Winning or Waning?
In today's world media is all-pervading; perhaps it always was. Even in the most remote village, there is invariably a billboard above a tea stall with claims of the best toothpaste of the country. A half-torn poster of a film, displaying a generously proportioned actress and a malicious-looking villain with an AK 47 hangs nearby.
The media presence in the towns and villages are entirely inescapable. Although newspaper reading has gone down significantly in the West, in Bangladesh it is still very much part of the literate person's breakfast table. The only hindrance to an even bigger audience is the literacy rate of the country.
This is where electronic media steps in. Viewers have welcomed the emergence of private TV channels in Bangladesh with gusto. The lacklustre BTV is on government-funded life-support; creative talent and viewer interest has migrated to private satellite channels. Live shows where viewers can communicate with their favourite stars, talk shows discussing political trends, and talent competitions where viewers vote for their favourites with the help of technology have made this media develop in leaps and bounds.
In the last couple of years, the emergence of three private radio stations has added another dimension. Whereas the programmes aired on Bangladesh Betaar have not changed in the last thirty-seven years, the radio jockeys at the private stations are young, lively, upbeat and sometimes refreshingly quirky. Bangla music and the occasional talk show make it the perfect 24-hour companion for long traffic jams and on the move, mobile-phone-in-ear lifestyles. At the same time, there has been some criticism of the Bangla accents used by some RJs and the absence of in-depth talk shows.
The advertising industry, which is a major power in all media, has also come a long way since the song and dance efforts of the 1980s. The TV commercial about the local fisherman making profit on his products is more memorable than someone jumping up and down saying theirs is the best phone in town. With many talents and creative minds taking up advertising as a career, it is a thriving industry.
The only industry that has not transformed, but rather deteriorated, is the mainstream Bangla film industry. In the 70s, films focused on romance and social values. In the 90s, this has given way to violence and vulgarity. This is the one media that has been completely untouched by technological advancement. Although alternative films have done the country proud in the international arena, the overall industry is still dominated by crude work.
Media in this country has evolved in leaps and bounds in the last decade. It has its upsides and its downsides. On the 12th anniversary of the magazine, The Star goes behind the scenes to find out what the driving forces are and talks to experts in the field.
A Gutenberg Elegy
The Future of Print
Hana Shams Ahmed
Photos: Zahedul I Khan
The written word. It creates a sense of trust in the reader about the message it relays. The feel of the newspaper, first thing in the morning, with the breakfast on the table, is still a favourite urban ritual. Ever since Johannes Gutenberg revolutionised printing technology by inventing mechanical printing, there has been no looking back.
Unfortunately that has always been a limitation of print media. Although the adult literacy rate in Bangladesh was 41 percent in 2004 (according to UNESCO), it's in the caveat that the real truth lies -- "The definition of literacy varies by country". Whether this 'literacy' definition includes those who can actually read and write effortlessly, or people who have simply learnt to sign their name, is anybody's guess.
But illiteracy does not kill a person's thirst for news and information. Apart from huddling up at the nearest cha-er dokan around the only literate person in a village, the proliferation of electronic media, especially cable television, has bypassed the barriers of literacy in rural Bangladesh. Professor of Dhaka University's Department of Mass Communication and Journalism Sakhawat Ali Khan does not however feel that the position of print media is threatened by the invasion of the electronic. "The two different media fulfil different needs of people," he says, "when electronic media first came to our country, there was always this apprehension that print media would not be able to compete. But that never happened. Print media has since gained circulation in our country."
But the fate of the newspaper is in serious uncertainty in the industrialised world, particularly in the US. Marshall Mcluhan, communications theorist and author of 'The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man' first coined the slogans -- "global village" and "the medium is the message". Mcluhan predicted that print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called "electronic interdependence", when electronic media would replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. But it's the Internet boom, more than anything else that has taken over people's reading time. One blog sums up what it believes is the state of print media in the US -- "…if print isn't dead, then most newspaper companies are on life support".
And the 'blog' is one of the contributing reasons for this decline. Bloggers as a group are taking part in what is called 'citizen's journalism', presenting a story from different angles, talking to sources and witnesses, digging for a story and providing analyses and counter-analyses. News websites of the New York Times and the BBC already have options for posting comments, listening to related podcasts and videos, and options for sharing the link directly via email. In other words, it is much more participatory than standard print media. Asif Saleh, Founder and Executive Director of Drishtipat.org and a blogger from its 'Unheard Voices' blog, agrees that in the western world blogs are increasingly being taken seriously in mobilising people and being a watchdog over the media. "Because bloggers scan through published materials and materials on the web and come up with investigative and analytical research pieces, some of the well-known blogs are highly respected in the mainstream media and a lot of journalists get news scoops through them," he says.
In Bangladesh attaining that level of reader participation narrows down to those who have regular access to the Internet. In spite of this barrier, more and more young people, even from lower-income families, are looking to blogs to get the latest news on whatever issue they are interested in. Asif Saleh agrees that although it is still at the early stages, over the past two years blogs have increasingly become the medium of choice for the younger generation. "The Bangla blogs are a great medium to express one's thoughts but it (the blog) hasn't quite established itself as an alternative to print media," says Saleh, "there are a few very informative individual blogs in Bangla which are research-driven and analytical. But the Bangla blogs have done a commendable job in creating a community of informed citizens and give them a medium to express their views" Drishtipat, which has both an English and Bangla blog, provides opinionated pieces backed up by analysis from various bloggers. Many stories that are not covered by the mainstream newspapers with enough importance are highlighted in popular Bangladeshi blogs like Drishtipat and Somewherein. "People want to see concrete action generated out of these blogs as it is more interactive and instantaneous," says Saleh. A campaign to rescue an abused home worker Madhabi highlighted in The Daily Star was followed up by Drishtipat and funds were raised to help rehabilitate her and her family. Blogs also played a big part in
|Press Club President Shawkat Mahmud
Professor of DU, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Sakhawat Ali Khan
coordinating relief efforts from expatriate Bangladeshis for cyclone Sidr. "I expect Bangladeshi blogs to be more interactive and powerful over time in mobilising opinion and publishing unreported news items so that the news dissemination is not within the control of a few. The more decentralised it becomes via the blogs, the more likely we would get the real news from the real people without any spin," adds Saleh.
But Sakhawat Ali Khan disagrees, and does not think that the Internet or the blogs are going to have an impact on print media in Bangladesh any time soon. "We cannot really compare the status of our country with the US or other western countries because our social, economic and political factors are very different from theirs," says Sakhawat Ali Khan, "one of the reasons for the fall [of readership] in the US and other countries is that people don't even have the time to read newspapers, although they have 100-page dailies coming out there."
With the efficiency and proliferation of television news on a number of channels, newspapers are trying to find ways to offer something more to readers than one-day old news. There is greater emphasis on news-analysis opinions, editorial and commentaries as well as supplements to keep the readers buying newspapers. Many of the Internet editions of Bangladeshi newspapers are very popular. Prothom Alo, one of the largest circulating Bangla newspapers, has a high amount of traffic to its web edition. Others like Bdnews24, the country's first online newspaper, Ittefaq, Amader Shomoy, Jai Jai Din, Daily Naya Diganta, Amar Desh and The Daily Star also get a huge amount of hits regularly. Most of these hits are from the millions of non-resident Bangladeshis around the world who want to stay in touch with what is happening in their homeland.
Despite the Internet not yet taking over the newspaper's market niche, 10 newspapers are rumoured to be closing down. Two forces are at play here: some of the newspaper owners face corruption charges under the ACC, and the price escalation of newsprint. At a seminar on 'Contemporary Media Environment in Bangladesh' organised by Mass-line Media Centre on World Press Freedom Day, editors of different newspapers expressed deep concern over the future of print media. "The price of newsprint has gone up, advertisements to the print media have gone down, some of the owners are in jail, there is a lot in outstanding salaries of the journalists, there is also an increase in the overhead costs like the price of electricity etc," says National Press Club President Shawkat Mahmud, "many newspapers may be closing down because of these reasons."
Asif Saleh, Founder and Executive Director of Drishtipat.org Photo: Anwar Hossain
The cost of newsprint accounts for 50 percent of the total cost of production of a newspaper and local manufactures Shahjalal Newsprint of Bashundhara Group and Capital Newsprint have increased the price of newsprint by as high as Tk 10,000 per tonne. And with the exorbitant rise of prices of essentials, if newspaper prices were to be increased, they would be treated as luxury items and discarded from the monthly shopping list of many middle-income homes. "The government does not recognise the newspaper industry as an industry as such, so it doesn't help them out like it does other industries by bridge financing them," adds Mahmud, "so there is an overall crisis in this industry."
Mahmud believes that there will be a big effect in the long run because the rise in prices of newsprint. "It is only through the earning from advertisements that newspapers can keep their prices so low for the readers, " he says, "it costs around 25 to 30 takas to produce a newspaper but it is sold at 8 or 10 taka, the rest is reimbursed from advertisements." This unfortunately also sometimes creates a conflict in content. "Historically in our country and throughout the Indian subcontinent, newspapers were first brought out by politicians and even those who used to work there had political affiliations," says Sakhawat Ali Khan, "very recently many newspapers are coming out with the idea of making profit, but good newspapers will always maintain a level of ethics, otherwise the readers will eventually reject them. If the newspaper wants to stay for a long time they will have to create an image for themselves and maintain ethics."
"The fact that newspapers are funded by advertisements is a phenomenon you will find throughout the world," says Khan. He also points out that newspapers sometimes give too much space to advertisements. Many readers also complain about the amount of space that is given to advertisements. On the other hand if there are too few advertisements, it is difficult to pay journalists' salaries, as newspapers don't function with a profit-making objective.
But Shawkat Mahmud points out that advertisers are slowly moving away from the newspapers. One of the reasons is that the business community is facing a big dilemma with many businesses under the microscope of the Anti Corruption Commission and electronic media taking away a lot of advertisements. "Also there are a lot of outstanding bills not paid yet by the advertisers to the newspapers. The Bangladesh Shangbadpatro Parishad (BSP) had a good centralisation scheme for collecting advertisements on behalf of the newspaper, which is not in place any more and its absence has increased the price of this collection even further."
In much of the industrialised world, advertisements are slowly shifting to the Internet which has largely replaced the role of radio and television as news breakers. Consumers are spending more time online and less reading newspapers or watching network television. Consumers also want more product information, purchase options and information tailored for them, which is only possible over the Internet.
One big inadequacy in reporting, in all forms of media, is that while the majority of the population live outside the capital city, most of the news that are highlighted in the media are based in the capital. "The media's attitude in a market economy is such that it tries to cater to the people who actually buy the newspapers," says Shawkat Mahmud, "the farmer does not read the newspaper, it is people who live in the cities who read the newspapers, so it has become a kind of policy to give news that only they are interested in."
"Even the big four -- AP, AFP, UPI and Reuters -- report their news from the capital," says Sakhawat Ali Khan. As a result the true reflection of the situation of the country is not projected to the readers. The recent rice crisis prompted many news organisations to start agriculture reporting, which has been absent from most mainstream media. There is of course a hindrance to this because communication to many areas of the country is very bad. The condition of the regional newspapers is also in serious need of an upheaval. "Many newspapers [at district level] only come out when they get advertisements," says Mahmud, "there are many daily newspapers that are only published once a week now." One of the successful regional newspapers is The Daily Korotoa from Bagura, and is also now being published from Dhaka.
<>B<>ut in Bangladesh there is a much bigger obstacle that all journalists, print and otherwise, face on a regular basis. According to Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), Asia and the Middle East have the worst press freedom records. According to the RSF, violence against the media continues to undermine press freedom in the country. Out of a total of 167 countries evaluated by RSF, Bangladesh came at the very bottom at 151. The occurrences of killing and persecution of journalists was at its height in the tenure of the immediate past BNP government. Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan in her recent visit to Bangladesh expressed grave concern over freedom of the media and protection of human rights defenders and social activists.
Organisations like the Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) have been lobbying for ratifying the Right To Information (RTI) Act, which is hoped, will increase the level of freedom for the press and enforce more transparency from the government institutions. The ultimate survival of any medium of communication will depend on its veracity and consistency -- reliable and in-depth news and analysis will lead to increased readership, which will lead to more advertisements and more profit for owners and heightened competition. And competition in any industry leads to better quality of the end product. And its not competition from the electronic media or the Internet that threatens its niche but limitations from within the print mediascape and economic trends more than anything else that threatens to topple its presence at the breakfast table.
The Tube Today
There was a time when television in Bangladesh only meant broadcasting regular weekly dramas and magazine programmes for entertainment. In fact, for a long time the television was mainly limited to entertainment -- weekly dramas, presentation of Tagore, Nazrul and modern compositions by famous musicians back then, a handful of dance shows and of course, the daily English and Bangla news. After the first broadcast in the year 1964, there was a very thin line between the Bangladesh Television and Bangladesh Betaar, in terms of programme structure and the contents. In the later years, however, BTV would broadcast weekly children's programmes and foreign action based serials as well.
However, the electronic media took a huge leap as soon as the private channels in Bangladesh began to emerge. Thanks to the satellite channels in the 90's, a lot of youngsters and budding media buffs would spend their time simply surfing these channels and learning -- direction, camera works, visual editing, story ideas, props to be used, presentation, channel interface and so on. Today, we have at least 10 private channels, a few more in the pipeline, which have successfully captured the television audience, who would otherwise be hooked on to the foreign glamour of the satellite channels.
Today a channel has its own marketing team, team of producers, news editors, reporters, scriptwriters, young sound engineers, anchors, IT personnels and so on. Technology has developed a great deal, making these channels as well as the people involved become known internationally. Channels such as ATN Bangla, Channel i, nTV, ETV, Bangla Vision, BTV World and some of the other channels can be seen even as far as the US and the Middle East, helping Bangladeshi expatriates be more in touch with their home country.
Ekushey Television sets the platform for news presentation and international standard broadcasting.
A significant change has come about in the technology involved in producing television drama. Today, along with the casting and the story line, a director also spends a lot of time thinking about a shooting spot, a makeshift set, the video and audio quality, dubbing, sound recording and so on. Even though many claim that the dramas shown today have a little bit of the superficiality in them, in terms of the language spoken and characterisation, there are some TV dramas that are creating loyal fans.
Comedy, for instance, has become a prominent genre of drama. A popular weekly drama serial like 'Baesto Dactar', or A Busy Doctor, telecast on Bangla Vision is one such weekly drama, which both the young generation and the elderly people never fail to miss. Eminent actor, Salauddin Lablu, portrays the life of a busy doctor in a village, where he is given a lot of respect by the villagers because of his education and profession. Trying his best to be ever helpful, the doctor somehow ends up mixing up his test results between his patients. Once, he had even managed to mix up results between a patient of his and an ailing cow nearby. The expressions and reactions of the villagers to this doctor's tactics are humorous. The tinge of colloquialism in the language spoken, gestures and even the costumes makes everything a lot more hilarious.
Sarwar Farooki is a well-known name in the TV drama-serial network. One of his signatures is the way he portrays an upper middle class family in Dhaka City -- taking a break from the drawing-room-Bangla culture and promoting the colloquial spoken Bangla. Attracting a large number of viewers with his famous serials 'Ekanno Botti' and '69', Farooki practically began a movement, in the media, where he successfully promoted the almost no-make-up look and using a lot of natural light. To make things all the more exciting, some of his usual shooting spots are rooftops of houses amongst others.
Romance, of course, is still a popular theme for TV dramas, which have high ratings with young people. Directors and scriptwriters are trying to make them more realistic with more colloquial dialogues (a point of contention for many) and more emphasis on the overall 'look' of the sets and actors. Kaushik Shankar Das, a director and producer has made several dramas that have caught the attention of young people because of their glamorous casting, dialogue and shooting spots.
Ad-films, even though a comparatively new term in the media, have re-defined the art of film making as well. Two of the biggest names in the country today are Amitabh Reza and Gazi Shubhro (Red Dot). Between the two of them, some of the most expensive and popular ads, mostly belonging to the telecom companies in Bangladesh, have been made. Where Amitabh tends to personalise with the characters and give them the 'extra something' to touch the millions of watching hearts, Shubhro spends a lot of time designing his shooting spots.
Live programmes are also gaining momentum on private channels. Starting from talk shows on world politics, current affairs, and economical conditions of the country to a celebrity's favourite pastime, live shows are now the 'in thing'. "I try not to miss the live interviews on television," says Tarannum Hamida, a 31-year-old schoolteacher. "It gives the interview a special flavour all together." To make live broadcasts more attractive, producers have now gone the extra mile to include the audience and the viewers in the conversations held at the studio as well. Many shows have fans call in as they watch the show and interact with their favourite artist. Some have begun videoconferences as well.
A very popular live talk show is the Ekusher Shomoy (etv), hosted by the famous Samia Zaman. With three journalists from different media houses each week and two personalities mainly from the political arena of the country, the show gained a lot of interest amongst the television viewers until it abruptly closed down, perhaps for being a bit too real.
Yet another live show that has begun recently is the 'Phone O' Live' on etv, which features a popular band from 12 am to 2 am every weekend. The viewers interact with the band through live phone calls and text messages.
Even though the number of live shows has increased over the past few years, not much has been done to ensure security to the interviewees speaking to the viewers who call in to ask questions. Very recently, a viewer called in 'Tarokalap', a popular live celebrity interview programme on rtv, and gave his lewd remarks to an eminent musician being interviewed on the show. Being a live show, there was obviously no way to avoid such a mishap. "There is something called the delay machine which none of the stations here have in Bangladesh," says Tanif Mahmud, the producer of 'Tarokalap'. The delay machine, which is used in other parts of the world, creates a time gap of at least 10-30 seconds between the viewer watching the live show on television and the actual show being shot live in the studio. "Using this technology will definitely avoid such untoward incidents that happen to tarnish the reputation of a television channel and also the artist in question. We are planning to bring it here to rtv very soon." Working as a producer for over three years with rtv, Tanif is successfully producing the popular 'Cinemar Gaan' and yet another live show called 'Hello Love' on rtv, besides 'Tarokalap'. Featuring Probal, 'Hello Love' is a show where viewers call in with the various love problems that they have.
Yet another live show, which has gained a lot of popularity, is 'Aste Aste Aste', aired every Thursday and Saturday on Channel i, which features several actors and musicians together on one stage, acting out scripts. Even though a television show, this concept has filled a tiny portion of the gap between a television drama and a drama on stage played out by theatre actors.
There are at least 10 television channels today, which have successfully captured the television audience who would otherwise be hooked on to foreign glamour of satellite channels.
Perhaps the greatest and the most welcoming change in the television that the channels have brought is the news, both in terms of content and presentation.
Taking the cue from Ekushey Television in the hey days, other private channels have developed news keeping in mind international standards of broadcasting. Anchors and news reporters have become household names, sometimes more than entertainment celebrities. Redefining news anchoring in Bangladesh, the newscasters today do not only try to maintain an appreciative appearance, but are also trained in reporting, news analysis, prompt question and answer sessions on videoconferences with outdoor broadcasting reporters and much more. Mishu Rahman, a popular face in the news arena has been with Channel i for 10 years. Now a senior news anchor, she remembers when she was just starting out with the team. "Back then the team used to make dummy news episodes," she says. "Our reporters would report on an event, current affairs and the likes and we would run dummy bulletins of them. Now, of course, since the news broadcasting on television in Bangladesh is a separate section in itself, this sector has developed a lot in the last few years."
Today, newscasters, the channel interfaces, even the news theme music portray the serious work done behind the cameras and a down-to-earth appearance and speech. "The anchors who come in today, however, regularly watch news on Channel i, ATN Bagla, nTV and other channels and somehow they are aware of what is wanted," says Mishu. "Once the junior anchors are selected, they go through a series of training, screen tests and they go through on-the-job training as well. Instead of prime time news, these anchors are made to read live news during the off peak hours. During political turmoil, however, senior and experienced news anchors are always preferred."
A scene from 'Baesto Daktor' on Bangla Vision
For the last several years, plenty of women have made a niche for themselves in the field of electronic media. Shaila Simi is a popular name in the electronic media because of her spontaneity as an anchor in 'Tarokalap', a regular weekly live interview programme on rtv. Former Miss Ruposhi Bangladesh 1998, she is also extremely popular within the media circle because of her producing and script writing capabilities. Amongst many of her behind the scene activities, Simi has been the scriptwriter, game planner and game director of the popular game show called 'Chance 50-50' on Channel i. "We have a female camera person in rtv," says Simi. "I believe there are two female camerapersons working in Bangladesh Television as well. Other than them, I have not heard of any woman working as a cameraperson in the stations here in Bangladesh. One of our makeup artists is a woman. We also have a few women working in the IT department." However, Simi says that the male to female ratio is still not even close to an equal. Even though, there are a large number of women working on screen, not even a handful are working in the male dominated field of 'behind the cameras'.
Talk Shows of various types have also gained huge popularity amongst the television viewers. Starting from talk shows on politics, current affairs to arts and entertainment, medical advice and educational and career counselling, many channels have also begun a concept of talk shows analysing newsworthy events occurring daily. An added bonus to those who do not miss the news on every channel possible, many of these live talk shows also predict the outcome of many political or business ventures, with help from well-known journalists on the panel.
Interviewing Azad Abul Kalam on 'nTV Samoyiki'
Not only are talk shows limited to events pertaining to only politics and business, but some are extremely popular amongst the audience because of the social messages that they carry and the many elements of culture that they portray. One such talk show is the 'nTV Samoyiki', a weekly talk show hosted by Professor Dr. Azfar Hussain. Produced by Alfred Khokon, this show has gained a lot of popularity because of the wide range of subjects that the team works on. Every week, Dr. Hussain gets together with eminent personalities -- writers, filmmakers, social activists, academicians, professors, musicians, doctors, businesspeople, journalists, editors of newspapers etc. -- and talks to them about their thoughts and the work that they do. Especially popular amongst the Bangladeshis living abroad, Hussain's style of casual discussions with his guests on nTV Samoyiki', lets the audience have a peek into the lives of some of the greatest thinkers and creative minds in the country.
The media business in Bangladesh today involves huge amount of investments by big names in business and sometimes in politics. The government's anti-corruption drive led to the arrests of many of the owners of television channels which have been struggling to keep afloat after such a crisis. So far they have survived and continue to hold their viewers with fresh ideas and programmes. But there are still a lot of hiccups that sometimes limit the abilities that can be brought out by creative minds. Even though art forms have finally taken a proper shape, artistes and creative minds are still being financially exploited. One of the biggest problems of these investors is their lack of knowledge concerning the art and media. Most of the time, they keep looking for a measuring scale, which can help them judge creativity being produced before them. We now crave for the conventional singing competitions that used to take place in front of highly competent judges, where all the participants would get a taste of passion and sheer hard work. Now, these competitions cannot be held without a cell phone in your pocket and enough money to send text messages with. With greater interaction and viewer participation, the television has actually become one of the most interesting and exciting concepts in Bangladesh.
Call on the Request Line…
Srabonti Narmeen Ali
In the office of Radio Foorti the last chords of a hit song by a popular band wail into the speaker. A disembodied Radio Jockey's (RJ) voice pierces the air as she identifies the band and reads out an sms sent to her by one of her many listeners. As she announces the end of the show one of the now familiar tunes of Radio Foorti signals the segue into a commercial break. After about four to five different ad jingles another RJ comes on air and gives his audience a much-needed traffic update.
RJ Simin Saifuddin of Radio Foorti
In the span of just fifteen minutes this radio station, along with its counterparts, Radio Aamar and Radio Today, manages to disseminate various different types of information and entertainment every day -- a feat which is deceptive in its apparent effortlessness. Those who are listening have no idea what kind of planning and organising take place behind the scenes -- or in this case, behind the microphone.
This form of 'infotainment,' according to Rafiqul Haque, Managing Director of Radio Today, is "both interactive and informative, providing our audiences with various different degrees of entertainment."
Haque is proud to be a part of the pioneer FM radio station in Bangladesh. "Establishing an FM radio station has always been my dream," he says. "I started from scratch by getting a license, which was difficult because before Today came along there were no policies pertaining to radio, but now we can see that the radio has become an acceptable form of media in Bangladesh."
Radio Today, which launched its first commercial broadcast on October 15, 2006, now has stations in both Chittagong as well as Dhaka, transmitting outside the Chittagong area at a radius of 20 km and outside the Dhaka area at a radius of 100 km. It targets listeners between the ages of 20 and 50, as it has many different segments aside from music such as news, traffic updates, market news and also, palm reading. The primary element of entertainment, however, is definitely music. Haque prides himself on being a part of an industry that has "brought Bangla music into the front line. Before the radio, it was a lost industry, but radio has made it popular again."
He stresses this point even more by claiming that the radio station does not play English and Hindi songs -- something that many radio stations get criticism for -- unless it is during their world music shows (on Fridays and Saturdays).
RJ Opu hosts one of Radio Foorti's most popular shows, 'Hello Dhaka,' between 8am and 11am five days a week
"Even if we get requests for foreign songs and they are not during those particular shows we do not play them," says Haque. "We even have a slogan, ki jadoo Bangla gaan e."
While other radio stations such as Radio Foorti agree that it is important to primarily promote Bangla music, they are a little more lax about the rules and regulations. Sayyied Kabir, CEO of Radio Foorti says that for every ten Bangla songs the station plays one Hindi or English song. There is also an English programme called 'Rewind' on Thursday nights. Although the station avoids playing too many foreign songs they have to balance it out.
"The reason for this is sheer programming need," says Kabir. "Unfortunately the industry doesn't churn out quality Bangla music throughout the year. Most album releases are clustered around the two Eids and Pahela Baishakh and so we are left with a lack of new songs for the rest of the year. Although we have great Bangla music from the 70s and 80s which we would love to play, in many cases the sound quality and the recording quality is pretty bad and so we are very limited in that sense. Rather than repeat songs over and over again, we try to mix it up a bit."
Radio Foorti launched its first commercial broadcast on January 1, 2007 and now has stations in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. Theoretically the station should reach about a million households in Dhaka and less than half a million in both Chittagong and Sylhet.
Radio is convenient for Dhaka's citizens because it is mobile and free
Like Radio Today, Foorti is an interactive station in which listeners can sms responses, converse with RJ's, request dedications and also sometimes even choose topics of discussion. According to Kabir, Foorti gets anywhere between 6,000-10,000 sms' per day and it is often difficult for RJ's to keep track, thus leading to the primary complaint of listeners -- that the station is not reading out their sms'. In addition, because the sms culture is restricted to a certain age group (most of the people who sms frequently are between the ages of 18-35, which is the radio's primary target group), Kabir says that it is also important to keep in mind that they may have many listeners who are not sending their feedback through sms' or phone calls.
"There are a fair number of listeners on either side of our target age range," he says. "So we try to take that under consideration."
Although FM radio stations get mostly positive feedback from their listeners, perhaps the industry that has been the most sceptical about the radio is the music industry itself.
"One of the fears that the music industry had was that if the songs were already available for listening on the radio, no one would buy the albums," says Kabir, "but I think that it has helped more than harmed. People hear the songs and eventually I think the radio just prompts people to go out and buy the albums. Also the music industry has to realise that this is one of the only ways that the artist is getting real publicity as there is no structured retail industry."
Another issue of debate is the question of royalty. This becomes difficult for radio stations because, as there is no centralised authority or a collection agency for lyricists and musicians and there is no mediator who deals with the radio. In most cases the musicians deal with such issues on their own. As a result there is often confusion on the matter of who will get the royalty -- the label or the artist?
"Our position is clear, we want this to be a fair and winning system for all the people involved," says Kabir. "We want this situation to be beneficial for all parties. It is important for everyone involved to know the size of the pie before wanting a piece of it."
Rajib Sarkar, Producer of Radio Aamar, has a similar point of view. "Since there are no documents and no laws to protect artists and labels alike, it is safer not to go into airtime royalty as yet. There have to be copyright and royalty laws protecting these people before we go ahead and discuss any exchange of money."
Radio Aamar, the newest FM station, launched its first commercial broadcast on December 11, 2007 and is planning on opening a station in Chittagong in the future. Although they do not have any proof of statistics on paper, Sarkar says that they get a lot of support via word of mouth and sms'.
"We have something for everyone," says Sarkar. "We like to say that in the span of fifteen minutes, every person in a household -- be it a corporate man, a housewife, a college student or a domestic worker-- will get to hear their type of music."
Like both the other FM radio stations, Aamar avoids playing Hindi music unless it is during their international programmes. Per day on average they play between three and four Hindi songs, if at all.
The birth of FM radio in Bangladesh has greatly affected the Bangla music industry. Photo Credit: Adnan Karim
But Radio Aamar's strength lies in its interactive programmes such as 'Amar Bhalobasha,' a programme where listeners talk live about their love lives. The station is also popular for its unique drama serials, many of which are written by Sarkar. In addition there are cooking shows, news and even a programme for underground bands.
"We are trying to highlight people's needs," says Sarkar. "Interactive programmes are good for us because we also get feedback. People want us to be interactive with them. It is important to give our listeners a voice, give them a chance to speak."
Sarkar also believes that since FM radio came out after TV, more and more of the public will turn towards the radio rather than TV. Whereas in the west the popularity of radio culture went down after the introduction of television, Sarkar believes that it will have the opposite effect in Bangladesh.
"The radio is a free source of entertainment which is also mobile," says Sarkar. "You can take it with you wherever you go."
Sayyied Kabir also feels that because FM radio is a more convenient form of entertainment (mobile phones making it easy to listen at anytime and anywhere) its popularity is not in danger. "It's probably a blessing in disguise that FM radio came after TV because the novelty of satellite TV wore off and people knew what to expect," says Kabir. "And even in the west although the popularity of radio has decreased it is still there, which tells us that at the end of the day it's all about content."
Rafiqul Haque, on the other hand, believes that it doesn't have to be one or the other. "There are four different types of media: TV, radio, print and the internet. Each of these forms of media have different characteristics. I don't think it is fair to compare one or the other because I think all these types of media contribute to and complement each other."
Regardless of whether TV is more or less popular, it is a fact that the birth of FM radio in Bangladesh has created a significant impact on the face of media in Bangladesh. It has introduced a brand new face of pop culture, while at the same time educating and informing people. It has brought the Bangla music industry into the homes of the people and generated in its listeners an awareness of what is happening around them and how to move ahead in this media savvy world, while remaining true to who they are.
An Industry in Decay
The Bangladeshi film industry is in a shambles, with no improvement in technology over the years and the quality of cinema in general declining. So much so, that it has been referred to as a medium of popular culture in crisis.
Kajalie Shehreen Islam
A man in a microbus dressed as a new bride jumps out, strips off his shimmering red sari and, identifying himself as a cop, proceeds to brutally assault a bunch of goons accompanied by extreme profanity. A woman wanting to avenge her college principal sells off his daughter to a brothel. Or a man who was an illegitimate child deals with the
Nayanmoni (1977). Most films of the 70s were social films for family viewing
anguish of his birth by hating all women and vowing to make them mothers of "bastards" too. Such are the storylines of Fire, Naushta Meye, Bagher Bachcha and countless other Bangla films today.
If there is one media industry that has been around for decades but has seen no improvement and in fact only deteriorated with time, it is the film industry. From social films and Razzak-Kabori romances in the 1970s to increasingly violent and vulgar films in the 1990s up until now, Bangla cinema has seen little in terms of positive change.
Whereas at one time people from all classes of society used to go to the movies, now only those with no other entertainment options do. Those able to watch films in the comfort of their home on television or pirated DVDs, prefer it to watching them in the dingy cinema halls. This, coupled with the decline in the quality of locally produced films in terms of both content and presentation. Only those with no choice -- a captive audience -- go to movie theatres today.
According to actress-turned-director Kabori Sarwar, the films of the 1960s and 1970s were influenced by the films of Kolkata because of the cultural similarities between the two Bengals. “The music was similar,” says Sarwar. “The pace of films was slower in those times, there was some melodrama but it followed an acting continuity. All these drew a large audience and could even have found an international market if the films had been exported.”
The films of the 1980s and 1990s had more violence, perhaps reflecting the political instability of the times, says Sarwar. And with the advent of satellite television and exposure to foreign channels and culture, Bangla cinema too became more “open” and explicit. “Directors and artistes with no background in the field joined it and began to think of film more as a business than an art, but these films could not create a new audience. Today, the situation is disastrous.”
The film industry lacks professionalism, believes Sarwar. “We are behind in technology. The labs, the sound equipment, everything is of low quality. The whole industry is crying for reform."
"We need a film institute to train people. Until one is established, we can send some select students for training to India every year.”
“The Film Development Corporation (FDC) needs revamping,” she continues. “It is all right to have bureaucrats in charge, but they should have some background in the field in order to understand what is needed for its development. And the government must monitor the activities.”
Bangla cinema today, where violence and explicit sexual content abounds
According to Kabori, who made her first film, Aaina, in 2006, mainstream filmmakers are not given grants by the government. “It is always the alternative filmmakers who receive grants. If a mainstream filmmaker has made good films, he or she should be given grants for future projects. We all want to watch better films, but where is the backing for it?” questions Kabori. Not only the government, but private entrepreneurs and businesspeople who claim to miss the films of the yesteryears can also come forward to produce good films, she says.
“A country lives on its history,” says Kabori Sarwar, “but we are losing ours. Several cinema halls were demolished to make multiplex shopping centres in their place and the government said nothing. Even Gulistan cinema hall was broken down. Even if multiplexes were to be built, they could have had a mini theatre in them.”
“When we used to act, technology was not as advanced, but people used to like our films, even the masses used to enjoy them -- today's films should be even better,” she says. “Today's filmmakers use the taste of the masses as an excuse, but they only watch these movies because they have no choice. And if this has become their taste you can change it, you just have to invest in it. No one is willing to take that risk, to make a good movie that may not bring huge profits. With a greater understanding of the medium and the backing to go with it, better films can be made.”
The pay used to be much less in the old days, recalls Sarwar, but the work was much more fulfilling. The actress of Sutorang and Sareng Bou fame thinks that films are a part of the social fabric, a part of life. She believes that with positive social change, more political and economic stability, film too will improve. “Most importantly,” she says, “the film industry must be given recognition as an industry, given the funding and facilities for development. Only then can better cinema be made.”
The theme and storyline of Bangla cinema has taken several shifts since the 1970s. Fahmidul Haq, an assistant professor at the department of Mass Communication and Journalism at Dhaka University, says this shift ranges from social storytelling to high tone violence.
Poor equipment, labs, studios -- lack of modern
technology makes it difficult to make quality films
“The major genre of films made in the 1970s,” says Haq, “was social, particularly rural social life such as Lathial and Sujon Sokhi (1975) and Sareng Bou (1979). In the 1980s, the major genres were costume-fantasy, for example, Nagin (1980), Banjaran (1983) and Beder Meye Josna (1989) and action (Jony, 1983; Nasib, 1984). In the 1990s we saw two more genres: teen romance (Chandni, 1991; Keyamat Theke Keyamat, 1993) and violence (Danga, 1992; Ammajan, 1999). The present decade,” says Haq, “is wholly dominated by violent films with pornographic insertion (out of text hard core 'cut pieces' and within text soft pornography).”
The song and dance routine, according to Haq, who has co-authored the recently published book Bangladesher Chalochchitro Shilpo: Sangkote Janosangskriti (The Film Industry in Bangladesh: Popular Culture in Crisis) along with Dr. Gitiara Nasreen, has not changed over the years but the nature of visualisation has. “Once, songs in Bangla films were used as a romantic expression of the protagonists and became very popular among the audience. But in recent times, they have been used as spectacles of sexually explicit materials with appealing dance.” After the drive of the special task force led by RAB in late 2007, however, Haq says that the making of so-called vulgar films (which are actually violent films with vulgar songs) has stopped. With people expressing their satisfaction about the retrieved cine environment, some directors have taken up making social films again which are drawing an audience.
Fahmidul Haq, Assistant Professor of Mass Communication and Journalism at Dhaka University
Technology and cinematic techniques in Bangla cinema have also deteriorated. With the decline of the industry since the 1980s, the FDC studios and cinema halls have not been renovated or updated with the latest technologies, rather, their condition has worsened. “Very recently, a digital lab has been incorporated in the FDC and a few theatres in the capital have introduced DTS technology,” says Haq, “but we are yet to see the effects of new technology established in FDC.”
According to Haq, there have been no auteurs in recent years as there were in the1960s and 1970s such as Zahir Raihan, Alamgir Kabir, Salauddin, Subhash Dutt and Amjad Hossain, and so more decline in terms of cinematic technique and representation.
The stream of independent or alternative films, however, has improved over the years and achieved international recognition. “But these films are not viewed by the broader audience of the country,” says Haq. “The target audience of these films are international film festivals and the advanced and literate audiences of Dhaka. Some of the films produced by TV channels are enchained in TV premieres.” The shutting down of prominent theatres indicates the decline of the cine business, says Haq.
Just the phrase “Bangla cinema” evokes images of brutal violence and vulgarity, but how big a problem are they really? According to Fahmidul Haq, neither violence nor vulgarity are problems if films are well-made and refers to many critically acclaimed Hollywood and Bollywood films with violent and sexual content. In Bangladesh, however, the problem is that such films have no grading or ratings.
“During our research, we found that 22.36% of the audience were adolescents with no entertainment options other than going to the movies. This is where the problem lies,” Haq points out. Other than that, he believes that the worries of middle class civil society around only the vulgarity of Bangla cinema is more an expression of religion-driven morality and “sympathy from a better class” towards the lower class “rickshawala” audience. The main problem, he thinks, lies elsewhere, in the total decline of cinema in terms of storyline, cinematic technique and lack of originality.
Most mainstream filmmakers today give the audience as an excuse for their work, claiming to be giving viewers what they want. This is a largely false claim, however, seeing as that the audience, especially those living in peripheral towns who do not even have access to television, have little choice and so go for whatever is offered, becoming a sort of captive audience of such films. While working on their book, Dr. Gitiara Nasreen and Fahmidul Haq conducted an audience survey in which they found that a large part of the audience (37%) wanted to watch social films or films that could be enjoyed with the family. Some of them (24%) wanted films with good stories. Though women comprised a large part of the audience of Bangla cinema in the past, today, they hardly ever go to theatres due to the content of the films themselves as well as the environment of the cinema halls.
The cost of making a film ranges from 50 and 80 lakh takas, depending on the scale and grandeur of the song-and-dance routines. Though the exact profit margins for these films are unknown, according to the FDC website, the organisation paid Tk. 6 lakh 38 thousand in revenues to the government in 2004-2005.
Actress and film director, Kabori Sarwar
As with everything, the government has a major role to play in the development of the film industry in Bangladesh and this includes infra-structural development. “The government never had a plan to nurture the popular media,” claims Fahmidul Haq. “Its role should not be only to collect taxes or even just prevent vulgarity. It has to have a plan and policy to improve the overall situation of the sector.” A film can overcome language barriers and play a vital role in society through entertainment and teaching, says Haq. “The government must consider cinema an important aspect of popular culture and medium of entertainment.”
Watching films on a big screen should be a completely different experience from watching them at home, believes Haq, who is currently doing his doctorate abroad in Cinema Studies. He suggests a number of ways in which this can be done -- by establishing cineplexes in major towns and introducing the latest cine technologies, by supporting filmmakers through regular grants, producing human resources through the establishment of a film institute, film centres and a film archive.
Before, a good story was enough for the success of a film, but now, with so many entertainment options, the audience want more. "You have to project a colourful movie in a cool theatre with good décor, widescreen and Dolby digital facilities," says Haq. "You have to provide the audience with visual pleasure, recreating the aura of film watching, making the audience think it's different, larger than life. You have to alter TV viewers to movie goers, and that is a big challenge.”
Haq also believes that in this day and age, with the rising popularity and availability of media content on the internet, censorship is a dying concept and should be liberalised. “The government has to respect the freedom of expression of the creator. Censorship means controlling creativity. Since the 1960s, countries have been liberalising censorship. The questions of sex, violence, religion or morality can be easily met by a grading system.” Many countries have boards but to certify or register films, not to censor them, and are even known as film certification boards, says Haq.
“In our country, the Film Censor Board never worked as it should have,” says Haq. “It was used to pass bad ones and act as an obstacle for good films. The corruption of some boards was an open secret. The Censor Board was a total failure in controlling so-called vulgarity, which is considered to be the board's prime duty.”
An improvement in the quality of films accompanied by the latest technology and a good environment in theatres can bring people back to cinema halls. “You have to make filmmaking difficult (in a positive sense) for directors and producers which requires extensive preparation,” says Fahmidul Haq. Instead of making several low-budget films, make fewer but better films with the same budget, export them. “There is a Bangladeshi audience in many parts of the world, you just have to explore the world market and provide quality films for them.”
Though exporting our films may seem like a far off dream at this point, providing quality entertainment to those at home with no other means of entertainment is a duty of the industry and the government. A re-haul of the industry through greater professionalism, the latest technologies and adequate funding and government support to make it possible, could mean better and healthier entertainment for all. The audience can also play an important role by going to theatres to watch good films, encouraging and inspiring their makers. Treating the medium as one of art and not simply a profit-making enterprise could actually mean more profits in the long run when more and more people begin to enjoy Bangla cinema again and go back to theatres to watch them.
Bangladesh does not have a rich history in the world of advertising. The brutal truth is that for the longest time our advertising industry was mired in mediocrity. It was dominated by substandard ads with little or no vision, they neither spoke of the product nor could they convince consumers to purchase the merchandise either. The real problem was that no matter how average the ads were in those days people had no other option but to buy the products being advertised. That gave both the producers and the advertising industry a false sense of security that their campaigns were successful. It was on the back of such faulty information that the industry as a whole took it easy and generally accepted their level of unevenness. Before anyone gets offended this is not to say all the ads of yesteryears were campy and average. There have been more than a few successful and influential campaigns, but in comparison to the number of ads produced during the same time, genuine quality was a rarity.
But all of that is what defined the advertising industry of yore. Currently one could argue that advertising in Bangladesh is vibrant, smart and well packaged. The shabbiness of the 70s, 80s and early 90s has been replaced with a new generation of ads which do more than just sell products, they sell a way of life and as anyone will know when selling a way of life it is substance that sells not fluff. This aspect is at the very heart of the rebirth of the industry. These days' ads also cost a pretty packet with companies paying up to Tk 80 lakh for a single TV commercial. As well as costing the sky ads must also pack a punch and have to relentlessly outdo each other if they are to hold the public's interest. This constant one-upmanship is partly what has led to the renaissance, but there are also a myriad of other factors. Faiyaz Ahmed, Director of Consumer Insight, Unitrend Ltd, says, “The main change took place in the 90's with the emergence of multinational companies, (MNCs) along with cable penetration they made the people think of advertising as not merely a mode of entertainment. Since then it has evolved into a role of communication where the job is to contact people and turn them into consumers of ones brand and services.”
But before one understands the current state of advertising in Bangladesh it would be best to take a look into the past. Muneer Ahmed Khan, Chairman and Creative Chief of Unitrend Ltd recounts the first few decades of advertising in Bangladesh. He says, “the first phase of advertising in Bangladesh was roughly between '71 and 80 and those were the dark ages. There was no such thing as brand management, no research companies and advertising was very much in its infancy. Those were the days where the consumer had few options to choose from and the reach of the media was far less than it is now. Over and above all of this the market was a monopoly.” It was during what he calls the second phase ('81 to '90) that things actually started moving in the right direction. Khan says, “that was a time of transition, customers started getting more information and the market slowly shifted from a monopoly to an oligopoly.” The third phase is generally accepted as '91 onwards and there is where the greatest changes took place. The introduction of desktop publishing and the advent of strategic planning together with other factors such as an increase in the number of newspaper and magazine readers all had a great role to play in the modernisation of the Bangladeshi ad industry. Khan also goes on to say that roughly 70% of the changes that have occurred in the ad scene in Bangladesh have been in the last 10 to 15 years.
Interestingly the industry grew not only in size and stature but the creativity and end product also reached new heights. Ferdous Hasan Neville, Associate Executive Director of Asiatic weighs in on this issue, “there is no doubt that there is great deal of creativity in the advertising world of Bangladesh, but if one was to really analyse the situation then I think an honest answer would be that there is still room for a lot more.” As the industry slowly yet steadily moves forward in Bangladesh there are still more than a few road blocks along the way. Often companies send regional creative directives, which basically order firms to edit and translate tag lines. This is where even if people want to be creative they are held back by higher powers. In Bangladesh and around the world, global and regional alignment policies often stunt creativity and that leaves the fledgling industry here with little to do and no genuine creative output even though they may be in business and earning good money.
Muneer Ahmed Khan
But it is not all doom and gloom as the improvements in the industry are quite easy to see, Sharjeel Karim, the Chief Creative Officer of Interspeed explains, “advertising in Bangladesh has improved leaps and bounds. From the creative concepts to the final output there is no doubt what is being produced now is a thousand times better than what was being done before. But interestingly the standard of work has improved not simply because the people have got smarter or that we now have more gadgets to work with. The standard improved on the back of fierce competition between agencies.” This intense competition seems fine and even productive for the advertising industry, but some of the by products have been difficult to deal with as Neville explains, “with increased competition between agencies the first thing that went down were the prices. Essentially there was a price war where the only winner was the producer who wound up playing less for his advertising.” This is when the industry could not fall back on its laurels, with prices going down there was now even less room for other possibly essential elements that make up and advertising team.
The first and foremost example that comes to mind is that of research. Neville says, “ideally each and every communication should be based on research but very often clients view research as something of an extra unnecessary expense. Also we are not a knowledge based country or industry if that was the case than things would have been different.” On this topic Faiyaz Ahmed adds, “Due to increase in competition and holding back ones share erosion and going for new recruitments, research has become very important in our (Bangladesh's) market, you see the consumers in our market are more emotional than the rational ones in developed markets like the US, Japan, Canada or Europe. There consumers know what they are buying. But in Bangladesh the people are very emotional therefore understanding their needs and core desires is the challenge for marketers, this is where the role of research comes in. In trying to figure out peoples' wants psychographic and ethnographic research is becoming increasingly important.” But even within the industry not everyone sees eye to eye on this topic, Sharjeel says, “While I will admit the quality of research if woeful, what little research being done now is only marginally adding to our quality. But it would be silly to solely rely on research to think one can come out with a great campaign.”
This topic points in a few directions; while giant strides have been made in the advertising industry there is still some way to go before clients fully grasp issues such as research. By simply accepting that there is a problem it is not being solved but when the client is not willing to spend money on research either it seems like the ad people are stuck between a rock and hard place. They may have the best production values in the world, but if the ad misses its mark and the people it's aimed at, then how good is the communication?
There are other problems to deal with as well. With an increase in the number of private T.V channels and literally dozens of newspaper and magazines to choose from advertising is quite literally everywhere. One cannot read an article or see a programme in peace without being bombarded with ads, and while this behaviour maybe accepted now, it may not always be the case. With a relative consumer boom in the last ten years, an exponential increase in advertising was always expected but now it may have reached saturation point. “Although not many people would like to admit this advertising is everywhere is has become some what omnipresent," says Adnan Karim, Managing Director of Interspeed. He adds, "All avenues of the media are thoroughly saturated. The best example I can give is that of ads during the news, I feel too many ads are fit into the nightly news and I have even gone so far as to suggest that they increase the rates (price) of the ads but cut down on the number.” Seemingly genuine suggestions such as that are met with a wall of silence and inevitably when all the advertising becomes too
Ferdous Hasan Neville
much it will be the firms that take the brunt of the public's disapproval.
It is clear that the industry is moving forward, but there is still a lot left to be done if it is to compete globally. But aside from that what has happened in the last decade is that advertising has become a profession which people may wish to join. Before people were hesitant to join an ad firm, they thought that tried and tested banks and multi nationals were the only jobs to look forward to, but that has changed. As Neville says, “advertising is now a destination of choice for creative young people, and it has been consistently pulling in new graduates. The youth and the vibrancy in the industry can be seen in the ads that come out of it.” Yet again not everything is perfect for the industry as each year many people are sought out and head hunted for other industries. A remarkable
number of people are pulled away from the advertising industry as their talents are harvested in every sort of firm from banks to telecoms to MNCs. This remains a concern as on a whole the advertising industry is understaffed. Muneer Ahmed Khan says, “the industry has the capacity to take in at least 70 or 80 brilliantly talented people.” A fact which Sharjeel agrees with, “I would not go so far as to say the industry is understaffed, but there is a dearth of genuinely creative people. Young graduates with fresh minds are giving it a try, but are eventually pulled away to other industries and that remains a real problem.”
The advertising industry is flourishing in Bangladesh, it is full of new and talented people producing thought provoking and innovative campaigns yet just below the surface there are still a few problems that need to be sorted out. Research must be looked into and it has become extremely important for the industry to hold on to its brightest stars. Over and above everything advertising must not lose its soul. It has reached the stage when the word that best describes it is 'ubiquitous' and that is something that must be dealt with before a public backlash. The industry could learn something from the British guerrilla artist Banksy, famous for his political and anti-capitalist stencils. On his website he uploaded a video of himself outside a tube station in front of a blank advertising space. He whipped out a can of blue spray paint in and in his own distinctive handwriting wrote, “the joy of not being sold anything”. It was social commentary of the highest order, and many people would agree with him. If nothing else the ubiquitous advertising industry of Bangladesh should pay heed to his words, if the envelope is pushed too far then more people will take pleasure in the joy of not being sold anything.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008