PML-N choked ads to TV channels, audio clip proves
It was a truth that everyone in the media knew but with Maryam Nawaz's confession on Wednesday an entire industry's financial : she had indeed given the orders to cut off advertising to several television channels, including SAMAA TV, when her party was in power.
The moment of truth came on Wednesday (November 24, 2021) when an undated audio clip surfaced in which (what is quite ostensibly) Maryam Nawaz says: "SAMAA TV, 92, and what's its name, ARY, no ads will be given to them."
Television channels rely on government and advertising spending for on-air rates by the minute.
At her press conference on Wednesday, Maryam Nawaz said that this was indeed her voice in the audio clip giving the instructions. "Look, my ah… I was running the party media cell at the time."
The problem is that four years ago she had feigned innocence when asked if she had a media cell. It was October 2017, on the steps of a court, when reporters asked her about the existence of a media cell, to which she had expressed amazement. "My media cell? Ah, I don't have any media cell. This is propaganda that is being spread on purpose. What media cell? I don't run any media cell."
Maryam Nawaz did not have a position in government at the time when she gave these orders but she had influence on how much money the government would give to the media.
As these startling revelations came to light on Wednesday, PML-N's top leaders scrambled to deflect or do damage control. Musadik Malik, for example, said that the order to choke advertisements came during the PTI 2014 dharna when it was in the opposition and Imran Khan was trying to oust Nawaz Sharif's government.
Marriyum Aurangzeb told ARY that the audio clip on cutting ads could have been from 2009 or 2010. But a little fact-checking proves this wrong as well.
Neither of them were correct. One of the channels which Maryam Nawaz gave the orders to stop ads to is 92 News. It was not in existence in 2009 or even 2014. In fact, this channel was launched in 2015. And so, by default, her orders could have only come after its launch. This dates the audio clip clearly after 2015.
Another victim of these decisions is SAMAA TV, which despite being in the top three channels in the ratings post 2015, received the least advertisements during the five-year PML-N government's tenure. A spreadsheet shows the figures of advertising spend by channel.
The problem is that after the PTI government came to power it revised the tariffs for government advertising downwards. This worsened the financial crunch for channels. Hundreds of staffers had to be laid off across the industry during downsizing in 2018. Salaries were cut for those who were kept on.
Reaction was swift to her admission with Fawad Chaudhry saying that the government would investigate.