Geo Super shuts down live transmission


-Pakistan’s first sports channel reduced to re-telecasting recorded programmes

LAHORE: Amid the pressure of paying salaries to the employees and dwindling viewership, Geo Super has closed major operations including the live transmission and switched to re-telecasting the recorded shows from the parent channel and old matches, Pakistan Today has learned.

The matter came to light earlier this week when ex-employees of the media company claimed, on the condition of anonymity, that the channel has been shelved with its programming department completely shut down and a number of employees told to resign. Also, the social media presence of the channel remains compromised during this month. The channel relies on Geo News for its sports broadcast and has stopped its independent coverage of the sports affairs.

The reliable sources confirmed that all live transmission by the country’s first sports channel, except for a few league games, has come to a halt with future plans of a complete closure of operations. “Employees working with the sports channel have been asked to either resign or switched to other departments,” sources added.

Reacting to the matter, a Twitter user wrote, “Sad news for my media fraternity. #GeoSuper has been shelved and all the employees are asked to resign.”

Other reports suggested that Geo Super, now run entirely by the management of Geo News, would only show repeat shows in an approach to become idle, much like the group’s Geo Tez that only broadcasts repeat programmes from the parent channel. It was revealed that the top management of Geo Super, as well as its anchorpersons, were asked to resign.

Later on, Geo’s sports analyst Aalia Rasheed took to Twitter and revealed that both anchorpersons Waheed Khan and Naseem Rajput were forced to quit due to ‘financial implications’. She reasoned that the “marketing team couldn’t produce the desired results”.

Several top names working for Jang Group refused to comment and explained that they were not authorised to talk about the matter. However, when Pakistan Today approached a senior producer at the sports channel, he rejected the reports, claiming that the existing bump in the operations was a mere change of management.

This is not the first time that Geo Super has been subjected to closure. In 2011, being the only sports channel at that time, it was closed down due to licensing issues with the PEMRA.

Ever since the arrival of PTV Sports, the TV viewership of Geo Super declined drastically as all major local and international sporting events were usually broadcasted by the state channel. According to FY 2015-16 survey data collected by Aurora, Geo Super accounted for just 8pc of the ranking as compared to the giant chunk of 43pc held by PTV Sports. Foreign sports channels also maintain their large viewership with Ten Sports having a 49pc share in the same survey.

In June 2017, PEMRA had warned all the satellite channels to stop airing footage from PTV Sports illegally and has said that strict action would be taken against violators. The PTV said in its release, “Geo News, Geo Super were directed [by PEMRA] to stop airing live or recorded footage of ICC Champions Trophy. While the cable operators were also directed to stop illegal sports channels.”

Last month, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) had summoned the editor-in-chief of Jang Group, Mir Shakilur Rahman over the issue of the non-payment of salaries to the group’s employees for the past three months. The top court had directed the owners of all private media houses, including Jang Group, to pay salaries to journalists and media workers till April 30, otherwise, adverse action would be taken against them.

It is pertinent to mention here that Geo News and its subsidiary TV channels remained off air in most parts of the country despite no order of suspension from the government. Journalist Talat Hussain had stated that the news channel of the franchise was not the only off-air frequency, but several other sub-divisions of the Geo Group were also off-air.

While the cable operators remained tight-lipped on the issue, the media watchdog PEMRA expressed its toothless will in a clarification stating, “PEMRA has not issued orders to close down any channel or change its position.”

Subsequently, Geo News was reportedly allowed on air across the country after successful negotiations and succumbing to the demands of men in power.