Tagged with " Geo"

Immy K and his band of morons against Geo

Those who know me and have been reading my blog for sometime know that there is no love lost between Imran Khan and yours truly. I mock his supporters (because what else can one do with those who flaunt their stupidity), I lament the fact that some people in my family voted for his party and I mourn the collective short sightedness of my people who do not see how terrible it is to have a dim-witted man in position of power and influence.

Latest in the list of his stupidities is his self righteous fight against Geo Television Network. Before anyone get their panties in a twist, let me iterate that I am not a fan of Geo either (I have worked for the organization and know it inside out) but the witch hunt against Geo that is being spearheaded by Imran Khan and his band of morons (I refuse to call PTI a political party) at the behest of Pakistani Voldemort is rather vulgar and in incredibly bad taste.

Imran Khan accused Geo Network of three gross violations (according to him). First was telecasting a programme against Ahl-e-Bait (family of prophet) in the morning show (they aired a qawwali which is quite common at Shia weddings), one PTI parliamentarian moved a resolution against it in Punjab assembly because there is nothing more worthy of the attention of a legislator than something that was aired on a morning show targeting house wives. Second was running a campaign against Imran Khan. What Mr Khan considered a campaign against him was this tweet by The News staffer Umer Cheema about the pregnancy of a barely legal girl and a politician. It was exactly worded like this: “Pregnancy of a 21-year girl is causing sleepless nights to a leader. His political future in her hands…the most powerful lady these days” on April 29th. No politician was named in that tweet but apparently Imran Khan went to every Tv channel and said that Umer Cheema tweeted about him. The man doth protests too much, does he not? One wonders why? Umer Cheema did follow up with a couple of other teeli tweets. I bet Imran Khan was not too pleased to be called a senior citizen and I am only assuming that because Cheema again did not name anyone.

Mr Khan is also blaming Geo for getting foreign funding which is oversimplification of a contract between the channel, the government and a donor agency. Even a simpleton like Imran Khan should understand how the whole funding process works; after all, his government in KPK has taken a lot of foreign funding to run various projects in their province. No donor agency funds a private organization directly and one or more government departments are always involved.

As someone who was part of Geo when they ran the first Zara Sochiye Campaign (2006) and then worked as an independent consultant during the Education Emergency campaign (2011), I know exactly how Geo got funding for both of them. For the first Zara Sochiye Campaign (which I believe was brilliant) Geo was contacted by the government to pave the public opinion before it launched Women Protection Bill in the parliament. The fact that the said bill was passed and the number of women in Pakistani jails booked under Hudood ordinance came down drastically should be considered a success – both for the government and the channel that ran the campaign. The second Zara Sochiye campaign was paid for by DfID which Geo President Imran Aslam openly talks about in this BBC interview. It should also be noted that various government departments including Prime Minister’s Task Force for Education (it has been disbanded after the promulgation of 18th amendment and education becoming a provincial subject) facilitated the contract between DfID and Geo. The Task Force was actually housed inside the PM’s secretariat at that time so yes, the government was involved in everything. Many other TV channels that are now part of the witch hunt against Geo wanted to do that campaign. The Alif Ailan campaign which was a follow up to that earlier campaign ran on all TV channels was also foreign funded, but I don’t see anyone protesting against that. Why this duplicity?

If Mr. Khan is so adamant about running campaigns against foreign funding, he should first run it against Pakistan Army because the armed forces of Pakistan get the lion’s share of all foreign funding that comes to the country. Then it is the national and provincial governments including the one run by Khan sahab’s party. Private organizations and non profits are far down this chain and get very small amounts in comparison.

People who run Geo’s editorial staff are obviously not the sharpest people around, otherwise they would not have run that 8 hour long transmission against ISI following the attack on Hamid Mir, but the witch hunt that followed them after that is worst that those 8 hours of transmission. Forget about upholding the sanctity of free speech in Pakistan, we all know that it is but a sham, but it should be noted that Geo is not a two bit organization, it probably employs more people than there are card carrying members of PTI. Going after their livelihood because some people did not like what went on during those 8 hours of transmission in this manner is downright cruel. Geo was not the best employer in the industry but it definitely was one of the better and relatively more professional ones. In case Geo is closed down, the media industry is not big enough to absorb all those people. For their sake alone if for nothing else, I hope this witch hunt is called off and their livelihoods are not compromised.

Let’s wish that sanity prevails but my cynicism tells me that it would not be the case.

Apr 27, 2013 - Media    19 Comments

The ultimate beyghairti

 

No matter what part of the world you are in, you wake up to the news of your home courtesy your smart phone. I woke up this morning and saw the FB status update of a friend who lives in Garden Karachi about a bomb blast near her home. A quick look at the news websites revealed that it was an Awami National Party (ANP) election office in Orangi Town that was bombed.  Before this, two other election offices of Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) were attacked in Karachi and other election related activities of ANP in KPK. According to Kamran Khan’s program on Geo, ANP has been attacked 10 times during 2013 election campaign in KPK and Karachi while MQM is attacked thrice, all incidences took place in Karachi. For almost all the incidences of violence against these two relatively secular parties, Tehreek-e-Talibaan Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility.

Considering that elections are just a couple of weeks away, one would think that the security apparatus of the country would be after these TTP terrorists who are not only committing heinous acts of violence against civilians engaging in perfectly legal political activity but are also obstructing the democratic process by attacking and hindering political campaign of the aforementioned political parties. These two parties are major political forces in two of the provinces of the country.

But no, the security forces of the country are busy ensuring that no one dares to utter a word against them. First victim of censorship was the newly launched Capital TV, when a former aide of Zaid Hamid, one Mr Emad Khalid committed the gustakhana act of voicing his uncensored opinion about the COAS Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, the channel was taken off the airs for a couple of days and only reopened after a written apology was submitted to PEMRA. Major newspapers did not carry this story and a quick web survey reveals that it was only some blogs and Pakistan Press Foundation’s website that carried this incident.  Curiously, elected Head of the state is the butt of all the jokes on every TV channel but no directives were ever issued by PEMRA to the TV channels to respect the august office of the head of the state.

That incident happened last week.

Earlier today, Beygairat Brigade’s third song Dhinak Dhinak was blocked by PTA. Dhinak Dhinak is a satirical song about the continued power that the top brass of army enjoys in Pakistan. Beygairat Brigade – or Shameless Brigade – is a Lahore based band which uses political and social satire in music. Their previous songs Alu Anday and Paisay ki game were not banned probably because they attacked the political leadership of the country, this time around Dhinak Dhinak focused on “Jernailan da jadu” and raised points like how the army generals never contest contest elections but always enjoy absolute power. Though the lead singer of the band, Ali Aftab Saeed was quoted in Telegraph  after the song was released online (no TV channel was willing to air it) that he has no issues with the institution of army but with the attitude of a few generals, the song was blocked by PTA on the eve of April 26th. When asked, Ali Aftab Saeed said that the band was not informed about the ban on the video by the authorities. They just found out about it when they tried to access the video on Vimeo.

Considering what happened to people who were called in for a reprimand – people like Late Syed Saleem Shehzad who succumbed to  torture endured during one such meeting – it’s may be a blessing that the video was just blocked by PTA and no one was called for a meeting.

The Dhinak Dhinak video came back online after a few hours of ban. May be it was the cheeky message at the end of the video where the band asked their fans to not like the song – “No need to like the video, we will be dead any way” – that saved them.

Beygairat Brigade is probably happy that their song is back for the world to see (I am told that it is still blocked by some ISPs), investors of Capital TV must have sighed with relief when their channel went on air after the hiatus of two days. People will soon forget about these imagined or real slights on the forces that don’t want to be named or discussed objectively, but what people will never forget is the ultimate beyghairti which is letting the TTP terrorists roam free and attack the forces that dare to raise voice against them. This is what future generations of Pakistanis will remember about our times and we will be considered the ultimate beygherats who not only let these terrorists burn down our cities, many amongst us found justifications for their acts and provided them political cover and the security forces failed to do their only job which provision of security for its people. If this is not beyghairti, then nothing is.

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.

Apr 27, 2012 - Uncategorized    2 Comments

Tabdeeli ka nishan on mudguards

Back in the day when I was working for Geo and use to traipse around I.I Chundrigar Road to go to various Jang Group building to get things done (production, editing, PD and canteen were all in different buildings), I used to marvel at genius of the branding department of Geo. Everything from the roadside barber to the guy selling biryani at the thela have named their businesses after Geo; from Geo Biryani and Bun kebabs to Geo Mochi and what not.  None of these people were paid by the TV channel to peddle their brand. They just thought Geo is a cool name for business and took it. But you know what convinced me of Geo’s unassailable dominance of the market, the fact that every other taxi driver in the city had that ubiquitous jeem logo of Geo plastered on their mudguards. Its like having your mobile billboards without spending any money and making your brand inescapable. 

When people start putting up your face and logo on their mud guards, it’s a sign that you are here to stay. Another person/brand/politician/tabdeeli ka nishan whose mug has recently been spotted on a few mudguards is Imran Khan. Political pundits may have heralded his arrival as a political heavy weight back in October after Lahore Jalsa but people like me were waiting for the mudguards. Ladies and gentlemen, Imran Khan the politician has arrived.
from Lakki Marwat with love
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