Browsing "Talat Hussein"

Hopping over – from one channel to the other

During a journalism course that I was teaching to undergrad freshmen, they asked me which TV anchor I consider most respect worthy. I thought about it for a minute and named people like Iftikhar Ahmed & Hamid Mir of Geo. The students were probably intrigued and asked me why. My response was quite straightforward: for starters, they are proper journalists who have been practicing their craft throughout their professional careers and did not switch to television journalism from filmmaking, practicing medicine and selling used cars. Secondly, they have not jumped ship at any given opportunity and stayed with the same organization for most of their careers. It may not be as important in other professions but building a trust worthy brand is of utmost important for a TV anchor.

Why do TV anchors and presenters switch from one channel to another? Some say they do it because they want more editorial freedom, some say they move to bigger channels because they want their voice to get to more people but the sticking factor — though most would not admit to it — is a fatter paycheck.

There is one TV anchor who has probably broken all records by working in five different channels — Geo, ARY, Express, Dunya, Waqt TV and is now almost a done deal at a new one — in the last seven years (I wrote this piece way back in January, that guy is now with a brand new channel – the person who will guess the name will win a watercooler).behind-the-frontline-1360574117-5161

Generally, people who stick to a channel are respected more than those who hop from one channel to the other. Sticking to one channel also helps the anchor build a programme and a brand which is built upon both the anchor and the channel’s reputation. For instance, the audience knows that it is Hamid Mir who does Capital Talk but if you ask them about the programme that Dr. Shahid Masood is doing, they probably will not even know what channel he is on these days. There are other anchors, who have stayed with the same channel like Kashif Abbasi but he may not enjoy the same pull for other reasons.

A journalist associated with print media says she has stopped watching current affairs programmes because the anchors keep switching from one channel to the other and she finds it unnerving. She is not in a club of one; one of the regular complaints that people in the media industry have about these changes is that they are superficial and almost always about money. They never bring any noticeable change to the content of the programme; at times, they would even put up the same set and even the exact replica of their old programme. Such anchors enjoy the same respect among their audience as politicians switching loyalties before election time.

According to Munira Cheema, a media analyst based in London, politicians may change their political affiliations out of change in their ideologies or because of the clan pressure but anchors who lynch these politicians for switching sides do it for money alone.

Experts also say TV anchors should not even be called journalists because most did not cut it in their field. They were doctors, practicing advertising and were running businesses before the electronic media boom hit Pakistan and they seized that opportunity to build their personal clout. One even had the dubious honor of directing Meera in a Lollywood film. Now, they may have journalists working in their teams but most of us know that they are not journalists themselves and would probably move on to more lucrative opportunities. Nusrat Javeed who hosts Bolta Pakistan at Aaj news calls them showbiz personalities because calling them journalists would be factually incorrect.

There are anchors, who think that they are more important than their message and believe their viewers would remain loyal to them and simply switch with them to their new programme/channel. Perhaps, they could do with a reality check: most people who enjoyed success in one channel could not repeat it in other channels. Asma Shirazi’s programme enjoyed much higher ratings in Samaa but things have changed for her since she moved to Dawn News and her programme does not enjoy the same ratings as it did with Samaa although she did recently win an award for the best female anchor.

Talat Hussein was a name to be reckoned with when he was with Aaj News. Who can forget his back bending heroics in the newsroom when he tried to dodge the bullets — those who have seen AAJ Tv’s Karachi office would know that a bullet would have to ricochet around thirteen walls before it can reach the recording studio but I digress — and emerged a hero. He moved onto Dawn News and then to Express News but people still associate him with AAJ because of his award worthy performance on May 12, 2007 where he conducted a live transmission from underneath the desk.

Some even provide major comic relief with their constant hopping. Back in the day when I was working for Geo, a news reader who moved in from another channel asked his audience to continue watching AAJ News — his old channel — while he was reading news at Geo. He did not stay there for long and is now onto his fourth channel as a newscaster.

A former journalist and media enthusiast Zeenia Shaukat believes that the corporate set-up of our news organizations is hurting the news business. “Pakistan is following the global media regime where rather than presenting content to the audience; the media presents audience to advertisers. So it is natural for corporate media to make an effort to attract top presenters to make their content more competitive not for the audience but for the advertisers,” Zeenia Shaukat says.

Pakistan’s media channels function as corporates and ‘switching jobs’ of talent/human resource is a normal part of a corporate culture. What really needs to be debated is that if media should actually act like a corporate entity treating and promoting information as a “product” and if journalists should see their job as merely that of “producers of information”. This is important because information is a public good and not a product!

Seeing the work of the existing TV channels, it appears apart from their logos and graphic designing, there isn’t much difference amongst these channels in terms of the content being offered.

All current affairs shows, mostly led by well known anchors, follow the same line, present the same range of opinions, invite the same range of guests, and their take on issues is more or less similar.

Besides, there is heavy emphasis on presenting sound bytes and quotes that create a buzz so people are running after that instead of going after content that is informative and coherent.

As far as channel hopping is concerned, anchors do take the lead from politicians in the quest for plots and other financial gains; they are also changing loyalties like them and have it much better than the politicians as no-one calls them lota like the politicians. Let’s see for how long will it last.

Originally written for Monthly Pique. The image is also taken from the magazine.

Oct 25, 2010 - Talat Hussein    34 Comments

Under the suit and blow dried hair lives a misogynist caveman


Ever since I saw the op-ed piece by Syed Talat Hussein in an Urdu Daily about Angelina Jolie, I have this ‘I told you so’ smirk on my face. Unlike most Pakistanis, I was never fooled by Mr. Hussein’s façade of urbanity. Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances (you know who you are) were taken in by his persona but I always knew that underneath the suit and the blow dried hair lives a man as primitive as those who consider honor killing and stoning of women as part of our heritage.
For those who still don’t know what happened, Syed Talat Hussein wrote an op-ed piece in an Urdu Daily about Angelina Jolie where he first called her a dirty slut and then said, in no uncertain terms, that he does not find her attractive. His was a fairly detailed and vicious tirade with such great gems (naa jisam mein jawani kaa saroor tha) thrown in that one can safely assume that if Dawn fires him after this op-ed (I know, it is wishful thinking on my part) he can make it big as chauvinist and sexist Urdu soft porn writer.
I don’t want to go into detail about how dreadfully malicious, presumptuous, factually incorrect and appalling his article was as two esteemed bloggers Kalakawa and cpyala have done a great job of cutting him down to size for making up shit against Ms Jolie. However I want to focus on just one part of what he passed off as an op-ed piece. He wrote that if Articles 62 & 63 of Pakistani constitution are invoked against Ms. Jolie, she, or rather her ‘reputation’ would not be able to pass muster. I hate to break it to you Mr. Hussein, but Article 62 and 63 define the criteria for membership of Parliament in Pakistan. As Ms Jolie is not contesting for a seat in any of the legislative bodies, her character or lack of it does not really matter.
Mr. Hussein, on the other hand, is not only a citizen of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan but he is also part of the brigade of news anchors who secretly want to be televangelists declaring fatwas left, right and centre and telling us how good Muslims should live in the land of pure. Sadly, if the above mentioned articles are raised to judge him, his morality would be found wanting. For starters, everybody who has been associated with journalism knows about his ‘alleged’ toy boy past and how he ‘earned’ his first editorial stint. Back in 2006, someone who had once interned under him caught him making out with a lady in Berlin. When the former intern went to say hello to the esteemed journalist with a purported viewership in Israel, he refused to recognize the poor soul and was also trying to hide the lady he was with. Needless to point out that lady he was found canoodling with was NOT his wife.
Personally, I couldn’t care less whomever does he make out with. However, what I do care about is his obvious misogyny, racism (he called Ms. Jolie’s adopted children Rang barangay Yateem Bachay) and how he wishes that women of questionable morality (in his opinion, of course) should be stoned to death. As a public opinion maker who condones institutionalization of crimes against women such as stoning to death, Mr. Hussein is dangerous and I urge various women’s groups in different parts of the country to take action against him and other such people in media. They should demand that people like Mr. Hussein should not be allowed to spew venom against a marginalized group. He belongs to the category of men who simultaneously like “I Love Islam” and “Hot Chicks” Facebook pages and think they are the upholders of morality and the louder they cast aspersions against others, preferably a woman, the holier their standing in the society would be. Mr. Hussein and men like him think that whatever they do as men can be pardoned or even praised, but when women like Angelina Jolie’s mother refuse to take crap from their philandering husbands, they are considered outcasts outside the mould of a family and branded as family breaking sluts. Mr. Hussein, I just hope one day you get your comeuppance and your wife realizes that you too are a philanderer par excellence and do something about it.
Ms Jolie with yet another ‘colored’ child

PS: You suck as a journalist Mr. Hussein; even a Wikipedia search would have told you that Ms. Jolie is 35 years old

PPS: I was in a dilemma whether I should write about Mr. Hussein’s personal life or not, but Umair suggested that I should go ahead. People like him should not be treated with the courtesy we reserve for other normal folks.