Kashmir Broadcasting Corporation suddenly suspended its satellite transmissions globally after one year of success broadcasting.This incident is most unfortunate and shows a lack of financial backing for independent TV in a climate of global recession.There was no official confirmation of this interruption.
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Is another (Secular and Independent) Kashmir possible?
The Free Media and Television revolution which started in Pakistan in 2002, has finally reached the British Asians in UK and other immigrant communities across Europe. The mushrooming of free-to air satellite channels has largely been welcomed by different sections of the South Asian Diaspora. One significant difference between Pakistan and UK is the absence of any regulatory or governmental censorship in UK.
The spectrum ranges from bizarre to world class TV entertainment, from Televangelists to dedicated Bhangra music channel. The channels include Pakistani Christians and shias broadcasting without any fear of persecution. Punjabi speaking sufi Muslims Noor (light) TV against Indian Wahabi hardline Dr Zakir Naik’s so called Peace TV. Sikhs and Hindu preachers looking for donations and devotees. In all this diversity and chaos, Kashmir Broadcasting Corporation feels like breath of fresh air.
Kashmir Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) which is based in Manchester UK, claims to be the “Voice of Kashmir” from Europe (read exile). KBC claims to be a non-religious and liberal media entity unlike the Jamat-e-Islami backed Right-wing Kashmir Media Service based in Pakistan.KBC is the brain child of Kashmiri Business man Najib Afsar and his journalist friends Shamsur Rehman, Tariq Mehmood from UK and Talat Butt from Sweden.
According To CEO Najib Afsar,
“Kashmir Broadcasting Corporation is on satellite in over 150 Countries around the world. KBC will endeavour to fill gap left by the main stream media and deliver, information, entertainment, educate and empower the marginalised communities across UK, Europe, South Asia in general and Jammu Kashmir in particular. Multi lingual, multi cultural KBC broadcasts in all major languages spoken in Jammu Kashmir and South Asia. Some of these languages and cultures are thriving and prosperous, while others are invisible and KBC strives to make them visible. There has not been a single TV channel catering for these marginalised communities in south Asia or amongst Diaspora. KBC is an active supporter of Kashmiri inclusion into British state and society. KBC Opens up the doors of representations and enhance interaction and understanding across generations and genders of Pakistani and Kashmiri communities.
While KBC is a Kashmiri channel it is not to propagate any specific political, religious or sectarian viewpoint. KBC is home to all viewpoints. However, KBC will strongly oppose to any form of prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, creed, ideology, ethnicity, religion or cultural background.
Our National identity is of Kashmiriyat which means tolerance, coexistence, peace, justice and progress, Kashmir being a rich land of linguistic and cultural diversity and plurality.
The core viewers or the niche market of KBC is estimated to over 30 million people of which nearly 5 millions are settled in UK, Europe and Middle East with higher buying power due to long and sustained migration tradition. Potentially the whole of Asia, Africa, Middle East, UK and Europe is target market. However, its target audience and niche market include the entire population of Jammu Kashmir along with Pahari, Pothowari and Hindko speaking Pakistanis and Indians in South Asia and across the world. But the transmissions of KBC are not to be confined to these communities. It will also cater for the wider English speaking audience across the globe and Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi speaking population of South Asia.
Today the satellite signals are carrying and beaming programmes in almost all major languages of South Asia for the population within the boundaries of South Asian countries as well as large Diasporas across the world. The South Asian media scene has been transformed by independent reporting and objective programming”.
KBC has a clear cut policy on the question of Kashmir, namely that it should be freed from India and Pakistan.KBC does not impose any editorial restrictions on political discourse albeit for taste and decency-the discussion on the 1991 incident of gang rape by Indian army in the Kashmir village of cannan pushpura caused embarrassment for daytime viewers- of Islamic cultural values of the majority audience.
KBC’s current affair Analysts, Tariq mehmood (secular left leaning journalist) and Aki Nawaz (veteran Punk Rocker turned Islamist hip hop –world fusion music producer, like Junaid Jamshed and Yusuf Islam found true salvation) conduct the English language talk shows with “right and left wing combined punch” political debate with non- Asian guests. Previous shows included World Social Forum Brazil, Tamil conflict in Sri-Lanka, Indian Intellectuals and Left wing Tariq Ali’s analysis of South Asian Union of states. The Debate on P-ritish(Pakistani-British) generation with ex-extremist and currently a British Islamist Preacher Shahid Butt became a bit heated but the analysts handled it with maturity. There are rare moments of joy, when on one occasion Qadeer family from Bradford UK was able to track their long lost family members on the Indian side of Kashmir after 60 years of separation, live on TV.
According to Tariq Mehmood,
“Our views are often avoided. Many of the TV/Radio channels caricature Pakistanis with a racist label of Islamist extremism. Many of the British migrants particularly from Pakistan and Kashmir are not that separated from the social and political conflicts in the countries of our origin. We live here, pay our taxes here, We felt it was not enough getting on a sound bite of the airways here or there to challenge the portrayal in media as “working class religious fanatics”, which we did not agree, but create our own platform for Kashmiri community and wanted to air these views without having to worry about loyalty to either the rulers of Pakistan,India or Britain; We wanted to question the very concept of Britishness, but from the point of view of those who were once colonised subjects and also to support the struggle for self determination of Kashmir, without fear of upsetting the status quo of India or Pakistan. We as Kashmiri Pakistanis are not the perpetual Taxi drivers, pizza takeaway or mill workers in UK as the western media portray us”.
KBC supports the slain leader maqbool Butt as a national hero, not as a political figure head. On 11th February 2009 on the anniversary of maqbool butt’s death, KBC started the campaign to force Indian government to handover the last remains of maqbool butt to his family for a honourable burial in Kashmir.
The Guests on Kashmiri political shows include Hindus from valley of Kashmir and Jammu. Shiva Dutt from Jammu is one of the management team at KBC. Technical crew also consists of a number of native Hindu and Sikh Kashmiris.KBC frequently satellite-links guests from its facilities in Lal Chowk down-town Sri-nagar, interviewing Sikh activists and special appearance by Mr Sampath Parakh the communist trade union leader who refused to leave Kashmir in troubles and considers struggle of Independence as part of the Class struggle. One such Talk show became a problem for Zahoor Butt (the brother of Late Maqbool butt) when the Indian security forces arrested him after its telecast on KBC. Zahoor Butt had made a harmless comment “Kashmir is a national struggle for independence, not a religious war between Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan”.
KBC supports the notion, “is another Kashmir possible?” KBC intends to be a secular people to people contact among Hindu Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists within valley and Jammu Ladakh in the neutral arena of UK and beam this cultural and social community through satellite back into South Asia. The telecast of festival of saint chamilal, whose shrine divides the line on control between India and Pakistan, and who is claimed by Hindus and Muslims alike, bitter memoirs of Sikh victims of 1947 riots and the songs of Dogra Hindu culture demonstrate KBC’s Commitment to secular, democratic Kashmir.
The Financial constraints restrict its in-house productions, documentaries and info-entertainment shows. Most of the time on air is “piece to camera”, makeshift studios or shared satellite link from foreign or local media with inserted graphics leave a lot to be desired. Programmes of religious devotional sufi music and banal discussion about Kashmir village politics are used for filling the spare time on air.
The resources are limited; professionals are not very experienced in TV production and advertising revenue is declining. There are technical difficulties and restriction on local reporting in Indian held Kashmir. Pakistani administration is not very sympathetic to any independent media in Kashmir. The struggle is up hill but the loyalty of almost 2 million Pakistanis and Kashmiris in UK is an asset for future growth of KBC