Thursday, July 28, 2011

ARY In Disarray?

The following information has been posted by one Mekaal Hassan on the journalists' mailing group PressPakistan. We cannot verify it but it does seem to have more credible citations than the numerous allegations usually found on the list. Can anyone authenticate or rebut this information?

(On a side note, does anyone actually watch ARY these days?)

"The private Pakistani satellite television channel, ARY Digital is in deep financial trouble. The company behind the brand recently slid into administration, leaving employees (journalists and technical staff) helpless and aghast.

ARY Digital TV, broadcasts 3 Asian satellite television channels using Sky television platform in England, ARY News, QTV, and ARY Digital. The company (ARY Digital UK Limited) commenced trading on 9th April 1999 (company registered number 03749889). By July 2011, it owed over 3,500,000.00 (GBP) to various creditors including some well known industry names.

What appears really odd is that the company, now in administration, terminated arrangements with its employees, but later (unbeknown to them) those same employees were hired by a similarly sounding company: ARY Network Limited.

This new company was incorporated on 1st December 2010 (company registered no. 07456134). Administrators were appointed to deal with the affairs of ARY Digital UK Limited due to the disastrous financial situation the company found itself in. Matters were dealt with at the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, London and the company was placed into administration on the 19th May 2011, (case number No 4172 of 2011).

It is surprising that the assets of ARY Digital UK Limited were sold by private treaty to ARY Network Limited on the 31st May 2011. It is noteworthy that two of the directors of the two companies are brothers.

One of the directors of ARY Network Limited, Mr Muhammed Yaqoob Iqbal is the father of Salman Iqbal, a director of ARY Digital UK Limited. It appears that company assets have simply been passed between family members whilst countless creditors and employees are unaware of this private arrangement.

The employees at ARY s media station are completely outraged as they feel they have been cheated and denied basic employment rights as they did not even know of the changes being made by management. Some salaries have not been paid for almost a year.

The dire financial mismanagement came to light a few months ago when the ARY engaged in a costly advertising campaign to launch a weekly newspaper called The Bridge . Despite the allegedly huge costs incurred, no publication was ever released and it appears that the newspaper s editorial team have now been forced from office. No explanation has ever been given.

The company had promised to launch the newspaper in Pakistan and the UK but failed on both attempts. It is unclear what strategy was at work and why one company was forced to incur exorbitant marketing/advertising costs given there has not been a single publication to date.

Reliable sources within the channel have cited unrest and anger among the employees who find themselves now being employed by the new company. According to a senior insider, professional trade unions are now set to step in and a legal battle will ensue by those wanting to protect themselves from the adventures of the owners.

It seems however if the old ARY has been put in to administration and the employees have suddenly found that the label has been changed and a new ARY has taken over (albeit under the control of the brother) the staff may have to ask the authorities to investigate matters further.

When the company was set up, the first directors were Jawaid Pasha, Yasir Pasha and Zain Pasha who (for reasons unknown) all resigned abruptly on 13th October 2000. It was on that date, Mr Muhammed Yaqoob Iqbal and Salman Iqbal were appointed as directors. Even Mr Asif Iqbal (the former cricketer) was a director at one point as was Barbara Kahan although their positions have since been terminated.

Records at Companies House (the government agency for all companies in England and Wales) makes it clear that the principal activity of the company to June 2006 was to produce and broadcast television programmes for the Asian community in the UK and Europe. It cites, the company having suffered material losses whilst carrying out this activity .

Those losses were financed and underwritten by its shareholders as well as loans from sponsors. It goes on to state: Due to heavy trading losses 5 years ago, the company entered into an agreement with one of its (family) associated company s . Therefore, its current activity is that of sales and marketing for 3 satellite television stations for the Asian market in the UK and Europe. " The Company suffered bad debts on a regular basis which created cash flow problems

The papers submitted by the ARY owners, state the company directors felt the company may not be able to trade through the difficult financial period. Rather than risk whatever little assets the company owned and further expose itself to trade creditors they felt the company should be placed in to administration to protect its position and therein its assets."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Then, Of Course, There's Twitter

More than one commentator has ascribed the relative dearth of recent posts on this blog to our having taken the easy way out (as others before us) and our expending too much energy on Twitter. And you know what, they may not be completely incorrect. It is, of course, far easier to write pithy sentences of 140 characters rather than thought out essays - even rants - and there is more immediate feedback. Sometimes even a conversation. (And yes, I do remember our initial expression of disdain for it.) It isn't the only reason (as I've tried to explain before) but it could be one reason.

So I thought what better way to ease back into blogging after a longish hiatus by having a post about that infernal sinkhole of time and energy, Twitter, which as we all know now even has the Chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in its clutches. And what better way to really make it easy by having someone else do all the writing and my being simply the medium pointing you in the right direction. Hope you enjoy the following collection from that wonderful chronicler of workplace absurdities, Dilbert by Scott Adams. Never were truer words spoken about the Tweeting phenomenon...

Twitter 1 or Why Some People Tweet:

Twitter 2 or How To Distract Rehman Malik:

Twitter 3 or The Compulsive Tweeters (Marvi Memon Fan Group):

And then there's this kind of workplace (Jang Group Version):

At some point I'd also love to do a post about those who think they're leading some sort of guerrilla mobilization on Twitter. It is, truly, a sight to behold. When they shout (in CAPS of course) that the Revolution (all 140 characters of it) is not far off, all you can do is nod in agreement and add:

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Point Being?

Some of you may have seen the following ad, which featured prominently in the pages of The Daily Times' Sunday magazine and the Express Tribune Magazine today...

It sort of reminded me of this by-now famous photograph that did the rounds a couple of years ago...

In both cases, I have only one comment to make: 'Why?'

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Brief Note of Explanation, Kinda

I guess I should offer some explanation about why the blog has been dormant for so long. Frankly, I can only speak for myself and you can put it down to exhaustion and lack of motivation as far as I am concerned (the rest of the contributors can speak for themselves). Even though I returned from vacation a while ago, and there have been a number of topics I have thought of blogging about (Lord knows, there always are in Pakistan), the two main reasons for the absence are the power woes that KESC's dastardly staff has put all of Karachi through - and which have sapped my energy in more ways than one - and the feeling of futility that engulfs all of us living in Pakistan at some point or the other, which has been particularly marked over the last few months. After a while, unending tales of incompetence, brutality, corruption, dishonesty and cynical manipulation do tend to numb you. I am not at all implying that this is in any way only specific to Pakistan. But since I live here, I can only speak for life in this place. The tendency often is to try and find solace in other, lighter things.

At another level (and somewhat contradictory to the sense of futility), there is also a feeling that there is little point in spending hours constructing posts on matters that others have already addressed or are already addressing. When we began the blog, very, very few people were taking on the media as a subject. Thankfully, a lot more debate now occurs on the subject both online and in the print and electronic media and that is a good thing. A lot more people are also willing and vigilant enough to call out inconsistencies and issues in the media. One hopes we have played a small part in making that possible but, yes, it can lead to complacency.

I know these may be seen as just excuses for laziness and I am willing to concede that. But I thought I owed it to our readers to at least provide some explanations, even if they are mere excuses. Hopefully, we'll get over our blue funk and soon get our mojo back.