Remains TV Market, With Room For Growth For Mobile

TV dominates the media market in Pakistan, with more than three-fourths of adults (76.2%) watching weekly, according to media research data released today by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. However, mobile phones are becoming more common, signaling a possible shift in the way Pakistanis engage with media.

A Pakistani viewer looks at a television screen
A Pakistani viewer looks at a television screen flashing suspension notice of GEO News channel in Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday, June 6, 2014. Pakistan’s media regulatory agency on Friday suspended the operating license of the country’s leading news channel for two weeks after a spat between the broadcaster and the country’s powerful military. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

“Television is by far the most important platform for news and information. We see that even when power is in short supply, people still find a way to watch,” said William Bell, director of audience insights at the BBG. Bell added that there is a significant gap in information access between those with access to cable (45%) and satellite (14%), who have a much broader level of access, compared to those with only terrestrial (21%) or no TV.

The data found that Pakistani adults relied less on new media, and mobiles are not yet widely used for Internet access. Although the majority of Pakistani adults (56%%) report having a mobile phone, the phones are commonly used primarily for basic SMS or calling functions.

“Mobile has a lot of room to grow, as 3G is just now taking off in Pakistan,” said Bell. Pakistani adults who did consume media on less popular platforms such as radio and Internet tended to do so on their mobile devices. Mobile is the main means of going online in Pakistan (72% of Internet users) and the main method of listening to the radio (62% of radio listeners).

Both the media survey and the Gallup World Poll show strong regional differences in media consumption and attitudes.

“Increasing confidence in the national government is the single most striking observation since we started measuring this on the World Poll, and there are regional variations that might be due to exposure to state media,” said Rajesh Srinivasan, regional research director for Asia and Middle East at Gallup. “For example KPK has the lowest confidence in National government and they seem to rely more on State media for news and information.”

The BBG broadcasts to Pakistan with a blend of radio, television, and new media via Voice of America’s Urdu Service, VOA’s Radio Deewa, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Mashaal.

About the BBG

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international media. Its mission is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG networks include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí). BBG programming has a measured audience of 278 million in more than 100 countries and in 58 languages.