Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Downsize Kar Kay Geo?

Even as Geo has hired some new faces, such as Dr Shahista Wahidi - at a salary well in excess of Rs. 20 million lakhs a month - and rehired others such as Sana Bucha at double their old emoluments (we have heard the new figure is 700K), it seems all is not hunky dory for everyone at the top-rated channel.

 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.


Ex-Geon said...

"it is often said that people only leave the Jang Group if they themselves choose to"

You serious, CPM?

In 1999 a number of staff from Jang and The News were asked to leave. This happened again in 2008 when dozens were drastically fired from GEO, Jang and The News.

What you have missed is the fact that the hammer at Geo usually falls on backroom staff and ppl like derivers, peons, guards, subeditors, etc.

All these fat cats getting tons of money always elude the axe. They are free to blackmail and force the management to raise their slaries.

The truth only these guys have the good fortune of resigning themselves.

Sikandar said...

Shahista Wahidi - at a salary well in excess of Rs. 20 million a month ????? Are you kidding ? is this per month or per annum

aynalif said...

20 million a month! I think you have your zeroes mixed up. That is 2 crore rupees a month or US$235,000 a month or $2.8 million a year. I don't think the doctor is worth that kindof moola.

mcphisto said...

Well that was the first thing i noticed too. Sana Bucha would raise a storm if she is getting 700k and Dr Wahidi getting 20m per month :)

it has to be 2m, which is 20 lac rs/- per month.

one of the tales that was often recounted during those massive recession days at Jang Group was that MKR's mom once said to him "baita, kabhi kisi ki rozi na cheenna".

Alpha Za said...

whew, that is a lot of money.

So much for equitable distribution of wealth.

That said, I'm all about the free markets. Go Capitalism. Shut all those damn loss making stations down.

As far as I'm concerned if these esteemed personnel can negotiate such excellent salaries, good for them. But everyone else will want similar pay rises and there is likely to be some political backstabbing in the process.

Which would be fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

Come to reality plz, do u really think or can even imagine the Jang Group can even think of getting rid of Hamid Mir? Who will they replace him with that will bring in the ratings he is not able to? And Mir is a Jang Group stalwarth, I despise the man, but Jang Group cannot afford to humiliate a man like Mir who holds considerable clout. I think the Hamid Mir Paragraph was written to fill space. As for the rest of the layoffs, i just hope it isnt an immediate relative of mine. And those wopping salaries, r u kidding?

osama athar said...

there must be a typo. 20 million a month for wahidi is too much

AI said...

Doesnt matter how much they get there. What matters most is the blackmailing power these people have.

CPM said...

Oops. All of you are absolutely right. There is a tenfold mistake in the Wahidi salary. That's what you get for constantly switching between lakhs and millions but more for writing and proofreading early in the morning while half asleep. Has been corrected.

CPM said...

@Ex-Geon: You are probably right. I meant mainly from the editorial side. I don't recall the 1999 exodus from The News and Jang but in 2008 the one I do recall is because of the end of the Geo English project, which was obviously rather drastic. In still existing concerns, the common refrain is people who deserve to be fired continue on in some capacity or the other. The usual method for the Jang Group to get rid of people is rather oblique - give them nothing to do, freeze their salaries and generally make things unpleasant for them so that they themselves decide to throw in the towel out of frustration.

Ali said...

I completely agree with the observation that people only leave the Jang Group when they want and almost no one is ever fired. I was in Geo way back in 2003 and I had about 6 people in my department and the only work I saw 4 of them do was surf porn and drink chai.

Bolshevik said...

WTF does one DO with PKR2 million or even PKR700,000 per month?! Kia bakwaas hai, I want this kind of money too. :-/

Anonymous said...

Dear admin, while pointing fingure on the channels which have slashed their staffers why you have forgotten to name ARY News where Dr Shahid Masood axed more than 50 people just on the pretext of his personal venom when he had no justicications of their firings. he fired all of them just after one week of his joining. now how come he know who is good or bad. He slashed them just because he had to.

ibteda said...

No news of downsizing at Dunya?
A few people were fired from Lahore office a couple of weeks back, plus we have been hearing about a proposed list of some 30 plus people due to be axed, but so far, no confirmation of the rumors.
I hope I'm not on the rumored list thought.

Anonymous said...

You didn't mention anything about the shut down of Geo Tez. Is everyone being adjusted at Geo News or are they being given the sack also?

Anonymous said...

pyala, you got the waqt tv downsizing figure wrong. About 134 people were fired on saturday, 9th October. Another list of 50 people is expected in the coming week. Waqt Tv also fired the director current affairs, waheed hussain. The channel is in deep financial trouble and there are rumours that waqt tv is being sold. i personally believe all these channel owners sit down together and decide to downsize their staff in order to bring the salary rates down in the market. The most unfortunate thing is that its always the people with the lower salaries who suffer, nothing ever happens to the big shots and even if it does they have made enough money in a year to live luxurious lives.

Anonymous said...

20 Lacs/month OMG!!!!...Dr.wahidi doesnt deserve it.....If Jang group is dieing to spend that much money...then plz hire some one mature and decent.

Magnum said...

When you find out exactly what constitutes being mature and decent to the Jang Group, only then you will underatnd why it dishes out huge amounts of money to the most obnoxious people.

Wasti is harmless. She does a good job of morning shows that are supposed to be silly all over the world.

One should be more concerned about the cynical bastards pretending to be angels on their 'talk shows' on Geo.

Anonymous said...

ARY is touting that Shahista Wahidi is going to be back at their morning show very soon
what happened ? why GEO deal didn't went through ?