Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rumours and Shakers (Updated)

First of all, on behalf of all of us, I wish to offer an apology for the lack of updates in the last 10 days. Call it a combination of too much other work and involvement in matters urgent, laziness and emotional fatigue. Sometimes we too need to take time off from blogging. Inevitably, some readers have written in to ask why he haven't 'covered' such and such, or made innuendos about our 'political' reasons for not writing about certain issues. There's nothing we can do as far as politically motivated innuendos are concerned but once more we'd like to point out that Cafe Pyala is not meant to be a newspaper or a news channel: we don't necessarily 'cover' everything, nor do we have the resources to do so. And more often than not, our reasons for blogging about something have to do with saying something that is not already being said in the mainstream media or by other bloggers, or to bring more attention to something that we feel is not receiving its due attention.

 Wali Khan Babar

As far as the assassination of young Geo journalist Wali Khan Babar in Karachi is concerned, we too feel we have lost a very bright and upright colleague and a warm-hearted human being. And we deeply mourn his death. However, unlike some, we do not feel we have unambiguous knowledge about who assassinated him and so refuse to be drawn into a blame game based on pure speculation. All we can say is that journalism has become a much more dangerous profession in this country in the wake of his murder.

In any case, there have been a number of developments and potential developments in the media that have piled up in our absence, which we should probably put on record. Some of these we have dealt with on Twitter though not in any great detail.

Permanently paused: Minhas and Javed on Dunya

Thanks to our trusty informers, we were made aware of Nusrat Javed and Mushtaq Minhas having resigned from Dunya long before their Dunya Meray Aagay programme suddenly went off air though we could not get confirmations immediately. What is still not clear however is what the reasons were for the falling out. Dunya sources claim that their programme never achieved the kind of ratings the channel had hoped for when they got the two to leave Aaj and come on board. I have to say that Mushtaq Minhas' buffoonish right wing presence on that programme never endeared me to the format even when the team was at Aaj. However, with the almost parallel departure of Najam Sethi from Dunya for Geo (his new programme airs from January 31 in the 11pm slot), it seems like a strange time for Dunya to get rid of any of its mainstay programming.

Meanwhile, JournalismPakistan reports that Nusrat Javed and Mushtaq Minhas are now officially back at Aaj TV, with Javed also assuming the post of Director News and Current Affairs. What this means for the disastrous duo of Salim Bokhari and Orya Maqbool Jan - who took over the reins of Bolta Pakistan when Javed and Minhas left and competed with each other over who could be more obnoxiously right-wing - is still not clear.

Mubashir Lucman: rudest talk show host

There are also rumours - completely unconfirmed - that Dunya's Director News Naseem Zehra is also in talks to move to Pakistan Television (which is trying desperately to induct fresh blood into its news programming) and that Moeed Pirzada has also received offers to move to Express. Zehra has frequently expressed her frustration with the ratings game, pointing out that there is an inclination from channels to prefer the sensational but frivolous over serious issues. Meanwhile, for its part, Dunya has managed to lure Mubashir Lucman from Express TV. Lucman is known as the brashest talk show anchor though, it must be said, he does not combine his rudeness to guests with a lack of all sense that some others exhibit.

There are also persistent rumours that Hamid Mir has been in talks with Dunya to move from Geo, though Mir himself has refused to confirm them. Geo insiders say that part of Mir's discomfort with Geo is the pressure on him because of his own show Capital Talk's falling cache and the arrival on the Geo platform of Najam Sethi, who Mir has been publicly outspoken against. One staffer who works with Mir did confirm that Mir had thrown hints about moving a couple of weeks ago but, given the jockeying for better salary packages that media stars often indulge in, his move from Geo is by no means certain. Mir's eulogy to Salmaan Taseer (which is inevitably more about himself than Taseer) might also indicate that he is trying to reconcile himself to a changing Jang Group ideology. (As an aside, the Jang Group actually sacked the sub-editor who had mistranslated Shehrbano Taseer's New York Times article about her father into Urdu, leading to mullahs baying for her head.) Most seasoned media professionals do not believe Mir will actually make the move away from the top-rated Geo.

Meher Bokhari: raising the volume

Meanwhile there is also unverified information that Meher Bokhari may soon be leaving Samaa for Express, where she has been offered a hefty raise. In fact, credible sources claim that Samaa management may preempt her resignation by actually giving her the boot, as early as tomorrow. It should be remembered that Bokhari's Newsbeat programme has also suffered from lacklustre ratings, despite the hosts attempts to shout her way to higher viewership and sensationalize issues such as Salmaan Taseer's stand against the retrograde blasphemy laws. Despite its prime time slot, Newsbeat has been languishing in third position for its slot and has far fewer viewers than even Samaa's 10pm slot (hosted by veteran shouter Jasmine Manzur).

Things are also not looking good for Syed Talat Hussain over at DawnNews. His new show seems not to have made a dent in the ratings for the channel. Dawn News also recently lost its recently signed morning show host Juggun Kazim, when the latter was lured away by Express within three weeks.

What DawnNews' mornings now look like

In other news, daily Aaj Kal and Business Plus - The Daily Times' sister Urdu paper and television channel - have sacked some 240 staffers, including the editor of Aaj Kal, Khalid Chaudhry, who was considered close to the recently deceased owner Salmaan Taseer. This is the first big move within the group after the death of Taseer and the taking over of the reins of the Media Times group by his wife Aamna Taseer. According to JournalismPakistan's sources, 150 staffers have been laid off from Karachi, 43 from Lahore and another 40 from Islamabad. Aaj Kal had been struggling since its launch in 2007 - some claim it was the cause of the whole media group struggling - and from the looks of it, the Taseers have decided to shut down the paper altogether.

Into this fairly dismal media scenario has stepped yet another daily paper, Islamabad Dateline, which promises to "own" Islamabad and become the city's must-read newspaper. Edited by Kamran Rehmat, former acting editor in Islamabad of The News, and published by veteran journo Mustansar Javed, the paper has a tough task ahead with the glut of already existing English newspapers (remember Pakistan Today launched only a few weeks ago as well) and the overall difficult business environment.

: : : UPDATES : : : 

Tuesday, 25 January 2011:

So, as predicted by our sources, Meher Bokhari was indeed sacked removed from on-air presence on Samaa TV on Monday, although she is apparently going round claiming she is on leave. Her former show, Newsbeat, was hosted by sister channel CNBC's Farieha Idrees on Monday.

A glut of rumours have done the rounds regarding the exact reasons for her removal, including claims that Samaa was forced to fire her because of threats of being shut down by PEMRA if she were not. We have been able to confirm that no such notices or threats were issued to Samaa. A major factor in her sacking removal (at least officially), it now seems, was that Samaa TV's owner, Zafar Siddiqui, finally took notice of her shenanigans with respect to the Salmaan Taseer issue and her flouting of PEMRA's general guidelines against the glorification of terrorists and criminals such as Mumtaz Qadri. In particular, her programme after Taseer's murder, where she provocatively posed the question whether Qadri was a terrorist or a hero, and gave equal space (often without critical intervention) to those glorifying the murderer, seems to have become her downfall. It should also be remembered that Chartered Accountant Zafar Siddiqui began his career in Taseer's firm.

Where Ms Bokhari next turns up still remains to be seen.

Thursday, January 27, 2011:

As also pointed out by one reader anchor2010, Samaa TV has officially denied last night that Meher Bokhari has been sacked. According to a brief statement on its website:

" per normal practice of other Current Affairs Anchors, Meher Bokhari has gone on leave from Monday, the 24th of Jan, 2011."

We have made the requisite corrections in the previous update. However, there should be little doubt that this is at least a case of enforced leave. We are not sure whether this is merely a face-saver for Ms. Bokhari. Note also that the statement does not specify how long a leave this is. The only question is whether Ms. Bokhari will actually return to Samaa in the future or find another employer.


Raheel Aijaz said...

Its good the Taseer's shut down their paper. In fact they should even tone down the expenses on the KHI circulation of Daily Times. I was interning there in 2008 and the company was barely breaking even. But we need papers like that. Had a whole new feel to it, besides the fact that it neither had much of an audience nor a major news coverage radius.

Ahsan said...

Pyalas, would it be fair to say the loud shouters are slowly but surely suffering in the ratings? It seems (SEEMS) that the market may have had enough of that stuff, just judging from your last few posts on this stuff. Your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

does anyone have the circulation figures for 'daily times' , 'aajkal', 'express tribune' nationwide???

Anonymous said...

Meher Bokhari is being given the boot due to her provocation of salman taseers murder. Samaa has finally taken a principled stand.

Anonymous said...

Najam Sethi joining Geo would be great. Geo has a tremendous amount of viewer, Najam Sethi's liberal views need to be transcend at large.

Anonymous said...

Javed Chaudhry offered Rs2.1 Million per month by DawnNews. A channel which has not paid any increment to the staff which helped the channel survive after making the transition in Urdu is ready to throw away big bucks on anchors. With the kind of outrageous amounts being paid to Talat and offers to Javed Chaudhry, is it time the old timers who were always sold on the loyalty theme also move on? Mubashir Zaidi, increments kay wadoon ka jawab do?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone watch Arshad Sharif's show on Dawn News? It's been slogging away quietly for a while now and been consistently intelligent and moderate (at least the episodes I've seen). Najam Sethi's move to Geo fills me with hope that he might eventually get a more prime-time slot. Plus, like someone said, is the ratings slide across the board evidence of viewers tiring of hysterical dramatics by anchors?

Here's what I don't get though. If controversy creates ratings, wouldn't it be more of a ratings bonanza to give a moderate or liberal voice a talk show?

Anonymous said...

PTV shud take Ansar Abbasi
Dawn -------- Dr SM

marketing boost .......and better for us too as we will avoid from both.............tell me who z watching these 2

The Only Normal Person Here. said...

Lot of shifting of loyalties. Guess this is what media is all about.

CPM said...

@Ahsan: It's tricky to judge this right now, though one wishes this were so. Generally, all current affairs programmes have taken a hit, which is why you see channels going for more 'infotainment' programming such as Hasb-e-Haal etc. This seems to show that viewers are getting tired of the same-old, same-old, which happens in this case to be sensational shoutfests about politics and doom and gloom analyses. On the other hand, Jasmine Manzur continues to get good ratings despite being the ultimate shouter (along with ARY's Dr Danish), tabloid type programming such as Kamran Shahid's show is flourishing and the generally restrained DawnNews still does not get any serious ratings. It may simply indicate that the over-the-top ratings that serious news programming gets in Pakistan is finally settling down to some sort of normalcy (though still far above other countries).

@Anon1101: Don't have the figures for Daily Times but Aaj Kal's circulation is / was almost nonexistent. Express Tribune has a circulation of under 2500 nationwide.

@Anon1204: That might have made sense had Samaa done it earlier. Seems a post-facto claim does it not? (assuming she is actually being sacked in the first place).

@Anon1017: Somehow I doubt that figure that you quote as DawnNews offering Javed Chaudhry. For one, DawnNews does not have that kind of cash. Secondly, I doubt DawnNews would seriously be interested in him or he in DawnNews for that matter. If that figure were correct, he would be earning more than Syed Talat Hussain, whose 18 lakh salary seems not to have paid off for DawnNews.

@Anon231: Interesting point for channel owners to take note of. And agree with you about Arshad Sharif's show.

Ahsan said...

Thanks for the reply CPM. Are the TV ratings publicly available? Would love to compare and see trends etc. I know they are in the US, but maybe in PK only industry types have access...??

Asif Ali said...

Dear Café Pyala

In your lame excuse for not commenting on the murder of journalist Wali Khan Babar in Karachi, you say: “….unlike some, we do not feel we have unambiguous knowledge about who assassinated him and so refuse to be drawn into a blame game based on pure speculation”.
Have you always commented on a murder when you have “unambiguous knowledge” about who murdered him/her?
You simply had to say the same things just after the murder of Mr Babar what you have said now: “We feel we have lost a very bright and upright colleague and a warm-hearted human being………. And we deeply mourn his death. All we can say is that journalism has become a much more dangerous profession in this country in the wake of his murder.”
Please don’t try to fool your “regular” readers because they know that you have commented on several murders/crimes where you didn’t have “unambiguous knowledge” about the accused.

Asif Ali Khan

Anonymous said...

@Asif Ali Khan, well said, dude.

ISI, MQM, DAWN and the Abbas brothers
are holly cows and Cafe Pyala can't write about them. Everyone knows the reason!

Anonymous said...

Re: Asif Ali Khan and anon241: Here we go with the wanker brigade again...

Anonymous said...

Took a little longer for this comment thread to be derailed. Still, thanks for not disappointing Asif Ali Khan. Your anger at someones desire to not comment on something is truly effective troll-like behavior.

Back to the topic at hand:
It's interesting that Jasmin's ratings are mostly the same. Is it because they were low and remain so or have they been reasonably high throughout?

What would be a successful model to follow for a show to remain consistent in terms of ratings then? An anchor who is bombastic but not sensationalising maybe?

AKS said...


Medialogic carries out a survey of the local media, their meta report can be found over at the Brandsynario website:

Brandsyanrio, one of the most interesting Pakistani websites, also has other surveys pertaining to the media here:

Anonymous said...

Zaffar Siddiqui's foreign financiers may have threatened to pull the plug. They want to see a 'liberal, moderate' Pakistan.

Insider said...

@CPM, I want to add: DawnNews would be paused permanently this year. Dawn newspaper is also in danger. However, there are rumors that Jang Group has offered 'help' of some sort!!!!!!!

Raza said...

@ AKS thanks for the links, these are great figures. someone should tell kamran shahid that Star Plus is the most watched channel in Pakistan. so much for blocking indian entertainment.

yawar said...


What are you smoking, man?

Dawn newspaper still has the largest circulation for an English daily in Pak. What's more, it is about revert back to its classic Sunday edition format that was curtailed last year to cut cost.

Also, it's website Dawn.Com is one of the few money-making sites in Pak and they pay good money to its writers.

Get a grip, Mr. 'Insider.'

yawar said...

Anon @ 11:27 PM

And who pulled your plug, friend? Stop reactionaries from pulling whatever little strings that are left in your brain.

Anonymous said...

will talat leave dawn tv ? i think he is boasting dawn' rating successfully. but here news r different ! can anyone tell me ,whats true.?