Aug 12 - 18, 2002


Abdul Hai Seemab is a TV producer and carries a vast experience spanning over around 30 years. He got the first class position while he obtained his Master's degree from the University of Dhaka the then East Pakistan. After completing his education, he joined the teaching profession and remained associated with the Government College of Jessore for over 11 years. In 1973 he was selected as the producer by the Pakistan Television on all Pakistan basis. At that time the famous Aslam Azhar was the Managing Director who positioned him at Lahore. Seemab got his retirement from PTV in June 2000 as the senior producer. During his long association with the electronic media he worked on different segments of the television programmes including Entertainment, Drama, Music and the Current Affairs.

PAGE: Currently, the electronic media in Pakistan is confronted with multiple challenges especially in the face of the influx of a large number of foreign channels through satellite. Do you think the government owned PTV is capable to meet the challenges and engage the attention of the viewers who have many options for entertainment as well as information?

SEEMAB: The real problem is the limited freedom given to the electronic media. Unlike foreign channel, PTV has to work within certain limits, which gives a very little space for the producers to highlight the real life issues in the society.

Citing the example of his own experience, Seemab said that he had produced a very informative programme on breast cancer, which luckily got its way to go on air. However, soon after the telecast he received a call from his General Manager who snubbed him in a very harsh tone that we cannot afford to show such kind of production to the viewers. Next day Seemab got an explanation letter asking him how he dared to show some parts of the woman body on the television. Before reply to that explanation, the lady luck smiled at Seemab as one of the close relatives of the then Chief of the PTV telephoned the general manager appreciating the efforts of the producers for taking pains for producing such an informative peace of documentary. The relative of the MD also inquired about the addresses of the doctors who were interviewed in the documentary because one of his family members was suffering from the same disease. Naturally, this kind of appreciation forced the General Manager to reverse his decision of explanation into appreciation. This explains the whole atmosphere in our government controlled electronic media.

PAGE: What remedy you would suggest to get rid of such elements who are hampering the way of research and real presentation of the issues on the screen?

SEEMAB: You know unwanted wild shrubs always hurt the productivity of the desired plants. In the little flowerbed in front of my house I had grown a hedge of "dum-dum". This hedge of dum dum plants never allowed my rose and jasmine plant to bloom. When I asked from one of the gardeners why the rose plants are flowerless even in the spring, he advised me to weed out the dum dum hedge, which is sucking the entire energy required for the rose plants. Similarly, dum dum exists in all those organizations that are not producing the good results. This dum dum is in the form of inefficient "Sifarshis" who are eating the plant before it blooms.

PAGE: Do you think that the stuff in the PTV is not capable to deliver the goods.

SEEMAB: Of course there are some intelligent and efficient people in the organization, yet a vast majority of them have been hired on the political or other recommendations without having a knack to conceptualize the intensity of the social problems. Despite having a strong team of the writers we are unable to produce quality plays, quality music and credibility of current affairs and news bulletins.

PAGE: What would you suggest to overcome all these shortcomings?

SEEMAB: In early days, PTV had arranged for training of the staff. For that purpose a studio adjacent to the old radio station at Simla Hill was converted into a training institute in Lahore. However, people believe in easy going scraped the idea of training institute and no training school for different types of programme exist in PTV. Consequently, people are working according to their will and capacity without going through the process of this highly sensitive source communication. The establishment of an institute for the training of the people working in different cadres is highly desirable to produce good results. Besides providing training to produce quality products, it is also necessary that the people at the helm of affairs should give some latitude to the people working in the electronic media so that they could translate the real problems faced by the society on the television screen. Although the present government has given almost a free hand to yet the habit developed over the years to be cautious and say yes to everything coming from the top continues to rule the minds in the electronic media.