Overview

The emergence of satellite television and the spread of Internet in the last one and a half decades have changed the media landscape in Bangladesh. Twenty-nine satellite television stations have reached viewers across the country, while faster Internet services are driving people, particularly the young generation, towards ever-increasing online news services and social media. The immensely popular Facebook has become a growing source of information for citizens. The availability of smartphones is acting as a catalyst in this new, fascinating trend.

Satellite broadcasting has brought a whole new world to people. The news-based television stations that came in quick succession bringing updates and live telecasts of events are now considered to be the dominant media. Two recent media surveys show a higher consumption (over 80 percent) of television in the country. However, the television stations can't do what print does. Some newspapers are publishing stories that challenge the establishment and in consequence face intimidation, a factor which is nearly absent among ruling party- and businessmen-controlled broadcasters.

Radio is not lagging behind and is making its presence felt in the media landscape with the introduction of both commercial FM and community radio stations. A country that had only one state-run radio station before 1999 now boasts 35 radio stations. The commercial radio stations are popular among youths in the major cities. These stations are airing more entertainment programmes than news, considering the fact that the listeners are interested in enjoying music and the stories related to celebrities.

With competition among the media intensifying, some media companies have gone for multiple media platforms through introducing print, television, online and radio. In efforts to remain relevant, two leading newspapers – ProthomAlo (The First Light) and English-language The Daily Star – have gone for bilingual news services. The Daily Star is giving selected stories in Bengali while ProthomAlo has been operating a full-fledged English website for the last several years. Bdnews24.com, the first online news portal in the country, also has both English and Bengali news services.

Prior to the expansion of television stations and the Internet, people used to rely on newspapers to access authentic news. Now the country has numerous newspapers, TV stations and online news portals. Unfortunately though, the standard of journalism is very low. Media is seen to be less credible, mainly because of the political affiliation of the owners, editors and journalists. Some owners are not directly involved in politics or inclined towards the government, but they don't go against the establishment in order to protect their business interests. Some corporate houses have introduced both print and broadcast media that safeguard corporate houses and their proprietors. Journalists are sharply divided into two camps—one group supporting the government and the other group against it. All of these are damaging professionalism and the dignity of the journalist community.

The road traversed by the media has not been easy even in independent Bangladesh. Press freedom had its first blow in June 1975 when the then regime shut down all but four newspapers through an executive order. Then the country fell into the grips of the successive military juntas which undermined both democracy and independent journalism for the subsequent 15 years. Media began to thrive with the restoration of democracy in 1991. However, the authoritarian attitude of successive governments and media gagging gradually shut the door to free expression of news and opinion by the media. Today, the media are hardly in a position to disseminate the truth.

There is a growing concern among journalists about the government's attempt to dictate many media outlets. Nowadays owners and editors, particularly the television stations, are complaining about receiving phone calls from the authorities, asking them "not to telecast certain issues" that may hurt the government image or help its political rivals. Wiretapping and digital interception have also been increased alarmingly in the name of security while more and more journalists are facing defamation and criminal cases. The freedom of the press, guaranteed in the country’s constitution, is shaken and journalists now work in a more hostile climate.

Journalism has become a job industry with more and more young people choosing the job but it hasn’t really developed as a profession. Once there were few newspapers and weeklies but journalism was regarded as a noble profession for maintaining dignity, professionalism and ethics. Today there are numerous media but with fast-declining professionalism, commitment and ethical standard. A big reason is journalists have no or little job security, get less pay, hardly offered training and work under many obstacles, including that of pressure and censorship from within and outside of the media houses. Journalistic ethics and professional practices are now in question due to motivated presentation of news. There is a growing perception that media no longer holds the value of serving public and provides news with certain interests or intentions.