Not everyone at Geo is smiling like Dr Shahista Wahidi
There are well-founded murmurs within the organization that a large number of staff are about to face the sack. The scale of the coming lay-offs varies depending on sources but almost 50 staffers, including reporters, anchors, producers, assistant producers and support and technical staff, mainly from the Karachi and Islamabad bureaus, are set to lose their jobs in the next few days. Two anchors have already apparently been shown the door while the position of crime reporter Fahim Siddiqui (host of Geo's FIR programme and head of its crime desk) also hangs in the balance after he impetuously resigned over a power tussle with the Karachi bureau chief and Geo News head Azhar Abbas (Siddiqui is apparently back in touch with Geo supremo Mir Shakilur Rahman to save his job). In addition, some of those from the doomed Geo English project who had been adjusted within Geo but who never quite managed to fit in are also being let go.
Since management is remaining tight-lipped over the downsizing, it is not quite clear whether the drastic moves have to do with Geo feeling the pinch of the recessionary times or whether the sackings are based on job-related evaluations. Certainly the recent hirings seem to suggest, much to the resentment of staff, that revenues are not really an issue. Rightly or wrongly, those facing the axe are upset that they are being let go after standing by Geo during its difficult times. Given the Jang Group's culture of accumulating human resources and almost never firing anyone even if they have zero output - it is often said that people only leave the Jang Group if they themselves choose to - the change of management culture seems to have come as a shock to most. However, it is also true that, like many bureaucracies (PTV comes readily to mind), Geo is overstaffed in many positions. In particular, the Islamabad bureau - which produces only Hamid Mir's Capital Talk - has been regularly identified as being incredibly overstaffed in terms of technical staff.
Of course, staffers who are being let go or who fear being let go are claiming that they are being victimized because of personal grudges and that their evaluations have suffered because of their inability or unwillingness to "butter up" the management. Obviously, such claims are often normal in such situations and there is no way to verify such claims. We hold no position on individual claims (though some may have weight), but while we feel for people losing their earnings, it is also important to state that we see no reason why someone with poor job performance should be retained purely out of a sense of charity. That is how government departments like PTV operate, and look where it's got them.
In the current difficult economic times, many media houses have resorted to slashing costs through shedding staff, among them DawnNews, Aaj TV and Samaa. The most recent has been the Nawai Waqt-owned Waqt News which apparently cut almost 90 staff a few days ago. Geo and Jang Group as a whole are obviously not immune to the trend of the times.
Incidentally, there is evidence to suggest that the slashing of unproductive costs may well be a new direction at the Jang Group under the returning prodigal son, Mir Ibrahim Rahman (MIR). The first to feel the brunt of the new management culture was the music channel Aag, which had long been under the knife. It is said that MIR was ready to shut down the loss-making channel a few months ago and has only allowed it one final chance to pull itself out of the red. Most staff there have already been sacked and only a small staff remains to try to pull off some sort of miracle.
After the fate of Dr S&M, Aamir Liaquat and Nadia Khan - all of whom were let go when the ratings of their programmes began to dip - it is also rumoured that Geo is not too happy with the fall in ratings of Capital Talk. Hamid Mir survived the serious scandal surrounding him with regards to the death of Khalid Khwaja, mainly because one of the key players in that saga, Usman Punjabi (the man Mir allegedly had that phone conversation with), was later on killed in a drone attack. In all propriety, Geo management should have taken him off air pending investigations, but apparent criminal behaviour is obviously not as big a problem for them as ratings drops. Now, however, Mir must be a worried man for entirely different reasons.