Had the real-life DawnNews saga been a prime-time soap opera on that troubled channel, its ratings would at least have registered some mild signs of life instead of languishing well below the radar screen. Dozens of redundancies and a half-baked makeover later, the country’s first, and soon to be former, English language channel continues to search desperately for an identity and lurch from crisis to crisis in search of its true self. The latest twist in the tortuous tale: a complete break from of its ‘burger’ Angrezi past and a rediscovery of its native roots. So help us God.
After recently switching to Urdu at certain times during the day to attract some kind of stable viewership, DawnNews has now decided to stop being the confusing hybrid it is and go all the way. Sources say that from May 15 the channel will switch entirely to Urdu language broadcasts and step into the overcrowded lion’s den where Geo, Express News, Dunya, Samaa, ARY and Aaj and dozens of others lie hungrily in wait.
The most recent casualty of all the upheavals at the channel is former BBC hand and head of current affairs Mazhar Zaidi, who staff last saw at work on Friday. Insiders say that, fed up with the lack of direction, Zaidi walked out and resigned on Saturday and is now mulling over returning to the BBC.
Wusatullah Khan, another BBC luminary brought in to plug a gaping hole in the sinking vessel, has also rediscovered the charms of his former employer and plans to jump ship and return to the mother ship BBC. Clearly, his laid-back prime time Urdu programme 'Bolna Zaroori Hai' had failed to stem DawnNews’ ratings rot, with viewers deciding that dekhna zaroori nahin hai.
Meanwhile, the desperate attempts to break with its ABCD past and establish some kind of desi street cred produced what must be the most ill-judged concept in programming history: 'Chaudhry Ki Baithak.' If the idea was to force the teeming masses to get addicted to the programme, let’s just say they didn’t - and for a very good reason. Who among the great unwashed, let alone anyone else with half a brain, would ditch their Star Pluses and Geos to watch a Chaudhry Shujaat impersonating refugee from Geo’s 'Hum Sab Umeed Se Hain' interact night after night with a hapless guest and a man with a high-pitched voice and an exaggerated Pakhtun accent (a sure sign of a comic running out of ideas)? And this, by the way, was meant to be a serious programme. No wonder the Mazhar Zaidis and Wusatullahs fled, deciding their time was up!
PS: Meanwhile, the long quest for a new editor of the Dawn group’s Herald magazine is finally over, if rumours are to be believed. Lahore-based Badar Alam, formerly of Dawn’s Lahore bureau and The News on Sunday, is the man chosen for the hot seat following the departure of (former TNS editor) Arifa Noor, who is soon to be anointed Dawn’s resident editor in Islamabad.
So another Lahori gets the Herald crown, following Aamer Ahmed Khan and Ms Noor, making one wonder whether Dawn head honcho Amber Saigol can only feel secure if her key staffers at the prestigious magazine are brought in from the city she has adopted as her own after her marriage to a Saigol.