There is a bit of a battered wife syndrome about PTV. As the state broadcaster, it has always been held captive by the rulers of the time. ZAB used PTV to further his ideas. When Zia took over, he used PTV for his disastrous Islamization project; we have paid for which with tens of thousands of innocent lives. When PML-N and PPP alternated terms in the 90s, PTV was used to praise the ruling party to the skies and throw the opposition under the bus.
Once the Musharraf government allowed private channels to enter the market, two interesting things happened. Firstly, the standard of the programming on PTV plummeted. The second development, which perhaps caused the aforementioned lowering of standards, was the use of PTV as a place to reward loyalists, or bribe others with cushy jobs.
And that brings me to PTV Sports.
If you thought PTV was mismanaged, you clearly haven’t paid attention to PTV Sports. The channel is run by Dr Nauman Niaz, a medical doctor and an avid Pakistan cricket fan who also hosts a show with an eclectic mixture of former players from Pakistan and abroad. Dr Niaz’s show seems like a black comedy at times; which is understandable given that the good doctor has no credentials to be hosting the show, much less be the director of the channel.
Dr saab took things to another level during the recently held cricket world cup. First he hired former South African cricket star Jonty Rhodes and later also roped in Herschelle Gibbs (also of South Africa) and Damien Martyn of Australia. Guess it helps to be the boss and being able to allocate ridiculous amounts of the budget to your own show and vanity project.
The show seemed like a train crash in slow motion. You wanted to look away but couldn’t – cringing all the way. Doctor saab conducted the show as if he was hanging out at home with his chaddi buddies. Where does one begin?
Let’s start with the language. Despite the show panel constituting of both Pakistanis and foreigners, Doctor saab conducted most of the show in Urdu, which left the foreign guests with a perpetually puzzled look on their face. Apart from being rude and inconsiderate, it looked so awkward, unprofessional and embarrassing even to viewers. Jonty Rhodes in particular developed an almost antagonistic attitude towards Dr saab. When Dr saab, as the host, would call on Jonty to share his opinion, he took to saying “just cut to the ad, doc”. Now that was pretty unprofessional of Rhodes but it is also understandable given how unprofessionally Dr saab conducted the entire show. It was obvious that Rhodes was just waiting for his contract to end so he could leave.
The production of the show was very poor in other ways too. One time the panel was discussing the batting of a couple of teams. The production team put up some stats to help the discussion, except that instead of batting averages, they put up the strike rates. As you can imagine, the numbers looked ridiculous. The panel realized the numbers were wrong and pointed them out. The show staff pulled the numbers off the screen, and a little bit later put up the same incorrect numbers again!
The comedy doesn’t just end there. Dr saab like most Pakistanis (including the author) has a colonial complex and thinks the more he shows off his vocabulary of big English words the more impressed the audience will be. What often results is hilariously awkward word constructions.
Another favorite activity of Dr saab’s is basically inserting himself into stories that show how he is best friends with Pakistani players. Constant references to inside jokes, which of course put Dr saab in the middle of the Pakistani team dressing room, are a staple of the show.
Dr saab also seems to be oblivious of what things should be said on TV and what one should not say. In one show, he referred to how bad things were for former Pakistan batsman Mohammed Wasim financially, while Wasim sat there. If I was in Wasim’s place, regardless of how bad things were for me, I wouldn’t want that to be broadcast on the state run TV channel to a country of 200 million people.
One would think that a man running a TV channel and also hosting its banner show would be somewhat amenable towards constructive criticism. Doctor sb’s standard response to criticism is to read any pieces/tweets critical of his show, block the writer on Twitter and attack the writer on the next show. Regardless of what the criticism is like, to spend an hour or two just whining like a baby because someone criticized your show is ridiculous and unprofessional.
During the recently held Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, Doctor saab took things to another level. He hired Sri Lankan great Sanath Jayasuria to be part of the panel on his show. I’m sure he wasn’t cheap, just like a panel of Jonty Rhodes, Damien Martyn, Herschelle Gibbs wouldn’t have been. And as usual Doctor saab, after inviting Jayasuria, amidst all his other unprofessional antics, conducted 80% of the show in Urdu. Jayasuria took to fiddling on his phone during that time. So here is Dr saab swapping stories and inside jokes with Saqlain Mushtaq (poor fellow looks like a hostage being held by Doctor saab) while Sanath Jayasuria is fiddling on his phone in full view of the camera. A gentleman wrote a blog criticizing the show. Dr saab’s response was classic. The next show was conducted mostly in English with lots of passive aggressive attacks on the blog writer. Doctor saab just stopped short of calling the writer of the blog a Zionist conspiracy. Here’s an idea: Doctor saab, maybe the writer was just a fan who wanted the banner show of the sports channel of the state broadcaster to be run in a better/professional manner?
Doctor saab needs to understand he’s not doing the show in his living room. This isn’t a Friday evening to be spent swapping inside jokes with friends after a hard week at work. You’re doing a show on a national channel. You’re being paid for the show and probably a LOT. The panel that was hired to be on your show was expensive and was paid with taxpayer money. Also, beaming non-stop pessimism and cynicism into the homes of your viewers is hardly going to get kids to pick up a bat or ball. A Pakistani player could be making a perfectly valid point when Doctor saab would cut him off with a “the world is coming to an end and everything in Pakistan is rotten” anecdote. Not sure what that achieves. But Doctor saab sure gets a lot of pleasure from doing so.
Apart from Doctor saab’s idiosyncrasies on the show, one has to wonder why the director of the channel insists on being on the TV all the time. Is there no one else who can host the show? From what I’ve seen, Bazid Khan could do a much better time than Doctor saab. Bazid has started appearing on Cricinfo as the designated Pakistan cricket expert and has so far been superb. Why not turn over the show to him? Unless it is a matter of ego?
That might explain why Doctor saab’s show has no set timing and often goes over two hours. Also, why is that only Doctor saab’s show has ads and no other shows are able to attract sponsors? I refuse to believe it is because of the quality of the content of Doctor saab’s show.
I suggested to Dr saab that he should let Bazid host the show. He responded by blocking me on Twitter and in his next show mentioned my tweets as some sort of a global conspiracy out to get him. He also took lots of subtle passive aggressive shots at poor Bazid. The poor guy looked mortified. Apparently Dr saab is so insecure that he has been trying to run Bazid out of PTV Sports lately or so goes the grapevine.
In general, the concept of professionalism seems to be unknown at Dr Nauman Niaz’s PTV sports. Shows that are supposed to start at 8 PM routinely started 10-15 minutes later. The panels of successful shows like “Journo Eyes”, “Kick Off”, “Sports Climate”, etc instead of staying constant, change all the time as per the whims of the director.
The list of the unprofessional antics of the director of PTV Sports is long, if not infinite. It is high time someone from the government or PTV looked into the affairs of PTV Sports and why Dr Nauman Niaz is running the sports channel of the state broadcaster like a personal plaything and low level cable channel.