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Geo TV getting too big for it’s boots

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Youtube tagged 3 cricket videos (which covered the last 20 minutes of the Semi-Final) as belonging to Geo TV. The logo on the video is for “S2” (sports) channel.

The videos were removed by youtube automatically.

Here is the message sent by youtube:

ATTENTION

We have received copyright complaint(s) regarding material you posted, as follows:

* from Geo Television Networks about 1/3 Pakistan vs. South Africa – Twenty20 Semi-Final Cricket – June 18, 2009 – pakistanwatch
Video ID: KLl3FWrsMcU

Please Note: Accounts determined to be repeat infringers will be terminated. Please delete any videos for which you do not own the necessary rights, and refrain from uploading infringing videos.

If you are unsure what this means, it is very important that you visit our Copyright Tips guide.

If you believe you have the necessary rights or authorization to post this content, you may file a counternotice. There may be severe legal consequences for filing a false or bad-faith notice. Please take the time to review appropriate copyright-related materials before deciding to submit a counternotice. You can find more information in our Help Center.

For your reference, a copy of this message can also be located in your Account Warnings page.

How does Geo TV have the gall to claim ownership of non-Geo material ?

Are we starting to see the beginning of “big boots” of Geo in Pakistan ? That is, with the growing strength of the media in Pakistan, are we now going to see these media groups (many of whom own BOTH print and TV channels – like Geo/Jang/The News and AAJ TV/Business Recorder) start to throw their weight around ?

While “legally” (as some will claim), the producers of video WILL have the right to stop others from riding on their coattails. However that is a right which is granted by the people. If the media has the ability to air footage of people without their permission (and of dead bodies and mutilated bodies of people’s loved ones) and can get away with it, then citizens will necessarily want some ability to air footage of the media (if nothing else to point out inconsistencies or problems in the media reportage). Something called “fair use”.

Media as “saviours”

Media groups like Geo are for-profit enterprises. Yet there is a strong and persistent “lesson” always being taught to the people that the “media” are somehow saviours of the public.

“Media” are only saviours of the public by accident or coincident interest. The media groups WILL behave like commercial entities for the most part. And anything keeping them on track along more altruistic lines is if the SYSTEM of management of the media is such that it CREATES independent and essentially free media.

Competition is one of those things.

But these by themselves do not guarantee a fair media in the short term or any one moment. These pressures “tend” to keep media in line, but they may not keep them in line ALL the time.

Nor is it guaranteed that traditional TV media will cover an event that the public wants to get covered and disseminated to a wider set of their countrymen.

Because editorial power remains in the company’s hands. The public can be a spectator or part of a visual on TV, but the public is not directly able to control what appears on TV.

It is for this reason perhaps that in some countries they assign air time for members of the public to air their views. It is those slots which tend to be used for community programming in the U.S., occasionally by Pakistani community groups as well. The intent is perhaps to OFFSET the ability of the media to air only THEIR version of events.

It is another matter that most of these “community channels” get little viewership, because it is not as professionally authored, or entertaining (since a majority of people watch TV for entertainment or to forget their daily work worries for a moment).

The practice of “viewer phone calls” on Pakistani TV channels was a welcome practice.

Over time Geo and AAJ TV have cut down on such programs. Dr. Shahid Masood has also curtailed that activity, instead choosing to focus on 100% pontificating. The trend away from public call-in programs seems to coincide with the period when Geo and AAJ TV started giving lectures to the public about the appropriateness of the “lawyer’s movement”.

Now you will find such programs mostly on the smaller TV channels, who ARE willing to cover some areas which Geo and AAJ were involved in politically – like the “lawyer’s movement”.

While this case of the cricket match MAY have been understandable (although some may ask if the TV channels air video for the consumption of the public, can the public not air it again as an aid to discussion ?). Especially when that segment of video is NOT as easily accessible to the public from the original broadcaster anymore ?

However this argument is weak if one understands the sports events ARE also for-profit enterprises and the media coverage of the event costs money and the owners of those rights do not want those rights diluted.

And perhaps the question needs to be asked if sports – or any activity that is supposed to be enjoyed by a major part of the population SHOULD be a for-profit undertaking. Or basically if for-profit enterprises have exclusive right to events, then they SHOULD NOT be allowed to use the name of Pakistan or it’s people. Or leverage the sentimentality of the people. At one moment making it seem like an inclusive “national event”, but in the next moment asserting claims to the event that tend to REDUCE participation of the public in the event to the degree that they feel they “own” the event.

The situation could perhaps be analogous to the one of copyright in the U.S. where a “brand name” is carefully protected by companies from becoming a commonly used name for something else. For example “Xerox” (for photocopying). So you will see ads occasionally in magazines asserting that the name is STILL a company brand name.

Shared or community visuals

When an event and it’s video is made SUCH a large part of the nation’s psyche (if a country wins a match for instance). And that video is aired to millions simultaneously. Does the public then gain some kind of “right” to the video content so they can at least discuss and share that again ? That is, if the public has been enticed into sharing an event on a global scale, how much power should the media “owner” of that shared event retain for exclusivity ?

A simple choice (in policymaking) would be to say that anything aired to the public belongs to them as it is part of their shared experience, and they MAY want to record and replay it later for themselves and their friends who they had that shared memory or experience with. This of course will tend to REDUCE the incentive for private investment in such events.

So the government then makes a policy decision to ALLOW media groups to retain ownership of stuff EVEN if it is willingly aired to millions of people and which is actively promoted to become part of their experience (their hopes and joy).

What this is meant to highlight is the fact that this decision that whether media should continue to own content that they willingly air all over the place (i.e. a process of putting the cat back into the bag) is basically a policy making decision – by judging the pros and cons of either decision. And it is not a moral ABSOLUTE.

What is taken for granted today as a given, could later become moot or an obvious attempt a holding the public hostage by media groups. Who attempt to assert OWNERSHIP over shared community experiences.

But the more relevant question is – what if Geo TV were to start challenging videos posted by people (some of which could be criticizing Geo TV reporting) thereby squelching detractors.

Would that be going a bit too far for Geo TV ?

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