Pakistan's Top Televangelist Aamer Liaquat Husain Commercializes Eid and Ramadan
"At Christmas there's Santa Claus to give everyone gifts, it's important for Christians. For us Ramadan is a really special time so it's really important to make people happy and reward them." Aamer Liaquat Husain, Popular Televangelist and Show Host of Pakistan's GeoTV
Aamer Liaquat Husain's Amaan Ramzan is the highest rated TV show in Pakistan. It attracts sponsor-ships and advertisements from successful companies in Pakistan which are willing to pay top dollars for a slice of its viewers' attention and business. These advertisers see the festive Ramadan and Eid season as crucial to boost their annual profits and sales.
Downplaying the commercial success of his show, Aamer Liaquat insists that "it is not commercialization, it is not showbiz. It is real Islam. I am the religious icon of television" according to an AFP report.
Aamer Liaquat's show is no ordinary TV production. The show is set in a massive wedding hall at a Karachi hotel. It is bedecked with advertisements for a variety of products competing for space with pictures of camels and palm trees. Its a variety show featuring Islamic quizzes, Quran recitations, cooking, religious songs, and lots of prizes and Iftar dinner for over 500 guests, including hundreds of women and children.
|GeoTV Host Aamer Liaquat (L) and ARY TV Host Junaid Jamshed (R)
ARY TV, a competitor of Geo TV, has responded to Ramzan Aman show by its own show which features Junaid Jamshed, a celebrity rock star who gave up his singing career and grew a long beard as a sign of religious piety.
|Source: Aurora Magazine
Pakistan's rising middle class has helped spawn a mass media revolution in the country. It is driving consumer spending and advertising. Television ads capture 56% of total advertising revenue in Pakistan. TV ad revenue for 2011-12 added up to Rs. 21.6 billion (US $210 million), up 16% from the prior year, according to Dawn's advertising Aurora magazine. Since 1990, Pakistan's middle class has expanded by 36.5% and India's by only 12.8%, according to an ADB report titled "Asia's Emerging Middle Class: Past, Present And Future". Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to Bloomberg.
Many in Pakistan cringe at the thought of crass commercialization of occasions like Eid and Ramadan both of which have special religious significance for Muslims. To me it is just an indication that the corporate-owned media business in Pakistan is evolving along the same commercial lines as its western counterparts have decades ago. It is, of course, a matter of grave concern to me and others who see the combined power of money and media as an unwelcome influence in shaping public opinion and government policies.
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