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Sunday, May 26, 2024

There’s more to financial than editorial interests in Geo’s restoration

News Analysis |

Pakistan’s widely claimed no.1  channel, which was taken off the air in March, has been restored once again with speculations and rumors about a deal with the establishment or ‘armed forces’ in the revival, however, there’s much more behind the mysterious recovery of the channel, owned by Mir Shakil ur Rahman.

Geo television has been airing controversial commentary against the judiciary ever since the apex court started trial of Sharif family in the Panama Papers case, however, after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as the Prime Minister of the country, the channel took a strong exception to the freedom of speech and diverted its attention towards portraying the former ruling family in a favorable light, and indirectly targeting the judges of the apex court.

Read more: CJP orders Geo to pay salaries to its employees

Geo’s editorial policy visibly pointed towards a conflict of interest when at one hand it was advocating to expose the corrupt individuals in society, while on the other hand, was openly fending off the allegations hurled against the Sharif family, through its programmes and analysis based shows.

Not only the channel was actively siding with Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, but its subsidiary, The News, and Urdu publication, Jang, was also casting aspersions over the corruption trial of ruling family, pointing out legal ‘flaws’ in the process.

Although the reasons behind the closure of TV channel are still mysterious, its recovery perhaps refers to the financial interests of the media mogul which were in deep trouble from last three months.

Mir Shakil ur Rahman, the Editor in chief of Geo television, had, in one interaction with newsmen outside the Supreme Court, clarified that managing a media group was a business for him, calling upon the reporters, he was facing, to ‘forget about journalism’, in a visible indication of what mattered most to him.

Read more: The curse of yellow journalism in Pakistan

The same ‘business’ interests seem to be the driving force behind Geo’s restoration now.

A harbinger of Geo’s financial turbulence can be gauged from the fact that the channel has not paid its staff from last three months. Hamid Mir, the top anchorperson of the channel, had revealed before the apex court this week that even he was not being paid from last three months, what to say of the reporters who have no say in the channel’s management.

Moreover, as general elections are drawing closer, the media tycoon needs to garner advertisement for which a complete recovery of the channel is a must; otherwise, the advertisers would prefer the peers of Geo.

According to an unconfirmed list uploaded on social media, the government of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz handed over Rs. 438,293,723 or 430 million to Geo TV from 2013 till 2016, which apparently helped it in maintaining a good repute of the government, at least on the screen.

Read more: GVS exclusive interview with Fereeha Idrees

Besides airing advertisements from the Fast-moving consumer goods industry, Geo television also has to offer its screen for political parties to launch funded campaigns, portraying their performance of last 5 years, to secure more votes in the upcoming elections.

The ousting of Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers Case instilled in the TV channel, a new energy to advocate the disqualified lawmaker under the garb of ‘sanctity of vote’.

The same TV channel has also been in a constant skirmish with the opposition party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, whose chairman publically shames its owner for taking sides with Nawaz Sharif.

Two of the subsidiary publications, Jang and The News also support the former first family and are actively involved in controversial campaign against Imran Khan, chairman, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, over his third marriage, however, with the unannounced broadcast ban on the channel, the media group was losing a share of the advertisements, so it had to look for ways to boost its business.

Read more: Fereeha Idrees: Why she had to unlearn everything learned in UK…

The revamped Geo, now on air across the country, would probably be looking for some changes in the editorial policy, not because it believes in the amendment, but perhaps due to the fact that financial aspect would be prioritized.

The TV channel was shut down multiple times; however, the timing of latest closure had the potential to inflict a heavy financial loss on the channel.

So, in essence, it is about the business interests of the media outlet that has helped its restoration and ironically, the same financial aspect had prompted the top guns of the channel to cast doubts about the corruption trial of former ruling family.