Friday, September 24, 2010

More Breaking (Away) News

We have confirmed that Aaj TV's Executive Director News and Current Affairs, and host of his own show, Syed Talat Hussain, has put in his papers at the channel. He is set to bid goodbye to the struggling-for-ratings news channel at the end of October.

Even more interesting, however, are reports that he will be joining the even-more-struggling DawnNews which is trying its best to pull itself out of its forlorn legacy as an English-language channel. According to insider sources, staff at DawnNews have already been told to expect Hussain to take over as overall head of the newly-Urduized news channel in November.

Syed Talat Hussain: 'Aaj' here, come 'Dawn' somewhere else

Aaj TV, which had been begun by the Recorder Television Network (part of the Business Recorder Group) with quite a bit of fanfare in 2005 as primarily a business news-cum-entertainment channel along the lines of CNBC in the US, has struggled to define itself in a fast expanding and changing media market. Part of the reason for this was a belated realization that there was not much of a market for a business-focused channel in Pakistan (as CNBC Pakistan also found later) and partly it was because of the entertainment revenues-feeding-news gathering model being turned on its head in Pakistan. To their shock, most channels realized within a few years that the appetite for news and current affairs was far greater in the country than for entertainment programming.

After General Musharraf's amended media regulations in 2007, under which channels had to choose between news and entertainment, Aaj jettisoned most of its entertainment programming and focused rightly on news but could never match the resources of either Geo or (at that time) ARY. A steady trickle of trained staff to other channels did not help either, nor did the gradual wearing off of the novelty and falling viewership of its one genuine hit programme "Late Night With Begum Nawazish Ali."

Recently, it has seen its star plummet further as newer entrants such as Dunya TV and Express TV outstripped its market share for the No.2 and No.3 slots (the top slot of course going to Geo, which is far ahead of all others in terms of ratings). This despite bringing in Talat Hussain, who was, at least initially, considered a more sober and news-savvy alternative to the shriekfests on other channels. The news ratings continued to slide, despite a relaunch in 2009 as a 24-hour news channel. And the mostly mediocre-but well watched (in its 11pm time slot) "Bolta Pakistan" began to lose the plot, substituting irritating homeliness for real analysis or insight. (It didn't help that Dunya TV's jocular offering, "Hasb-e-Haal" destroyed everyone else in the 11pm slot.) The latter's Stan and Laurel Hardy duo - Mushtaq Minhas and Nusrat Javed - were in fact eventually weaned away by Dunya TV, not that many cared. That left only the "4 Man Show", considered by most as too juvenile for serious viewership, and Talat Hussain's flagship "Live With Talat"as the non-news programming highlights for Aaj.

Trying hip: Aaj TV's witty billboard ad in 2007 (Source: Karachi Metblogs)

But "Live With Talat", despite its occasional excellence (particularly its coverage of the army operation in Swat), suffered from being pit at 10pm against Geo's "Aaj Kamran Khan Kay Saath" which, for better or worse, even Geo's fiercest governmental critics watch, if only to make their blood boil. Lately, however, it seemed Hussain had also succumbed to the demands of sensationalism-as-ratings-boosters and begun to promote wild (and planted) stories as well as taking a decidedly more hawkish line.

According to Aaj TV insiders, Talat Hussain had also been engaged in a geographical power tussle at the channel. Based in Islamabad himself, he wanted to move even micro-control of the newsroom to Islamabad. This of course sat well neither with the Zuberis (owners of the channel), who are all based in Karachi, nor with the people who managed the newsroom in Karachi. To be fair to the latter, however, Hussain's model which apparently involved all input going to Islamabad and output coming from Karachi would have been pretty unworkable from a practical point of view.

In any case, Hussain's departure will probably make Aaj TV further irrelevant in the news media market, unless it is able to pull the some proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

On the other hand, DawnNews will gain at least some credibility in the short term with his coming on board and will also benefit from the viewership that he brings to whatever programme he hosts at the channel. In fact, DawnNews had also attempted to lure Hussain earlier and Dawn Group insiders say the management was quite miffed when he used their almost final negotiations then to negotiate a better package at Aaj. However, all of this bitter history seems to have been swept under the carpet because of DawnNews' own precarious situation. Dawn Group's management will be hoping that he can turn their fortunes around - his is the fifth or sixth top level editorial management change at the channel in its short history.

One issue will still linger, however, which is very similar to Hussain's problems at Aaj: will he attempt to micro-manage a newsroom based in Karachi while sitting in Islamabad? Apparently, Hussain is still reluctant to move cities and with him coming in above Director News Mubashir Zaidi (who was moved from Islamabad to Karachi for this express purpose), there is a chance for friction to develop.

 International recognition: Talat Hussain on board Gaza-bound flotilla

It also remains to be seen how Hussain, well known for having a rather large ego (he was recently dubbed 'Flotzilla' for his well publicized exploits as one of the journalists on board the Turkish flotilla to Gaza that attempted to break the illegal Israeli blockade and came under Israeli attack), fits in with the Dawn Group's more low-profile culture. Remember, this is the same journalist who once, while still heading Aaj and hosting a current affairs show, saw nothing problematic about appearing in a Head & Shoulders shampoo ad. Anyone have a Youtube link to that?


Anonymous said...

Neat analysis; clear, concise and comprehensive.
Good show!

Anonymous said...

Who says he has a large ego? I come from a family of journalist working in Islamabad and all had great things to say about him, b 4 I eventually interned with him. He is a great man very talented and sober. Quite accommodating as well. Im excited since we get DawnNews here on dish in the US

Tahir Imran said...

I completely disagree with you on your analysis, you seem like a Punjabi film viewer who is more judging people on their box office hits or ratings as they are sluts in a brothel than their credibility.

Talat Hussain is by far the most respected and revered talk show host in Pakistan. Even Azhar Abbas once said in front of a whole Dawn News staff that he is most calm and credible news person in the country.

If he is credible he must have ego as he can not sit with all tom dick and harry like Hamid Mir or other bhonkos.

So I am very sure that Talat and Dawn will be a great combination and it would do wonders.

Tomorrow said...

Talat's a cunt. I interned with him as well, Mr/Ms Anon @ 7:21 AM and found to be full of himself and utter hogwash.

But then, maybe I wasn't always busy lifted his lead balls like you and, more so, 4 men show's Murtaza does.

Gosh, if you could see Murtaza butter Talat, you'll puke!

Anonymous said...

Cafe Pyala! This is yet another fearless piece... congrats... but why you are silent on yet another "hot" story at Dawn Media Group... the alleged involvement of Zaffar Abbas in the ISI-planned murder plot of journalist Habib Sulemani... plus who is the real editor of daily Dawn, by the way...!?

Magnum said...

@ Anon

Utter nonsense. There is no such case. Where do you get your info from, man? From Dr. Aafia's sis?

Reesha said...

Now something about Pyala.
It is strongly rumoured that this site is being run and written by three to four people (all journos).

There is talk that they are, Muhammad Hanif (famous novelist/journo); Shandana Mehnas (novelist/journo; Nadeem F. Paracha [aka NFP] (famous colunmist); and hassan Zaidi (filmaker).


Personally i don't believe this, but have heard this over and over again.

Anonymous said...

@Magnum! You don't know about the case of Habib R. Sulemani ? If you are a journalist (as claimed by Reesha: Muhammad Hanif, Shandana Mehnas and Nadeem F. Paracha) then I'm really surprised by the intellectual dishonesty... anyways, plz visit these sites:

1- Daily Times, "Family under attack"\07\24\story_24-7-2010_pg3_7

2- PressPakistan Google group, "Letters to PFUJ & Dawn"

3- Criminal inquiry sought

Anonymous said...

Reesha..its true that the blog is being run by these people

Alpha Za said...

Great piece, I think Talat has alot to offer Dawn News, but I don't see him having an active role at the channel, as I imagine he'll stay in Islamabad, host a few shows from there and be the public figurehead.

I think the real question is what can Talat bring Dawn News that'll improve it and help shape a sustainable identity, the Saigols have no desire to keep funneling Dawn Newspapers profits into the Tv channel forever. Hell they came close to shutting it down earlier this year.

Btw, the comments seem to have gone in all directions. From Pyala's identities (sounds like we have a consensus) to the 'Habib Sulemani' driven conspiracy theories (for the record, I'm not doubting the claims, I just don't see the relevance to the post).

Anonymous said...

I still believe that Express News is on top and pyala's people are on what basis ranking Dunya News on 2nd spot and even Geo on 1. Any source huh?!?
Self made rankings! Lol

Anonymous said...

@ Reesha
What foolishness. I know most of the ppl u have mentioned and I don’t think any of them can be part of pyala.

First of all, Hanif is just too busy scribbling his next book and working for the BBC.

Secondly, Shandana – well, maybe – but her writing style just does not match the stuff that appears here.

And NFP, well, I was with him at The News, and let me tell you, the guy maybe a terrific writer, but is almost computer illiterate.

And anyway, half the time he is .. err .. tipsy. I mean just ask anyone at The News about his antics there ten yrs ago.

The guy once smoked a joint in front of Mir Shakeel and told editor Shaheen Subahi to ‘piss off' apart from the fact that he used to carry a pistol and move around with MQM and PPP goons!

People say he has mellowed down a lot now, but I believe only men like Murtaza Rizvi and Abbas Nasir are able to control him at Dawn.

About Hassan Zaidi, just why on earth would a filmmaker be interested in what transpires in the journalistic world?

So there. Just who these people are at Pyala, they are not the ones you mentioned. But I'm not telling you who they REALLY are. :)

Anonymous said...

I think DawnNews is Number-1 channel in Pakistan... Lol

@Alpha Za I think the issue of Zaffar Abbas is very relevant to discuss here, because there are allegations that that the Abbas Brothers have a "Freemason-like" group in the media industry... therefore we should not hesitate to talk about them... this is not the mainstream Pakistani media but the free social media :-)

Anonymous said...

Habib Sulemani is as obvious a case of schizophrenic paranoia as you could find in a textbook study, and that's apparent just from reading the third link cited above by anon@12.21. No more comment necessary to the laughable claims.

Meanwhile, i'm curious as to why all those suspected to be Pyala writers are from Karachi. Personally I think at least one is based abroad, and another in Lahore.

As for Talat, paet may daarrhi bhee hai...

AA said...

Trying to announce presumed identities of bloggers who wish to remain anonymous. How mature! I am all praise for the impact and the lively discussion space about the media CP has created. It works only if they remain anonymous.

I had no idea Aaj's ratings were slipping. I still prefer getting headline news from there instead of the highly strung Geo rama.

I have had a crush on Talat since childhood. So bleep off Pyala.

Webmaster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Webmaster said...

@Anon 4:22 PM

1) How did you guess from a web link that Mr Sulemani is a "case of schizophrenic paranoia"?

2) As you say that you read this "schizophrenic term" in some textbook... did it make you an expert or it's just a traditional trick of psychological warfare (according the The Terrorland blogs besides Zaffar Abbas, Farman Ali and Adeel Raza, there is also a psychologist, Dr Najma Najam, among the accused)?

3) You have announced (as if the owner of Cafe Pyala blogs) "no more comments"... Why? Because journalists with God-like image (i.e, Zaffar and Talat) only matter in Pakistan... ordinary journalists like Sulemani never get counted?

4) You have declared the assassination attempts on Mr Sulemani and his sister "laughable claims"... do you have any proof in this regard?

Anonymous said...

To update your readers, the DawnNews deal with Talat Hussain has fallen on the rocks. He wanted DN to hire some of his close associate at his suggested remunerations, which DN CEO Shakeel Masood refused to buy. Or TH might have spread the news to bargain a better deal with Aaj tv. Who knows in this electronic media hopping and poaching.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 4:22 should have been 4:20 ;-)

Anonymous said...

@webmaster: hello habib sulemani. yes, please seek professional help.

Sla. said...

Why do most commenters on this blog sound like they're trolling?
Not that the piece is any better: internal media bitchery that feeds off rumour and looks more like gossip.
To put this in context: all the articles on this blog's front page are about media appointments, with the exception of the ones dealing with
1) cricket
2) Mosharraf Zaidi and his ruminations on Wiccans and their weird ways,
3) Fatima Bhutto's weird, weird ways
4) the awe-inspiring, ball-shattering hard-stare prowess of Sir Ian.
This isn't all. For the next few pages, this is pretty much all we read. Now look, I know you're bloggers, and that therefore you're not being paid for this, but some people used to come here to read about what's really happening in Pakistan, and not the Land of Geodawn, where eyeball-sucking megatits control the information a small unrbanised clique absorbs daily.
Could someone please report on the floods? And economic recovery? Or does everyone have their heads shoved so far up their hindquarters that they've forgotten about real news?

agha jee said...

just came home, tired of the desk job, ah, but the comments here didn't let me sleep...

@webmaster i think u r a lawyer... ur arguments r rational, can't be denied, this says a lot about the "powerful accused" in the habib sulemani case. i have read his blogs, the terrorland.

@anon 9:36 how do u say that webmaster is actually habib sulemani? if he is, then such a wise man or someone else needs "help"?

@sla that is the beauty of cafe pyala not fault at all.

Anonymous said...

During the taliban rule the duo Mushtaq Minhas and Nusrat Javed were known as Anga and Banga and their program was next in rating to the famous 9 PM Mulla radio show

know it all said...

Regarding the speculation on who runs Cafe Pyala above, I would agree with Hassan Zaidi--I definitely think he is one of the people running this site. And wouldn't be too surprised if Mohd Hanif is one of them too. But I don't think Nadeem Piracha is one of them. Nor do I think Shandana Minhas is one of them---even though I think she is a fantastic writer, but I agree with the comment above that the writing style here is not hers, not is it Nadeem Piracha's. The writing style here is great too, but just different from NFP and Shandana's.

Anonymous said...

@sla... i guess u don't know this blog is *primarily* concerned with the goings on in the media in pakistan? now, if you want reportage on floods and the economy, you have your newspapers, magazines, tv, etc. so, get your head out of your ass and go read the real news where it belongs instead of bitching about it here. :)

Anonymous said...

@anon - whichever one posted at 4:26am - aren't you a loyal one.
No, I guess I didn't. I was thinking mainly of the excellent coverage of Zaid Hamid's ways it provided. Also of the fact that it used to talk about things OTHER THAN media takeovers. No, I don't have newspapers or magazines - that I can trust, anyway. Pyala used to blog about things IN THE MEDIA that obscured the truth. So if you know about any other sources of news that are credible in the same way as independent bloggers [karachikhatmal and fiverupees being obvious choices] please tell. Perhaps also the fact that it doesn't mention it's a wankfest for media-types anywhere in its title, or its description, or its contents list [to the right, man. that hand you conduct your deepest relationship with]. Judging by your weak-ass raised-eyebrow 'tude, I'm guessing you're a hot slavering fanboy of this type of tripe.
If, on the other hand, you troll message boards in the off moments where you're resting your right hand, please, do go back to playing with yourself.

- Sla.

Anonymous said...

i think cyril almeida also writes for pyala.

Anonymous said...

I have it on good authority that Cyril Almeida and Nadir Hassan (formerly known as 'Bubs' at fiverupees and Newsline blogger and currently magazine editor at Express Tribune) are two of the people behind cafe pyala. I have been told Naveen Naqvi is also one of them and Imran Aslam also occasionally contributes.

Webmaster said...

"DawnNews deal with Talat Hussain has fallen on the rocks. He wanted DN to hire some of his close associate at his suggested remunerations, which DN CEO Shakeel Masood refused to buy. Or TH might have spread the news to bargain a better deal with Aaj tv. Who knows in this electronic media hopping and poaching. @ Anonymous September 24, 2010 5:24 PM"


Cafe Pyala is also a member or mouthpiece of Zaffar Abbas' alleged "Freemason-like" gang "Abbasanian"?

Anonymous said...

@anon1156: I think you are mistaken - Cyril is not that type - and it is amazing that Nadir can even keep a job let alone blog - he was so bad at op-ed his supervisor had to beg to get him removed. Naveen is too terrible a writer to be a Pyala.

XYZ said...

Wow. I go away for a few days and look at the free-for-all that happens!

Much as we have all been enlightened by the informative debate about our potential identities, I would have to insist that any further comments be restricted to the topic of the post itself and remain within the bounds of civility. Failing which, well, you know what...

A Special Note to Mr Suleimani: This is not the first post you have spammed with your obsessions (which are completely unconnected to the topic being discussed) and adverts for your blog. Since you run your own blog where your concerns are probably more than adequately addressed, we request you not to spam our blog any further. Any further such attempts will simply be deleted.

Thank you all.

Omar R Quraishi said...

XYZ -- i hope you will permit me to clarify the remarks made above about nadir hassan -- since i was his supervisor at op-ed Express Tribune - he was not transferred because of the reason given above -- rather he was a welcome and valuable addition to the team and the transfer was done for entirely different reasons -- this is set the record straight lest unanswered posts be seen as the truth
Omar R Quraishi

Usman Bashir said...

interestingly as much as i heard in the tweet world about this blog, as mucnh as i am disappointed of it. What i found out that this blog is another masked piece of **** to express thier bitches which they cant do at some other real places and to play hide and seek in virutal world. Infect such a miserable piece of writing, no wonder , our media is under crisis. For God sake, we look forward to these joun's and what they produce

An Occasional Chaichi said...

Very interesting discussions about the identity of the people at Cafe Pyala. Here are some pointers which i have gleaned over the last couple of months since i have been sipping some chai here:
1) One is an Ahmadi - not that i care about his religious proclivities. What is important is that he writes well and seems adept in both English and Urdu.
2) One is definitely from Lahore.
3) If all are good writers i will be amazed. I think one of them has taken on the responsibility of editing the writing of others.
4) One is at least aged 50+
5) The quality of writing at CP is not seen in most newspapers so the guy from Lahore could be at TFT.
6) Some could be Op-ed writers or people with a passion for writing but who earn their living doing something else - lawyers?

But what the heck. Whoever you are, you are providing some good entertainment. Keep doing it. And no, i don't need flood stories here.

Anonymous said...

Pyalans rock. Quality of writing and contents are excellent and despite its regular reader I am not interested in who are xyz, cpm etc. One thing however I am sure that Mohammad Hanif is not part of the team as he's a lazy jack while pyalans are profilic writers. I suspect Hanif started his blog as kala kawa which hasn't been updated since August 6

Anonymous said...

Will someone tell me what happened to Nadia Khan from NAdia Khan Show!? Has she really run away with someone, divorced her husband and ditched her children? Thought pyala would know...

Zaid Hamid said...

From very authentic sources, it has been confirmed that Pyala is being run by Zionist groups, Karachikhatmal and Fiverupees, to name a few.

Omar said...

hey! Wasn't I the one who came up with the "Flotzilla' nickname?

Cafe Pyala...I am suing you for using my awesome and universally adored hilarity for your own Zionist agenda.