Thursday, April 28, 2011

Channeling Anger

At certain points during a quick reading of these excerpts from Kim Barker’s new book, featuring the shenanigans of our very own friendly neighborhood Teletubby, I found myself laughing out loud. It wasn’t the ‘ oh god that’s funny’ laughter though, it was – again – the helium like hysteria of you just can’t make this shit up. The excerpts didn’t just entertain, they educated too. I learnt many important things. For example, that tigers are people too. That a certain kind of politician’s favorite tune continues to be ‘how much is that journo in the window’. And that it is only a matter of time before ‘What do you think, Kim?’ becomes a popular pick up line.

Then I watched the beginning of the Mubashir Lucman programme episode mentioned in that post and it wiped the smile right off my face. The story he covered before he got around to setting the stage for Tinky Winky’s public humiliation was the latest twist in Mukhtaran Mai’s tragically prolonged quest for justice. And when I say covered, I mean stripped, laughed at, and then paraded down the street naked, as sometimes happens to women in this our blessed country.

You should watch the clips and hear the language employed to understand what I mean:

Part 1: Relevant portions are from 00:00-01:18 and then from 02:56-12:10

Part 2: Relevant portion is up until 06:00

I’m not going to go into details of how and why Mubashir Lucman, who has never exactly been a poster boy for decorum, managed to find hitherto undiscovered levels of lowness to sink to in his treatment of the story and his hapless guest, Mukhtaran Mai. This piece by Sana Saleem on Dawn Blogs has already done so. I would like to add something though, and that is what exactly can we do about it?

I’m also not going to more than flirt with the visceral impact of this particular juxtaposition of fact and farce. A foreign ‘lady journalist’ detailing the loneliness of a man with power, insecure enough to get hair plugs and fret about his weight problem, yet clinging desperately to the belief that power alone is an irresistible aphrodisiac. A local male anchor following in the footsteps of others before him taking pleasure in reducing a heroic woman it has been conclusively proven was raped to an attention seeking media whore. A panel of corpulent scavengers echoing his position, just as happy to imply that there is justice in reminding women who have stepped out of line what their proper place is. Beneath them, presumably. But yes, do not dwell too long on the contrast between the soft handed flabbiness of men who should still be wearing diapers and the gaunt, haunted faces of the women who pay for their infantile natures. That way lies hell.

Mr Lucman is clearly the sort of person who, when he gets attention, does not care whether it is positive or negative but only congratulates himself on having gotten it. This is not surprising; it seems to be a part of the genetic coding of 99% of the world’s talk shows hosts. It is also not surprising that the channel in question gives this sorry sud a soapbox. The more incendiary the content, the better the ratings. So, considering the chances of a public apology by Mr Lucman as a result of an online petition are about as high as Nawaz United’s chances of scoring against Barkerlona, back then to what exactly can we do about it?

Here’s an idea: complain to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).

Their Council of Complaints ostensibly comprises of "eminent citizens who have rich experience in their respective fields i.e. law, journalism, electronic media, public relations, etc. None of such Councils may have any official from PEMRA or any other government department as its member which vouch their complete autonomy. Each Council of Complaints is also required to have at least two female members." According to PEMRA's website, the PEMRA Regional General Manager only acts as a Secretary to the Council and also "[encourages] women to come forward to lodge their complaints without any reluctance." PEMRA also claims that “since their inception, Councils of Complaints have done commendable job in [the redressal] of complaints to [the] complete satisfaction of all stake-holders.”

Try it out, publicly. Get in touch with any of these listed Councils of Complaint and lodge a protest against that episode of the Lucman show for being in violation of various clauses of Rule 1 of PEMRA's Code of Conduct for Media Broadcasters and Cable TV Operators, for example…

(Rule) 1: No programme shall be aired which...

(c) contains an abusive comment that, when taken in context, tends to or is likely to expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race or caste, national, ethnic or linguistic origin, colour or religion or sect, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability;

(d) contains anything defamatory or knowingly false;

(f) contains anything amounting to contempt of court;

(h) maligns or slanders any individual in person or certain groups, segments of social, public and moral life of the country;

(i) is against basic cultural values, morality and good manners;

(k) promotes, aids or abets any offence which is cognizable under the applicable laws;

(l) denigrates men or women through the depiction in any manner of the figure, in such a way as to have the effect of being indecent or derogatory;

(n) anything which tends to glorify crime or criminals

Keep a record of your phone/fax/email correspondence with PEMRA. Set up a coordinating body via website or list or group to share information and keep others posted on progress or lack thereof. The worst thing that can happen is nothing. The best thing that can happen is another small step towards letting the system know that you too are a stakeholder, you too believe you have the right to air your opinion, and you too are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Those of a PML(N)cholic disposition may, of course, replace Mukhtaran Mai with Nawaz Sharif at relevant parts of the complaint.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fast Friends (Redacted)

I was actually going to put up a different post, on Pak-US relations, tonight but some last minute technical glitches mean that post will have to wait another day at least. Meanwhile, the next big political scandal is about to hit the headlines so I thought we could give you all a bit of a heads-up.

Some of you may have already heard about the Kim Barker - Nawaz Sharif hullabaloo (if you haven't, I can assure you you will be hearing a lot more of it in the coming days). I learnt about it only after a journo colleague mentioned it in vague terms. Then I came across a clip of Mubashar Lucman's show on Dunya TV from a couple of days ago discussing the same in his usual sensational manner (which @kamran9558 sent us). In case you don't have any idea of what I'm referring to, it basically involves what former South Asia correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and current ProPublica reporter Kim Barker has written in her book The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan about her interactions with Sharif. Let's just say that it doesn't paint an entirely flattering picture of the former prime minister. The book came out in the US about a month ago and having sold out in bookstores across Pakistan (probably in small numbers), is being re-ordered in large quantities.

Kim Barker, author of 'The Taliban Shuffle'

We all know why Dunya would be interested in making the contents of this book into an issue (Dunya's owner, Mian Aamir Mahmood, is of course associated with Sharif's rival party the PMLQ). Now Sharif's other nemesis, General Musharraf has jumped into the fray calling on Sharif to apologize to the nation for, according to him, helping Barker find the whereabouts of Mumbai attacker Ajmal Qasab's hometown and for leaking "important intelligence reports of the country" to her. It should be pointed out that the book is about much more than Sharif (it is scathing, for example, about Afghan President Hamid Karzai who Barker calls "whiny and conflicted, a combination of Woody Allen, Chicken Little and Jimmy Carter"). But, as far as Pakistan is concerned, I am willing to bet that the Sharif-related episodes are what are going to sell this book.

I have to admit that I found the Nawaz Sharif-related writing hilarious. It confirmed much of what one already knows about Sharif, his ability to be easily distracted, his obsession with hi-tech gadgetry and his inherent shyness which manifests itself in an inability to communicate. But unfortunately for him, it also depicts a lonely, almost desperate man. I say unfortunately for him because it is this evidence of his humanity which is probably going to be used by his political opponents to attack him.

Since all sorts of people will come up with all sorts of spin on the contents of the book, I thought I would share with our readers some choice excerpts from the book related to the author's conversations with Nawaz Sharif. You really have to read through the excerpts to understand how Barker's relationship develops with Sharif. These excerpts are shared without comment and without authentification as to their veracity; you are free to make up your own mind about them.

Warning: This is a fairly lengthy post. But you will understand the reason for the length once you read through the excerpts. And I am fairly certain you will enjoy it.



Because of a request from author Kim Barker we are removing the lengthy excerpts originally posted below. A few shorter excerpts remain to provide a taste of the book.


From "The Taliban Shuffle" by Kim Barker (published by Doubleday):

"With Bhutto gone, I needed to meet the lion of Punjab, or maybe the tiger. No one seemed to know which feline Nawaz Sharif was nicknamed after. Some fans rode around with stuffed toy lions strapped to their cars. Others talked about the tiger of Punjab. By default, Sharif, a former prime minister like Bhutto, had become the most popular opposition leader in the country. He was already the most powerful politician in Punjab, which was the most powerful of Pakistan’s four provinces, home to most of the army leaders and past rulers. Some people described Sharif as the Homer Simpson of Pakistan. Others considered him a right-wing wing nut. Still others figured he could save the country. Sharif was once considered an invention of the establishment, a protégé of the former military dictator in Pakistan, General Zia, but like all politicians here, he had become a creature of himself. During his second term, Sharif built my favorite road in Pakistan, a hundred and seventy miles of paved, multilaned bliss.....
"One of Sharif’s friends tried to explain him to me: “He might be tilting a little to the right, but he’s not an extremist. Extremists don’t go do hair implants. He also loves singing.” 

"The inside of the house appeared to have been designed by Saudi Arabia—a hodge-podge of crystal chandeliers, silk curtains, gold accents, marble. A verse of the Holy Quran and a carpet with the ninety-nine names of God hung on the walls of Sharif’s receiving room, along with photographs of Sharif with King Abdullah and slain former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Finally I was summoned. “Kim,” Sharif’s media handler said, gesturing toward the ground. “Come.” I hopped up and walked toward the living room, past two raggedy stuffed lions with rose petals near their feet. So maybe Sharif was the lion of Punjab... His press aide tapped his watch, looked at me, and raised his eyebrows. I got the message and proceeded with my questions, as fast as I could. But it soon became clear that this would be unlike any interview I had ever done. 
“You’re the only senior opposition leader left in Pakistan. How are you going to stay safe while campaigning?” In Pakistan, campaigns were not run through TV, and pressing the flesh was a job requirement. Candidates won over voters by holding rallies of tens and hundreds of thousands of people. Even though Sharif was not personally running, his appearance would help win votes for anyone in his party. 
Sharif looked at me, sighed, and shook his head. “I don’t know. It’s a good question. What do you think, Kim?”
“I don’t know. I’m not the former prime minister of Pakistan. So what will you do?”
“Really, I don’t know. What do you think?”
This put me in an awkward position—giving security advice to Nawaz Sharif. “Well, it’s got to be really difficult. You have these elections coming up. You can’t just sit here at home.”
“What should I do?” he asked. “I can’t run a campaign sitting in my house, on the television.”

"I stood up. Sharif’s aide was already standing. “I should probably be going,” I said. “Thanks very much for your time.” “Yes, Mian Sahib’s schedule is very busy,” Sharif’s handler agreed.  
“It’s all right,” Sharif said. “She can ask a few more questions.” I sat down. I had whipped through most of my important questions, so I recycled them. I asked him whether he was a fundamentalist. Sharif dismissed the idea, largely by pointing to his friendship with the Clintons. I tried to leave again, fearing I was overstaying my welcome. But Sharif said I could ask more questions. “One more,” I said, wary of Sharif’s aide. Then I asked the question that was really on my mind.  
“Which are you—the lion or the tiger?”
Sharif didn’t even blink. “I am the tiger,” he said.
“But why do some people call you the lion?”
“I do not know. I am the tiger.”
“But why do you have two stuffed lions?”
“They were a gift. I like them. 

"We drove to the next rally. I looked at my BlackBerry and spotted one very interesting e-mail—a Human Rights Watch report, quoting a taped conversation from November between the country’s pro-Musharraf attorney general and an unnamed man. The attorney general had apparently been talking to a reporter, and while on that call, took another call, where he talked about vote rigging. The reporter had recorded the entire conversation. I scanned through the e-mail. 
“Nawaz,” I said. I had somehow slipped into calling the former prime minister by his first name. “have to hear this.” I then performed a dramatic reading of the message in full, culminating in the explosive direct quote from the attorney general, recorded the month before Bhutto was killed and just before Sharif flew home... It was unclear what the other man was saying, but Human Rights Watch said the attorney general appeared to be advising him to leave Sharif’s party and get a ticket from “these guys,” the pro-Musharraf party, the massive vote riggers. 
Sharif’s aide stared at me openmouthed. “Is that true? I can’t believe that.” “It’s from Human Rights Watch,” I said. “There’s apparently a tape recording. Pretty amazing.”  
Sharif just looked at me. “How can you get a text message that long on your telephone?”  
“It’s an e-mail,” I said, slightly shocked that Sharif was unconcerned about what I had just said. “This is a BlackBerry phone. You can get e-mail on it.” 
“Ah, e-mail,” he said. “I must look into this BlackBerry.” 
"After more than eight years of political irrelevance, Sharif was back. I sent him a text message and asked him to call. A few hours later, he did, thrilled with his victory.  
“I saw a car today, where a man had glued blankets to it and painted it like a tiger,” I told him at one point. “Really?” he asked. “Yeah. It was a tiger car.”
He paused. “What did you think of the tiger car, Kim? Did you like the tiger car?”  
Weird question. I gave an appropriate answer. “Who doesn’t like a tiger car?” 

"This time, in a large banquet hall filled with folding chairs and a long table, Sharif told his aides that he would talk to me alone. At the time, I barely noticed. We talked about Zardari, but he spoke carefully and said little of interest, constantly glancing at my tape recorder like it was radioactive. Eventually, he nodded toward it. “Can you turn that off?” he asked. 
“Sure,” I said, figuring he wanted to tell me something off the record. 
“So. Do you have a friend, Kim?” Sharif asked. I was unsure what he meant. 
“I have a lot of friends,” I replied. 
“No. Do you have a friend?” 
I figured it out. 
“You mean a boyfriend?” “Yes.” I looked at Sharif. I had two options—lie, or tell the truth. And because I wanted to see where this line of questioning was going, I told the truth. “I had a boyfriend. We recently broke up.” I nodded my head stupidly, as if to punctuate this thought. 
“Why?” Sharif asked. “Was he too boring for you? Not fun enough?” 
“Um. No. It just didn’t work out.” 
“Oh. I cannot believe you do not have a friend,” Sharif countered. 
“No. Nope. I don’t. I did.” 
“Do you want me to find one for you?” Sharif asked.

To recap: The militants were gaining strength along the border with Afghanistan and staging increasingly bold attacks in the country’s cities. The famed Khyber Pass, linking Pakistan and Afghanistan, was now too dangerous to drive. The country appeared as unmoored and directionless as a headless chicken. And here was Sharif, offering to find me a friend. Thank God the leaders of Pakistan had their priorities straight.

“Sure. Why not?” I said.

The thought of being fixed up on a date by the former prime minister of Pakistan, one of the most powerful men in the country and, at certain points, the world, proved irresistible. It had true train-wreck potential.

"In the sitting room, I immediately turned on my tape recorder and rattled off questions. Was Sharif at the negotiations? What was happening? He denied being at any meetings, despite press reports to the contrary. I pushed him. He denied everything. I wondered why he let me drive all this way, if he planned to tell me nothing. At least I’d get free food. 
He looked at my tape recorder and asked me to turn it off. Eventually I obliged. Then Sharif brought up his real reason for inviting me to lunch.
“Kim. I have come up with two possible friends for you.” 
At last. “Who?”
He waited a second, looked toward the ceiling, then seemingly picked the top name from his subconscious. “The first is Mr. Z.”
That was disappointing. Sharif definitely was not taking this project seriously. “Zardari? No way. That will never happen,” I said. 
“What’s wrong with Mr. Zardari?” Sharif asked. “Do you not find him attractive?” 
Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, was slightly shorter than me and sported slicked-back hair and a mustache, which he was accused of dying black right after his wife was killed, right before his first press conference. On many levels, I did not find Zardari attractive. I would have preferred celibacy. But that wasn’t the point. Perhaps I could use this as a teaching moment. 
“He is the president of Pakistan. I am a journalist. That would never happen.” 
“He is single.” Very true—but I didn’t think that was a good enough reason. “I can call him for you,” Sharif insisted. I’m fairly certain he was joking. 
“I’m sure he has more important things to deal with,” I replied.  
“OK. No Mr. Z. The second option, I will discuss with you later,” he said. That did not sound promising. 

"I needed to get out of there. “I have to go.” 
“First, come for a walk with me outside, around the grounds. I want to show you Raiwind.” 
“No. I have to go. I have to go to Afghanistan tomorrow.” 
Sharif ignored that white lie and started to talk about where he wanted to take me. “I would like to take you for a ride in the country, and take you for lunch at a restaurant in Lahore, but because of my position, I cannot.” 
"Once the interview was finished, Sharif looked at me. “Can you ask your translator to leave?” he asked. “I need to talk to you.” My translator looked at me with a worried forehead wrinkle. “It’s OK,” I said. He left.
Sharif then looked at my tape recorder. “Can you turn that off?” I obliged.
“I have to go,” I said. “I have to write a story.” 
He ignored me. “I have bought you an iPhone,” he said. 
“I can’t take it.” 
“Why not? It is a gift.” 
“No. It’s completely unethical, you’re a source.” 
“But we are friends, right?” I had forgotten how Sharif twisted the word “friend.” 
“Sure, we’re friendly, but you’re still the former prime minister of Pakistan and I can’t take an iPhone from you,” I said. 
“But we are friends,” he countered. “I don’t accept that. I told you I was buying you an iPhone.” 
“I told you I couldn’t take it. And we’re not those kind of friends.” 
He tried a new tactic. “Oh, I see. Your translator is here, and you do not want him to see me give you an iPhone. That could be embarrassing for you.” 
Exasperated, I agreed. “That’s it.” 
He then offered to meet me the next day, at a friend’s apartment in Lahore, to give me the iPhone and have tea. No, I said. I was going to Faridkot. 
Sharif finally came to the point. “Kim. I am sorry I was not able to find you a friend. I tried, but I failed.” He shook his head, looked genuinely sad about the failure of the project. 
“That’s OK,” I said. “Really. I don’t really want a friend right now. I am perfectly happy without a friend. I want to be friendless.” 
He paused. And then, finally, the tiger of Punjab pounced. “I would like to be your friend.” 
I didn’t even let him get the words out. “No. Absolutely not. Not going to happen.” 
“Hear me out.” He held his hand toward me to silence my negations as he made his pitch. He could have said anything—that he was a purported billionaire who had built my favorite road in Pakistan, that he could buy me a power plant or build me a nuclear weapon. But he opted for honesty. 
“I know, I’m not as tall as you’d like,” Sharif explained. “I’m not as fit as you’d like. I’m fat, and I’m old. But I would still like to be your friend.”  
“No,” I said. “No way.
He then offered me a job running his hospital, a job I was eminently unqualified to perform. “It’s a huge hospital,” he said. “You’d be very good at it.” He said he would only become prime minister again if I were his secretary. I thought about it for a few seconds—after all, I would probably soon be out of a job. But no. The new position’s various positions would not be worth it. 
Eventually, I got out of the tiger’s grip, but only by promising that I would consider his offer. Otherwise, he wouldn’t let me leave. I jumped into the car, pulled out my tape recorder, and recited our conversation. Samad shook his head. My translator put his head in his hands. “I’m embarrassed for my country,” he said. 
After that, I knew I could never see Sharif again. I was not happy about this—I liked Sharif. In the back of my mind, maybe I had hoped he would come through with a possible friend, or that we could have kept up our banter, without an iPhone lurking in the closet. But now I saw him as just another sad case, a recycled has-been who squandered his country’s adulation and hope, who thought hitting on a foreign journalist was a smart move. Which it clearly wasn’t."


Friday, April 22, 2011

You Want 'Real' Data? You Got It

I never expected, when I wrote this small post challenging one by-the-way assertion of The Express Tribune's publisher about ET's online presence vis a vis that of its far more established rival newspaper, Dawn, that it would lead to an all-out flame war in the comments section.

Those jumping to ET's defence began first with trying to discredit our data, interpretation and our web-savvy, followed it up with spin about what was really meant by asserting that ET was "neck in neck" [sic] online with Dawn (hint: it can mean nothing other than readership especially when you're talking about circulations), and ended up by accusing us of carrying out some sort of campaign against ET. I was hugely tempted not to further indulge such grandiose notions of self-importance and (supposed) victimization, not to mention the fact that the comparative online reach of Pakistan's English print media is not an immensely critical issue in my opinion in the larger scheme of things or even as far as the Pakistani media is concerned.

But the reason for a new post on the same topic is because, for one, we promised an independent and thorough analysis to our readers and because some of our friends have gone to great lengths to compile the data for us. More importantly, there is a principle at stake here, namely that of our credibility. We need to set the record straight about some of the wild assertions made in the comments of the last post.

So, without further ado, we present to you a Comparison of the Top English Language News Websites in Pakistan, conducted by our friends at Creative Chaos. (In the interests of full disclosure, it should be pointed out that Creative Chaos is a technology company operating since 2000, was responsible for the pre-launch design and development of The Express Tribune's website, and has also worked with Dawn five years ago to develop their online classifieds (the site was later shut down, ostensibly because management felt it was driving traffic away from the print edition). In addition, the company's CEO, Shakir Husain, is also a columnist for The News and occasionally writes for the Dawn Group's advertising and marketing-related publication Aurora.)

The comparisons of, and were done using four different internationally renowned website analysis tools, i.e. Compete, WebsiteTrafficSpy, Alexa, and doubleclick ad planner by Google, all of which estimate the web traffic of sites based on numerous data streams and their own analytical algorithms. In addition, social media (Facebook, Twitter) influence of these sites was also separately analysed using Klout which basically calculates its rankings using criteria such as number of retweets, quality of tweets etc. Let us go through them one by one.


1. Compete
According to its website, Compete:

"Provides free information for every site on the Internet including site traffic history and competitive analytics; a list of available promotional codes across thousands of online retailers; and site-specific trust scores based on up-to-the-minute data from Compete and third party security services."

This is the data Compete generated:

Click to Enlarge

As you may see, Dawn has a substantial lead over both ET and The News. However, ET and The News can certainly be considered "neck and neck" so far with ET on the up and The News remaining more or less steady.

2. WebsiteTrafficSpy

Though there is no explanation on the WebsiteTrafficSpy website about its methodology of traffic analysis, Creative Chaos believes it aggregates different sources such as Alexa to provide a comprehensive result.

This is the data WebsiteTrafficSpy generated:

Click to Enlarge

According to WebsiteTrafficSpy's estimates, Dawn has 1.96million monthly users, putting it 685,000 ahead of ET which has almost 1.28million monthly users. The News meanwhile, with an estimated 0.93million users is about 350,000 monthly users behind ET. It also puts Dawn's pageviews at approximately 275,000 per day as opposed to ET's 125,000 per day and The News' 92,000 per day. Finally, it ranks Dawn's website at 3,927 worldwide while ET's is ranked at 8,151 and The News' at 11,503.

3. Alexa

According to its website:

"Alexa is continually crawling all publicly-available websites to create a series of snapshots of the web. We use the data we collect to create features and services: 
Site Info: Traffic Ranks, search analytics, demographics, and more
Related Links: Sites that are similar or relevant to the one you are currently viewing
Alexa has been crawling the web since early 1996, and we have constantly increased the amount of information that we gather. We are currently gathering approximately 1.6 terabytes (1600 gigabytes) of web content per day. After each snapshot of the web (which take approximately two months to complete), Alexa has gathered 4.5 billion pages from over 16 million sites."

The overall picture generated by Alexa is as follows:

Click to Enlarge

Note that, as opposed to the vociferous pointations from some commenters in the last post that ET's ranking was only 4 or 6 places behind Dawn according to Alexa, the 'within Pakistan' ranking differs by 13 places. However, in the overall scheme of things (since sites are accessed not just from within the country) Dawn's website is ranked by Alexa at 3,914 while ET's website is ranked at 8,181, a whopping 4,267 places behind. The News, meanwhile is far behind in terms of both rankings. (These rankings are, incidentally, pretty much the same as on WebsiteTrafficSpy.)

In case, you're interested, Alexa also provides snapshots of different parameters that can be looked at. We've included three of the ones most pertinent to the discussion at hand:

In terms of daily traffic ranking:

Red=Dawn, Blue=The News, Green=ET (Click to Enlarge)

In terms of daily reach:

Red=Dawn, Blue=The News, Green=ET (Click to Enlarge)

In terms of daily page views:

Red=Dawn, Blue=The News, Green=ET (Click to Enlarge)

4. doubleclick ad planner by Google

This is how doubleclick ad planner explains itself on its website:

"Refine your online advertising with DoubleClick Ad Planner, a free media planning tool that can help you:
Identify websites your target customers are likely to visitDefine audiences by demographics and interests.
Search for websites relevant to your target audience.
Access unique users, page views, and other data for millions of websites from over 40 countries.
Easily build media plans for yourself or your clientsCreate lists of websites where you'd like to advertise.
Generate aggregated website statistics for your media plan."

The data generated separately for all three sites is as follows:

Dawn's traffic stats: Click to Enlarge

ET's traffic stats: Click to Enlarge

The News' traffic stats: Click to Enlarge

This tool once again puts Dawn far ahead of both others with almost 80,000 daily unique visitors. However, according to doubleclick ad planner by Google, The News with some 36,000 daily unique visitors actually edges out ET with about 28,000. Interestingly, The News also has people spending the most time on their site, an average of 18:20 minutes as opposed to Dawn's 7:40 and ET's 6:20. Generally, that might be considered a good thing. However something tells me that's probably simply because that's how long it takes The News' online readers to figure out how to get to the story they really want in the clutter that is that site.


As you can confirm from all the tools used, our original assertions using Google Trends for Websites as a tool were pretty much on the mark. They are not contradicted by a single other tool.


While we did not touch upon social media in our earlier post, since some commenters brought it up, here's a brief analysis.

Social media usage is the one place where ET has a very strong presence and ET seems to use social media well with some of its articles shared around on Facebook by the thousands. Not that it means anything in substantive terms, but Dawn has 37,000 'fans' on Facebook, followed by ET which has about 23,000. The News is almost dormant on Facebook with only 8,000 'fans'.

On Twitter, however, ET really comes into its own, with the widest reach and the largest number of users. As per Creative Chaos' analysis:

"ET's use of Twitter is by far the most aggressive. Not only do they share all links, their writers do the same as well. Very recently, Dawn has started to share its links online whereas The News remains dormant."

5. Klout

As per its website:

"The Klout Score is the measurement of your overall online influence. The scores range from 1 to 100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence. Klout uses over 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Score.
True Reach is the size of your engaged audience and is based on those of your followers and friends who actively listen and react to your messages. Amplification Score is the likelihood that your messages will generate actions (retweets, @messages, likes and comments) and is on a scale of 1 to 100. Network score indicates how influential your engage audience is and is also on a scale from 1 to 100. The Klout score is highly correlated to clicks, comments and retweets.
We believe that influence is the ability to drive people to action -- "action" might be defined as a reply, a retweet, a comment, or a click. We perform significant testing to ensure that the average click-through rate on links shared is highly correlated with a person's Klout Score. The 25+ variables used to generate scores for each of these categories are normalized across the whole data set and run through our analytics engine. After the first pass of analytics, we apply a specific weight to each data point. We then run the factors through our machine-learning analysis and calculate the final Klout Score. The final Klout Score is a representation of how successful a person is at engaging their audience and how big of an impact their messages have on people."

The following data was generated by Klout for all three:

Dawn: Klout score 59 (Click to Enlarge)

ET: Klout score 67 (Click to Enlarge)

The News: Klout score 58 (Click to Enlarge)

What this shows is that ET and its writers are, by far, using social media in the best way to engage audiences. How far that goes in driving traffic towards their website remains to be seen but certainly they have the right idea about digital audiences.

Incidentally, just for fun, we also checked out our own cache on social media using basically only our Twitter presence (Klout did not ask us for our Facebook account details). Here is the result for @cpyala, which as you can see is "neck and neck" in many respects with ET. Make of it what you will.

@cpyala: Klout score 64 (Click to Enlarge)

At the very least, I hope this exhaustive exposition will put to rest the sniping about us having used the "wrong tools" to show ET up and the wild assertions based more on knee-jerk reactions than any real understanding of anything. As we said last time, ET has considerable achievements to its name in its first year. If only its supporters would focus on the genuine ones rather than getting stroppy when imagined ones are called out.

Finally a big thank you to the folks at Creative Chaos for all their hard work and cooperation.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Necked (Updated)

There were some funny murmurings on Twitter about us not having commented on The Express Tribune's one-year anniversary issue. I really don't see why we needed to. I mean, we don't usually comment on other paper's self-congratulatory anniversary supplements. And contrary to popular perception, we are neither obsessed with ET nor do we go looking for opportunities to stick it to them. And to be fair, ET has matured in many ways since it began. It remains the best looking newspaper in Pakistan and, while there is still plenty to poke fun at in terms of content (as there is in other papers), it is still the only paper to appoint an independent ombudsman for reader complaints, an innovation that other Pakistani papers would do well to emulate.

With all the stuff going on around us politically and even in the media, we also really haven't found the time to do an exhaustive read of the anniversary supplement. I doubt anyone actually does that with any supplement, aside perhaps from the paper's own staff. However, thanks to the urging of friends, I did finally go through it quickly. What I liked about it was the general reliance on colourful graphics and design to convey the journey of the paper rather than boring pages of dense text that nobody would ever read (Dawn Supplements, I am thinking of you). A nod must also be made towards the willingness of ET to laugh at itself, by forthrightly accepting the major bloopers that have graced the pages in this one year (couldn't find the link to the page online), some of which have been the focus of much raucous commentary on this blog too. Many of the articles included from regular oped writers were remarkably double-edged for a congratulatory special issue (try this from Sami Shah or this from Fasi Zaka or this from George Fulton) but at least had the virtue of being honest. This bizarre piece of punnery and indulgence from the paper's City Editor Mahim Maher, however, I have to admit, did leave me quite speechless.

Quite aside from all that, there was one contention in young publisher Bilal Lakhani's piece in the issue that someone pointed out to us which does need to be addressed. In his piece he makes the following assertion:

"The result is that now The Express Tribune is among the top three English language newspapers in the country in terms of circulation; online we are neck in neck with a paper that had a 60-year head start."

I am not going to contest the comparative circulations of Pakistan's English language press (let's just say the assertion can mean nothing even while being perfectly true). However, allow me to just question the latter assertion, that ET's online presence is "neck and neck" in terms of readers with that of Dawn (the only paper with a 60-year head start to ET). And the reason that I can question that assertion is because it is very easy to verify. Keep in mind that we are not talking about aesthetic qualities or better design, simply quantifiable facts.

Here is what I get when I check the online readership of  Dawn ( against that of The Express Tribune ( on Google Trends, which gives you a handy estimate of daily unique visitors:

The blue line is Dawn, the red one ET. As you can see for yourself, "neck and neck" is not quite how one would characterize the comparison.

Do a comparison between the online hits on Dawn, The News ( and ET and this is what you get (blue line is Dawn, red is The News and yellow is ET):

So, according to at least Google Trends, one could ostensibly claim that ET is sort of neck and neck online with The News, but then neither does The News have "a 60-year head start" nor would anyone ever accuse its website of being either user-friendly, hip or well-designed.

Just to put things in perspective, I also did a comparison of these three English papers' online presence with the atrocious ones of the Urdu papers Jang ( and Express (

Here the blue line is Jang, red line is Express, yellow is Dawn, green is The News and purple is ET. Yup, so while Express currently rakes in almost double the number of hits Dawn does, Jang towers above them all with over three times as many unique daily visitors as Dawn.

Moral of the tale: Congratulate yourself for your genuine achievements by all means, but don't make silly assertions that can be easily caught out.

: : : UPDATE : : :

In response to various assertions and questions in the comments, we have a new post up with a detailed analysis of the relative positions of Dawn, The News and ET vis a vis  their online presences. The new post can be found here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Video Of The Day: Losing It Live

Sigh. Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry at the state of political debate on the electronic media.

See following clip from ARY's "11th Hour" programme from yesterday with host Waseem Badami (thanks to Akhtar Rind for bringing it to our notice). The programme was ostensibly innocuously about 'What good news could the government give the public in the current dire scenario?' The first comment was solicited from well known columnist and television host Hasan Nisar, who decided to proclaim that no good news could come until the current political elite was not "totally eliminated." According to him, the current lot of politicians were all "robbers and dacoits" who were "sucking the blood of the people" and the people themselves were the "biggest villains" for bringing them into power in the first place. Of course it all went downhill from there. The PPP's Punjab president, Imtiaz Safdar Warraich, who spoke next, was remarkably restrained in his response, saying smartly that no sensible person would like to respond to such slander and he wanted to be counted among the ranks of sensible people. However, the PMLN's Senator Mushahidullah did take the bait. And this is what then happened:

If you would like to watch the full context of this exchange, you can do so here.

Hasan Nisar has made a name for himself as a frank and forthright political commentator in Jang. And I have to admit that I do often find even his rants about politics a refreshing change from the mealy-mouthed hypocrisy that generally clutters the op-ed pages of Urdu papers. But having watched this exchange, I have absolutely no qualms in saying that Nisar was egregiously in the wrong here. Not only in the shameful way he chose his words on live television but also in terms of his politics. Criticizing the trappings and non-representational character of what he terms "pseudo-democracy" is one thing. But what he basically said was no different from the line of social elites and autocrats: that the people really don't know what's good for them and only they themselves are the repositories of all wisdom. He should offer an immediate apology.

Incidentally, kudos to Waseem Badami for keeping his wits about him even in the midst of mayhem and managing to pull back the programme from the brink of collapse. It's not easy to deal with such unexpectedly virulent behaviour on live television.

Meanwhile if you thought that was bad, this is what happened on Express News' "Kal Tak" programme hosted by Javed Chaudhry on March 29 (thanks to Shahid Saeed and @fraz_lsf for pointing it out). Watch the end as Talal Bugti begins his 'conversation':


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Super Bull Gives You Wings (Updated)

First things first: apologies to all for the disappearing act. (For those who actually noticed, a silent note of appreciation.) Had been away for a rather long stretch of time and while I was able to follow developments back home in an irregular fashion, simply did not have the time or access to all the information to put a post up (the perils of work work). And much has happened in the media while I have been away, which I hope to get round to in a one-by-one fashion. In particular, there are some interesting developments brewing on the electronic media front.

However, I first want to take up the issue which apparently threatens the very survival of humanity itself. Yes, I am referring to the shut down of Geo's sports channel Geo Super and it's music and entertainment channel Aag. To hear Geo talk about it, it is nothing less than the rule of tyranny, the deprivation of Pakistanis of all that is good and worth living for, and the wiping out from people's lives of all information, healthy physical activity and freedom of expression. They now have a 'count-up' on Geo News, ala the 2007 'Emergency', of the exact number of days, hours, minutes and seconds that Pakistanis have been flung into darkness, and even have begun a campaign to get the citizens of Pakistan to grant them a "public license" to resume broadcast (whatever that may be). Geo Super and Aag logos with a cross across them are now regular fixtures on their other two channels (Geo News and Geo Entertainment) and a sidebar regularly updates with the latest maulvi, sportsman, politician, actor, singer or other celebrity to condemn the snatching away of the people's rights.

But before this came to pass the Jang Group (which owns Geo) also used its newspapers - the widely read Jang and the not-so-widely-read The News - to try and browbeat the authorities by running regular front-page stories about the malafide intentions of the government and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). On the day - April 7 - that Dawn's lead story was about a US Congressional report severely critical of Pakistan and the Express Tribune's and Pakistan Today's lead stories were about the removal from his ministership of Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza (the PPP apparently giving in to its ally the MQM's demands), Jang and The News' main leads were about the government having shut Geo Super down. So much for unbiased handling of news priorities. This was, of course, in addition to the wall-to-wall coverage that Geo News had begun to provide on the 'event' from a day before, with the news taking pride of place as the top news headline.

Messages of condemnation have come pouring in from as far afield as Reporters Without Borders and as close to home as the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists - which bizarrely dubbed the issue one of "human rights" - even as the Jang Group has tried to paint the issue as one of governmental victimization. To make matters worse, PEMRA has until yesterday (when it finally placed ads in some papers) been unable to present a clear defence of its actions or explain the exact realities from its point of view.

 The PEMRA ad in Express Tribune and other papers on April 11

There is so much rhetorical chaff involved from both sides that it is important to separate out the facts of the case, which I will attempt to do here.

Let us first examine the claims of Geo itself. The Jang Group claims (if one goes by the news stories on its news channel and print publications) that Geo Super and Aag have been shut down because:

1) It was promoting sports and healthy entertainment in Pakistan
2) It was doing so selflessly with no thought to losses incurred
3) The government wants to hit the Jang Group financially because of its relentless criticism of the government

In addition, the Jang Group claims:

4) Geo Super was/is Pakistan's first and only sports channel
5) Aag was shut down as an act of further vengeance on the part of the government
6) Pakistani's have been deprived of sports, sports news and healthy entertainment because of these shut-downs

Let us first look at the latter claims (4-6).

With respect to 4):

The claim that Geo Super was/is Pakistan's first and only sports channel is technically patently false. It is registered in Dubai and is as Pakistani under that criteria as e.g. Ten Sports or Star Sports or Star ESPN, all of which broadcast also to Pakistan under legally obtained "landing rights" or permission to distribute. In fact, it is because Geo Super is registered as a foreign channel that it obtained local landing rights for distribution within Pakistan when it began broadcasting. The reason it is registered in Dubai could well be in order to prevent Pakistani authorities from having a look at its revenues and to avoid tax/ license fee obligations here, though there is another reason which I will just come to. Yes, it does employ more Pakistanis than the other channels and has covered Pakistani domestic sports more than the other sports channels but nothing more than that. It has no local license.

Furthermore, under PEMRA's current rules to prevent monopolies (Clause 13, PEMRA Rules 2009), no corporate entity can hold more than four channel licenses. The Jang Group already has four channel licenses - for Geo News, Geo Entertainment, Aag and Geo English (which was never launched). Unless those rules are changed, the Jang Group must give up one of their licenses to apply for one for Geo Super, which it apparently seems unwilling to do. Also under PEMRA rules, any local licensee for a satellite channel must declare its revenues and give a percentage of them to PEMRA as annual license fees. In the case of a sports channel such as Geo Super the annual fee would come to Rs. 700,000/- + 7.5% of the annual gross advertisement revenue as per audited accounts. (See Schedule A, Table-1). (As an aside, let me just also point out that from my understanding, PEMRA has no system in place to verify if the revenue claims of any channel are actually correct or not, or to challenge an audit. It simply takes the channel's word on this, which given the way most businesses operate in Pakistan and advertising receipts and expenses are juggled, almost surely means that revenues are under-reported in all cases.)

Incidentally, Geo Super had been in default of even the landing rights fees (Rs. 300,000 + 5% of gross advertising revenues as per audited accounts) for the past four years, a matter which may have been sorted out after the intervention of the courts prior to the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC), when Geo asked the courts to stop PEMRA from taking it off air during the CWC even though its 5-year license was expiring. I will deal with this further on in this post.

With respect to 5):

According to PEMRA, Aag was ordered shut down because after the stoppage of Geo Super broadcasts (we will come to this too), the Jang Group began to show the Indian Premier League cricket fixtures on Aag, which was a violation of its licensing terms. Aag TV has a license for entertainment programming, not sports. Under the licensing rules, no channel can switch its programming genre without a fresh application for a new license. The Jang Group had also violated this provision during the CWC by showing cricket matches on Aag, for which it had already been issued show-cause notices. However, partly out of deference to the Supreme Court's orders allowing the CWC to proceed without hindrance and partly out of the fear of a public backlash, PEMRA had not taken any drastic action in the matter then. In effect, however, Aag had violated the PEMRA Ordinance of 2002.

With respect to 6):

This claim is also demonstrably false since neither has sports news been affected on news channels, nor has sporting or entertainment activity come to a halt because of a sports channel shutting down and Aag being taken off air. In addition, there are still other sports channels and entertainment and music channels being broadcast.

Now let's come to the Jang Group's claims 1)-3) about why Geo Super has shut down. First of all, no sane individual would be willing to accept claim 1), that the government's reasons for stopping Geo Super were because of its antipathy for either sports or entertainment activities. That the Jang Group would even make such a claim says more about its idea of the intelligence and gullibility of its viewers / readers than anything else.

As for claim 2), no one who has endured the infuriating barrage of advertising on Geo Super during a cricket match (a minimum of three ads between each over, more during fall of wickets) could possibly ever believe that the Jang Group's motivations for running a sports channel were selfless. Indeed, nobody could ever believe that any commercial broadcaster would be in the business to only serve viewers interests and not to make money. Let's not be absurd. Yes, Geo Super would not have made the killing it makes broadcasting cricket in other sports, but its revenues from cricket broadcasts (which form the majority of its programming in any case) easily outweigh the costs of non-cricket broadcasts. Despite the hefty price of obtaining exclusive rights for the CWC for example, Geo Super was in the game because it made money not because it lost money. Keep in mind also that the way the Jang Group (and other media houses with multiple channels and publications) marketing operates, advertisers often are lured with bundled packages of advertising across all their channels and publications, which also subsidizes programming with lesser viewership. If the Jang Group really wants to insist on its loss-making claims, perhaps it should be asked to open its Dubai-based account books for public scrutiny. Somehow I don't think this will ever come to pass.

We can thus safely dismiss the Jang Group's claims 1), 2), 4), 5) and 6) as being patently false. The only claim that may have merit is claim 3), i.e. that PEMRA's actions constitute an attempt by the government to hit the Jang Group financially for its hard line against the government. In fact, this is almost surely true. But before we come to this, one final critical point needs to be cleared up:

Has the government through PEMRA actually shut Geo Super down?

Screen shot of Geo Super channel on cable

Almost everyone would have seen this image where Geo Super used to be. Does this mean PEMRA has pulled Geo Super off air? That's what the Jang Group would have you believe. But think about something: if the channel were actually blocked, why would you be able to see this image? Remember when Geo and other news channels were pulled off air during the 2007 'Emergency'? The screens actually went blank. In fact, what this constant image indicates is that Geo Super is still broadcasting and being distributed on cable and satellite dishes. It is just that the channel itself is not running any programming.

Now let me share with you what has actually happened, which Geo will never tell you and which PEMRA is too idiotic to explain properly. Basically, in contravention of its status as a foreign channel with landing rights in Pakistan, Geo Super had been secretively uplinking from Pakistan. Under the law, Geo Super could only regularly uplink to satellite from abroad (Dubai or wherever it chose). When this uplink facility violation was discovered, PEMRA basically shut that operation down. This does not mean that Geo Super cannot broadcast its programmes by uplinking from abroad, as it was supposed to be doing in the first place. PEMRA has pointed out in its ad yesterday that Geo Super still has landing rights and is free to distribute its programmes via cable. In effect, therefore it is Geo Super that has shut itself off.

This is also why Geo Super had scrambled to apply for a "temporary uplinking license" from PEMRA on April 4, a facility that is allowed under the rules for specific events such as a major sporting competition taking place within the country. PEMRA, in perfectly legally defensible fashion, asked Geo Super to specify the event it wanted to cover. Since Geo Super could not name any, PEMRA was within its rights to refuse, which they apparently have still not technically done. The Jang Group's claims of unfair victimization, at least on the basis of this alleged refusal, are merely attempts at a smokescreen.

It is also important to recall exactly what happened during the court case that the Jang Group brought against PEMRA before the CWC since Geo has claimed on numerous occasions that PEMRA and the government are in violation of the court's orders. Basically, just before the CWC, PEMRA had reminded Geo Super that its landing rights permission for 5 years was about to expire at the end of February and that it had not, as per PEMRA Rules, reapplied for permissions six months earlier. This would have meant that Geo Super would have had to go off air within Pakistan during the CWC. It approached the courts and pleaded with them for a stay on PEMRA taking any action against it as well as to ensure that PEMRA forbade cable operators from running any channel showing the CWC that did not have the rights to show the matches in Pakistan.

This is how the official wire agency APP reported  the conclusion of the case (read in particular the bold bits):

"ISLAMABAD, Feb 1 (APP): Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday disposed of Geo Super landing rights case on the assurance of counsel of the petitioner and the respondent to resolve the issue with mutual consent within a week. A single member bench comprising Justice Tariq Anwar Kasi resumed hearing regarding the landing rights case of Geo Super.

Counsel for Geo Super Akram Sheikh apprised the court that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) is not implementing the Supreme Court orders in letter and spirit. He contended that in case of landing rights expired on February 28 Geo Super would not be able to telecast ICC cricket World Cup matches to be played after that date. Afnan Karim Kundi, counsel for PTV apprised the court that the petitioner did not present the law and rules of landing rights in front of the Court. He said that the PEMRA ordinance was promulgated in 2002 and that nobody was being victimized.

Shahid Mehmood Khokhar, another counsel for PTV, informed the court that GEO is warying [sic] to overcome its losses through the courts.

Salman Akram Raja, Counsel for PEMRA, told the court that the authority was not going to “off air” Geo Super transmission despite that they are defaulter of PEMRA for the last four years. He said,”We are implementing the court orders and PEMRA has circulated a copy of court orders on landing rights to all cable operators in this regard.”

Later when counsel of Geo Super Tariq Hassan prayed the court for more relief, the learned Justice remarked, “If you are not satisfied then the court will decide the case on the merit.” However, the counsel for Geo said that his client was ready to sort out matters with PEMRA within one week.

Both the counsel of the petitioner and respondents prayed the court
that they would solve the matter with mutual consent within one week so kindly dispose of the case.

After hearing the arguments, the court disposed of the case by passing following orders: “The counsel for PEMRA informed the court that they do not intend to off air the transmission of petitioner channel in connection with PEMRA press release of January 28 providing base for filing the petition.”

“The above undertaking that they would settle issue of annual fee payment within one week time, learned counsel placed on record a letter where by the orders of Supreme Court has been acted upon and a copy has been circulated to all cable operators, since the grievances are no more now, therefore, counsel for the petitioner wants withdrawal of the petition , the case is disposed off.”"

So basically, Geo itself had its case disposed of and there is no longer a case of any violation of the court's orders.

Given all these lies, half-truths and fabrications on the part of Geo, why do I then still say that the Jang Group is almost surely also being victimized by the government? Simply because PEMRA's hands are not clean either. Although PEMRA has responded angrily to the Jang Group's claims involving one of its former officers (who alleged to The News that he was issued verbal instructions to cause problems for Geo Super), even leaving the veracity of this particular incident aside, there is little doubt - from background and off-the-record interviews - that PEMRA did undertake a policy of using cable operators to make things difficult for Geo. This involved cable operators arbitrarily switching Geo Super's position in their channel bouquets and degrading its signals. It all culminated in the so-called strike by cable operators during the CWC, ostensibly against PEMRA's high-handedness but which actually targeted Geo Super in particular by leaving the field open only for Pakistan Television to show that day's match. This of course impacted Geo Super's advertising revenues significantly at least on that day. It may all be legally difficult to prove but the thinking behind it was the same that General Musharraf employed after his Emergency regulations failed to curb the hostility of private news channels like Geo. And this thinking is to hit them where it really hurts: in the pocket.

In addition, one has only to look at PEMRA's past record of taking to task other violations of its Rules. As the large number of illegal cable channels showing pirated films all over Pakistan with immunity - in total violation of the PEMRA Ordinance - demonstrates, there are violations, and then there are violations. Had the Jang Group not been on a warpath against the government, it is more than likely that PEMRA would have taken a lenient view of the group's violations, as it has done with many before.

Where the Jang Group's stupidity lies is that it has allowed PEMRA and the government a handy legal excuse to go after it. Already PEMRA is threatening to go to court in response to the fabrication of allegations against it and to pray for Geo Super to be permanently blacklisted for its violations. If you must take on the government politically, it usually is a good idea to keep your nose clean in other ways. But then, the Jang Group has hardly been known to pay all its taxes and has never shied away from using media clout to get what it wants, whether justified or not. Recall that the Jang Group is also alleged to be a defaulter of over 90 crores in back-taxes over many years, a case that continues to remain pending and is dredged up only when the government wants to exert pressure on the group. If only the average taxpayer had that kind of luxury.

What this brouhaha also shows is how neither the government nor the media hold the moral high ground in Pakistan. It's a sordid, sordid business in which lies and damned lies are the norm and the poor unsuspecting public are merely emotional pawns one way or the other. Once a compromise is reached - and it will be one way or another since the stakes are too high for both parties to take it over the edge - the public who think they are bringing about popular change by affixing their names to silly petitions, will be left by the wayside.

: : : UPDATES : : :

Update I (12 April 2011):

Trust politicians to jump into the fray with loud rhetoric but little in the way of information or understanding of the issues. This was the main story in The News today, which I saw only after I had posted the above piece.

We have also been made aware that PEMRA has today issued "show cause notices" to both Geo Super and Geo News. Geo Super has been issued the notice for "illegally blocking transmission without any cogent or lawful reason in violation of Section 28 of the PEMRA Act 2007" (Amended PEMRA Ordinance 2002). The following is Section 28 of the Act:

"28. Suspension of broadcast media or distribution service.- A broadcast media or distribution service operator shall not cease or suspend broadcasting except on account of force majeure or with the prior approval of the Authority."

Geo News has been issued a notice "under Section 20 for propagating false and baseless news maligning PEMRA and deceiving the public." Section 20 of the PEMRA Act 2007 deals basically with the 'Terms and Conditions of the License' and its clause (d) specifies that licensee must "comply with the rules made under this ordinance." Section 1-(d) in the Schedule-A of the PEMRA Rules states that "No programme shall be aired which..."

"(d) contains anything defamatory or knowingly false;"

Finally, our friend @mirza9 has also pointed out that the satellite licenses Geo News and Geo Entertainment are registered under the name of Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Ltd. while the licenses for Aag and Geo English are registered under the name of Independent Newspapers Corporation (Pvt) Ltd. which may mean that both separately registered companies could yet claim a further two licenses under the law to prevent monopolies (see main post). However, while we are not aware of their directors / CEOs / ownership details, both companies are registered at the same address and share the same telephone and fax numbers.

 Screen shot of PEMRA licensee list courtesy @mirza9

We have asked PEMRA for clarification on this issue - whether two companies that ostensibly share ownership can be issued licenses as separate entities, and are waiting to hear back from them.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Fraternity of the Amygdala

What do the following people have in common?

From top: former US President George W. Bush, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Munawwar Hasan, Dutch MP Geert Wilders, former Australian PM John Howard, Nawai Waqt owner Majid Nizami, The News' Editor Investigations Ansar Abbasi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, former British PM Margaret Thatcher, US Pastor Terry Jones, anti-'Ground Zero Mosque' campaigner Pam Geller, former ISI chief Lt. Gen (retd) Hamid Gul, media personality Zaid Hamid, Indian Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, political analyst Shireen Mazari, PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat, and US politician Sarah Palin 

No, it's not what you're thinking, though that's true as well.

They all apparently have large right amygdalas (or amygdalae to the more semantically correct).

Finally, thanks to the latest brain-mapping research, publicized in the papers today, we can understand what it  is that sets these folks apart.

According to the AFP report published in Dawn today:

Brain structure differs in liberals, conservatives: study
WASHINGTON — Everyone knows that liberals and conservatives butt heads when it comes to world views, but scientists have now shown that their brains are actually built differently.
Liberals have more gray matter in a part of the brain associated with understanding complexity, while the conservative brain is bigger in the section related to processing fear, said the study on Thursday in Current Biology.
"We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala," the study said.
Other research has shown greater brain activity in those areas, according to which political views a person holds, but this is the first study to show a physical difference in size in the same regions.
"Previously, some psychological traits were known to be predictive of an individual's political orientation," said Ryota Kanai of the University College London, where the research took place. "Our study now links such personality traits with specific brain structure."
The study was based on 90 "healthy young adults" who reported their political views on a scale of one to five from very liberal to very conservative, then agreed to have their brains scanned.
People with a large amygdala are "more sensitive to disgust" and tend to "respond to threatening situations with more aggression than do liberals and are more sensitive to threatening facial expressions," the study said.
Liberals are linked to larger anterior cingulate cortexes, a region that "monitor(s) uncertainty and conflicts," it said. "Thus, it is conceivable that individuals with a larger ACC have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts, allowing them to accept more liberal views."
It remains unclear whether the structural differences cause the divergence in political views, or are the effect of them.
But the central issue in determining political views appears to revolve around fear and how it affects a person.
"Our findings are consistent with the proposal that political orientation is associated with psychological processes for managing fear and uncertainty," the study said."

Yup, like little reptiles baring their poisonous fangs, they're just scared.

I can also see 'Is your anterior cingulate cortex well developed?' becoming a standard pick-up line.