Shaking up BRTC

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The employees at the TV station are threatening a strike tomorrow and if that doesn’t get their demands, they’re threatening an en mass resignation. They’re not happy with the new BRTC CEO Ahmed Najem.

I suggest to our good friends at that illustrious institutions to forgo the first threat in their due process and just go directly to the second. I am sure that I can get another friend to come in with a pickup truck and transport the newly destitute to their various abodes, free of charge.

But destitute they aren’t. A little birdie tells me that quite a number of them became fat cats; suckling at that milch cow with abandon.

For instance, some of the production personnel have reportedly sprouted well-equipped home studios using pirated software on cheap enough computers where they habitually receive conveniently farmed out jobs in order for the poor souls to supplement their unsubstantial stipend.

Ahmed Najim, BRTC\'s new CEO
Ahmed Najim, BRTC's new CEO
They’ve apparently become quite innovative in surmounting the unusually high cost of acquisition and playback production equipment by utilising the station’s own; at the same time demonstrating their sheer technological advancement by simply shooting material then digitising it using the station’s own editing systems directly into external hard disks which they then take home to edit the program. When the time comes to lay their edited material back out to tape again, they simply bring back that external disk and output it through the TV’s expensive tape machines and Bob’s your uncle!

Other less technologically aware – but equally industrious – individuals won’t be crowded out at the trough. Those apparently simply farm out whole jobs to judiciously selected production and post-production houses for which their efforts would be amply rewarded.

So it doesn’t surprise me one iota to read the following in this morning’s Alwaqt newspaper:

علمت ”الوقت” أن عدداً من موظفي هيئة الإذاعة والتلفزيون يعتزمون تنظيم اعتصام صباح غد الاثنين وذلك احتجاجاً على قرارات الرئيس التنفيذي للهيئة أحمد نجم، وقال مصدر فضل عدم الكشف عن اسمه ”إن الاعتصام قائم. إلا إذا تم فتح قنوات للحوار، حيث يأتي هذا الاعتصام كحق طبيعي نمارسه للتعبير عن مواقفنا”.
وأضاف المصدر ”هناك امتعاض من الأسلوب الذي نعامل به، التلفزيون والإذاعة من صنع هؤلاء الموظفين الذين أمضوا حياتهم داخل أروقة الهيئة، وفي حال عدم استجابة المسؤولــين لنا، سنضطــر آسفين إلى تقديم استقالات جماعية في القريب العاجل”.

Alwaqt Newspaper

Who wouldn’t fight tooth and nail to keep a personal milch cow amilkin’?

Well done Ahmed Najem (and the minister who selected you for the job). Go forth and conquer. What a wonderful feeling it is to have a clean site unhindered by dead wood and avaricious dead-beats whose only reason to be in that edifice in the first place was to have known – or been related to – the right person!

It is high time that both Bahrain’s radio and television stations regain their senses and output something that we can both be proud of and want to watch of our own volition.

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28 Comments
  • Sam
    3 August 2008

    Who actually sits down to watch programming on BTV? I wouldnt be surprised if their viewership were in double figures!

    Yes the station is appauling, yes it’s cringworthy, and yes it’s shameful that the rest of the world can tune into it via satellite!

    What’s their mission? What’s the driving force behind the station? To educate and inform the nation? To offer compelling quality programming?

    PULL THE PLUG ALREADY!

    BTW: When I click on the ‘English’ tab on their website, I’m greeted with: Object not found!

  • Ali
    3 August 2008

    While they are at it disband Radio Bahrain, as it is also a joke.

    The DJs are an embarassment to the country, the local adverts are awful and the butt of jokes throughout the gulf – they even have the same DJ voice advertising competitors in the same sector!!!!

    The sooner we have independent commercial TV and Radio the better.

  • Ali
    3 August 2008

    . . .. and another thing, congratualtions to the Minister for having the balls to stand by his man and shake the whole tree. We need men like this to stamp out the corruption in the TV and Radio stations, get rid of the advertising monopoly which is also skimming the cream.

    Next he can move over to the Ministry of Works ( or should I say unfinished and not started Works)and do the same there.

  • Sam
    3 August 2008

    Mahmood, something crossed my mind the other day which you might have first hand knowledge on – Does radio Bahrain pay royalties for the copyrighted music they play? In the UK you’ve got collection agencies like MCPS, PRS, PPL etc is there a local/regional equivelent here?

  • Ali
    3 August 2008

    No they didn’t and despite the law they don’t respect copyright at all as I know a local musician whose music is still used on the radio and they let ad agencies use it and he doesn’t get a penny.

    There used to be a guy here many years ago called Geg Hopkins – he wanted to do things properly and change things but they got rid of him I think. Music theft is very common here in the Gulf.

  • Sam
    3 August 2008

    I know it’s a GCC wide problem, but for a company or an organization to break the law for commercial gain is taking it to another level.

  • voyer
    3 August 2008

    Well, I posted elsewhere on this fine site last week, saying exactly the same thing. It was after the report that Dubai radio and tv will now have to start paying the very loooooooooonngggg overdue royalties on the music they play and make money from. I think I also said that it would appear that nobody but nobody among the public is remotely interested or cares, otherwise we would have better media here,(and Oh my GOD! Better advertisements please). Shame, because in theory, we are all breaking the law by listening to pirate radio. Ignorance is not an accepted plea in court.
    Worse still, Group Plus, the Lebanese company who miraculously managed to wang a hold over radio here despite a similar company Wasila being kicked out for the very same thing 3 years ago, are potentially making zillions. They promote the radio as an entertainment platform to draw advertising revenue which they pocket, yet pay not a single cent in royalties to the musicians and talent giving them product as such. The laws are clear in Bahrain; this is illegal, yet they are openly doing it. Again, to plead ignorance is just not accepted. As Mr. Hopkins, (mentioned in post 5 above) complains to anyone who listens; ‘It is a monopoly running a monopoly and it is just simply outrageous! (Sorry Geg, if I dropped you in it there)

  • Anonny
    4 August 2008

    You said it, voyer.

    Copyright? Oh please yes. I’ll go back to writing music
    when it happens.

  • Anonny
    4 August 2008

    People still think I’m involved in Bahrain’s radio scene. I got out of it a year ago. It’s disgusting what we hear passed off as radio advertising these days.

    A simple exercise. An investor flies into the Gulf region. He disembarks, goes through customs, gets out into the foyer, gets a taxi, switches on the radio …

    Stop. Right. There.

    First, he gets a taxi. That’s the first bad impression of Bahrain.

    Next, he switches on the radio. God forbid he hears an ad. It’ll shake his confidence in this region’s markets – unless he’s some nightmarish revenant of colonial policies just arrived here from Africa, in which case he might think things here are ok.

    I struggled to make my ads as good as they could be. Geg Hopkins also strives for excellence in a frankly quality-hostile market. Occasionally you’ll hear something good min burra and you’ll ask yourself why your client wont let you do the same.

    Sorry to be rude, guys, but it takes more than a nice tie to change somebody from a tajir into a marketing man. Advertising is an investment, not an expense.

    I appreciate that we are in a small and highly competitive market. But if we make the rules credible and bearable and then enforce them with rigour then nobody loses in the long run.

  • Anonny
    4 August 2008

    I forgot to mention Osama. He’s another guy who fights the good fight in a tough environment.

  • Sam
    4 August 2008

    😆 I remember a few months ago when kevin roberts of Satchi & Satchi visited the UAE and was appalled by the standard of advertising and the lack of creativity and said it was “absolute crap” – Can you imagine what he would think of Bahrain’s output?

  • bahraini4eva
    4 August 2008

    It seems that the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), in it’s current term especially, keeps on producing the best possible candidates to run the show by putting an end to corruptive practices and bureaucratic red tape. I say ask our gov’t to resign, and replace it with these capable well-established businessmen!

  • voyer
    5 August 2008

    Media-ocrity – It does not even reach the cellars of mediocrity as Anonny brings to bear the absolute status quo in all its glory. First class! That just about sums it all up then: Sitting getting fleeced in a friggin’ Bahrain taxi listening to local radio. Wonderful representation.
    I don’t suppose our esteem Members of Parliament read this blog too much, maybe who knows? What could they or would they do about it anyway, when they obviously have no perception of the art in the first instance? With the media being the country’s image, they appear to be the worst contributors, filling it with their bizarre antics. For example: How could they not recognise a monopoly controlling a monopoly with its massive corruption potential. Well we know the answer to that. Instead of cleaning up Gulf Air, one or two are campaigning to re-instate so-called multi talented and competent Bahrainis eventually sacked for fleecing the company rigid. Replacing again ostensibly inexperienced, incompetent expatriates who are apparently running the company now, according to this MP. Never a dull moment. It’s just dull all the time.

  • Anonny
    5 August 2008

    I remember a few months ago when kevin roberts of Satchi & Satchi visited the UAE and was appalled by the standard of advertising and the lack of creativity and said it was “absolute crap”

    Here’s an interview with him in which he talks about Dubai:

    http://www.arabianbusiness.com/518547-the-power-of-love

  • mahmood
    5 August 2008

    Thanks for sharing Anonny, truly an inspirational interview and I shall mail it to a lot of people who I think should read it!

  • BahrainTaxi
    5 August 2008

    Ah, Radio Bahrain, don’t get me started! Before coming out to the Gulf I was working in a reasonably well paid production post at BBC Radio 3. It wasn’t an easy decision to up sticks and move to a foreign country but family comes first and a opportunity came up for my husband that he really couldn’t turn his back on.

    My qualifications and experience are now going to waste while I watch the farce that is Radio Bahrain and TV. I know that if I tried to break into this world, the contributions I could make would be rejected, moreover I don’t think I would last long as I would be seen to be upsetting the status quo. This is what I hear from current employees. While it may seem unfair that some of these people are making a buck on the side by using company equipment, I can quite understand why they are doing it. If the GDN are right in saying that an degree-holding employee at BTV are earning a measily 500 BD a month then I don’t blame them for trying to supplement their incomes. For example, most of the income that a certain ‘zany’ DJ on Radio Bahrain comes from the work he does outside of the studio. Of course, it is off the back of his show that he gets this work but if he quit today, I’m sure his diary would still be full.

    The media in this country is a joke and the pay offered to people working in this field is laughable. When is it going to chance and what will it take?

  • Ali
    5 August 2008

    It will change when the powers that be understand that Radio Bahrain is nothing more than the equivalent in europe of an in house hospital radio station ( with about as many listeners!!)and wake up and realise that Bahrain on air has to be slick, professional, unique and a standard bearer to the rest of the gulf. Ahmed Sulaiman must be turning in his grave now in horror at what is being put out there.

    I blame our Levantine friends for the drop in standards, they just want to make a quick buck from crappy ads and keep Palestine in all the news headlines. They should realise that Bahrain is more sophisticated than that, that we are not from the Mediterranean Middle east we are from the Gulf and have a different identitiy – we are not Egyptian, syrian, Jordanian and so must not be sucked down to that level. We need professional Radio and TV.

    Does anyone remeber Omar Sharif’s awful ads for Zain, they even had to advertise the fact it was him to avoid critisim from local media who thought it was Ian Fisher’s house boy doing a voice over!!!

    Anyhow, quality ads for quality products and crappy ads for the rest. Quality ads only on quality radio and let the community/hospital radio air the rubbish as a way of relieving the boredom from awful shows.

    Its time the new Minister applied good business sense and ethics to the Corporation so it can be sucess like his own family’s business. After all that is why the PM appointed the successful businessman as Minister and that is why the people of Bahrain should expect him to sort them all out.

    Finally and I’m really sorry to go on like this but alot of this has to do with creativity and I am not sure whether the Gulf is ready to pay for excellece and art, how many times have we haggled over a carpet on the basis of cost per m2 instead of the value of the pattern or design, in short Arabs don’t like to pay craftsmen. In my field if something takes 5 minutes to do based on 40 years experience, I am hard pressed to get more than one Dinar for it, the skill the experience and the TALENT, is always not valued. I remember one of Geg Hopkins ads where the client got a monkey blowing a mouth organ because it was cheaper than Michael Jackson……

    Anyway lets see if anything changes.

  • mahmood
    5 August 2008

    Its time the new Minister applied good business sense and ethics to the Corporation so it can be sucess like his own family’s business.

    OR diligently work toward the allowance of private aural and visual media ownership. That would engender competition which will eventually raise the bar.

  • Anonny
    5 August 2008

    Bahrain Taxi,

    You’re right. Pay peanuts, get monkeys. And after long enough it’s pay peanuts and create monkeys.

    The moonlighting by employees is a response, in part, to their appalling salaries. And is there any media company here who doesn’t use freelancers? Anyway, this is a side issue (and not something to be in the least afraid of if you are truly creative and truly know how to do the do in this business). And it only highlights the real issue – where is the pursuit of excellence in our media?

    No, really. Where is it? Some of my best work was done for pitches or for the fun part in conferences, or for IAA get-togethers. These are the times when the money men can relax and enjoy themselves without fear of taking risks.

    Until this field is dominated by artists, it’s going to be dominated by the bottom-line men. And as long as that’s the case, then continue waving and grinning at originality from a distance. If you walk into a production facility here and it’s full of people making no noise, bent over their screens under fluorescent light, then don’t expect great creative work. Just don’t. They should be bouncing ideas around, playing with desk toys, chatting under nice light, surfing cool sites at work, arguing, listening to music (these last three are an absolute must). That’s what creativity looks like. It’s playful and not afraid to show it.

    I wish Mr. Ahmed Najim luck, but if all he’s doing is cutting costs and waving a stick, then don’t expect too much. It’s interesting that he told the GDN that he had nothing to say to them. This amused me greatly and I don’t blame him – but he is in the business of communication, after all, so perhaps a statement to the media would be nice.

    What BRTC needs more than anything is good ideas, a creative ambience, and a commitment to quality. The new facilities and equipment should come after that. Anybody can buy an HD cam, a good microphone and a laptop with the latest software now, but that doesn’t mean jack. If I take somebody to Things To Do and spend some money on paint, canvas and brushes for you, would that make them an artist? If they were serious, they would want some training at the very least.

    Oh, and look at all the management there too! What do they do all day and how much do they cost? Somebody should ask each and every one of them where they see themselves in five years time and let Bahrain know what their answers are 😈

  • Anonny
    5 August 2008

    Thanks for sharing Anonny, truly an inspirational interview and I shall mail it to a lot of people who I think should read it!

    You are more than welcome! I emailed it around too. It certainly made me think.

    For example, he complained about strategy-driven work. I like strategic planning in advertising and I think it gets results. His strong reaction against it was interesting to me. The focus-group vs. fiat argument rolls on and on! I think you can only trust the pure idea-driven approach if you truly know members of your target market. That’s why local creativity is essential. If I have one more guy from Asia via Dubai come to me and suggest “[product category] redefined” as a tagline I’m going to puke on him. If he likes, he can get someone to take a picture of my vomit for legal evidence in his case against me. I’ll call it “critique – redefined.”

  • voyer
    5 August 2008

    I remember the Zain ad and thought the voice reading it was a German Yid. (It still runs, but not with Omar) I also remember the pathetic press releases by Zain’s ad agency, desperate to quantify their phantasmagoria, but I do like Omar Sharif. I met him once at the Sheraton along with a bunch of very tasty European ladies who swooned over him. Judging by his nudge nudge, wink wink in my ear, he was pretty ready to swoon a bit himself given the chance.
    Anyway, as a voyeur here, has anyone else noticed that unlike inane, sycophantic letters in the Gulf Daily News, quite often defending and praising all and sundry at Radio Bahrain, nothing of the sort has appeared here, yet! Hmmmm! According to the wage survey in the GDN; Ian Fisher, KK, Ali D, Khalid and Uncle Tom Cobblers and all, only get between BD3 and BD5 an hour max., which means it is purely an ego thing as they strut their imaginary showbiz skills. For that reward, you have to be deaf, dumb and blind and pretty thick skinned to continue deluding yourself and take the heat that deservedly gets dished out. They publicly make monkeys of themselves, submissive to the oppressive regime, which they use as an excuse for their lack of talent and content.
    Bahrain Taxi makes observant and interesting reading; while not defending the cast at the ‘Ministry of Inflamation’ , perhaps shows some sympathy for those on meagre salaries despite holding a degree. My question is; degree in what?
    I remember listening to some critique in the old days regarding the late Tariq Almoeyyed and his side-kick Dr. Hala Al Umran, she who among other unrelated things, oversaw the so-called makeover to the new name of B.R.T.C.. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3677/is_199410/ai_n8723654
    Mr Almoeyyed appointed and championed her and if I recall, her CV states a PHD in child psychology, which must be the perfect qualification to head up radio and television anywhere. In retrospect and despite immense criticism she did a much better job of it than anyone else since, it would seem. My point being that there doesn’t appear to be a gram of art or perception of the art within the entire Ministry. It is so totalitarian, yet abysmally mismanaged and unlikely to ever change while the government continues to dictate broadcast. Apart from the old DJs, just about everyone else there are related or best friends of. In fact during the late 90s you hear of some dreadful, egotistical horror stories emanating from within, whereby the Queen of Tyranny, married to a director, eliminated anyone with a gram of talent, taking no prisoners at all. Which is why we have what we have now?
    I personally think that the current status quo has actually killed radio as a local medium permanently, whereby all public interest has been lost in it. But it is not only broadcast, it is outdoor and print media as well. Just look at the dreadful state of that. AMA University proclaiming academic superiority yet embarrassingly cannot string a decent, well written, grammatically correct advertisement together. (Check out the billboard at the Gulf Hotel). Air Arabia: ‘MORE AIRCRAFTS’. It is endless. Mahmoody Doody, set aside a blog here for the ‘seen and heard’ of Bahrain’s worst. Would anyone care?
    With the only standard to aspire to being a nonexistent standard, everyone becomes an instant expert in this intangible world, whereby it is considered that no qualification is required. Alas, I digress, Bahrain Taxi; you obviously feel you have something to offer, so to keep your hand in, even part time, why not exploit your talents by contacting a reputed producer if you can find one. Competent and confident artists rarely become intimidated by other talent, preferring to work together instead. I can tell you, Ali is a brilliant musician for a start. Bear in mind that should you approach one of the many undeserving and inferior establishments or bedroom bacillus proliferating hourly; you will sadly enhance their standing for absolutely no reward, (if they can overcome their inferiority complex to begin with that is). Temporarily making them look good can only contribute to even greater proliferation of said evil.

  • Ebrahim
    6 August 2008

    My comment is not about the TV or Radio bahrain which I don’t listen to or watch. I don’t think anyone watch Bahrain TV simply becuase it does not entertain or have credibilty when it come to news.
    My point I want to bring here is about the strike that nurses in Ministry of Health was about to do and the committee formed by the minister to question Rola Al-Saffar about her role in the alledged strike. I have not heard about any committee formed here in the ministry of information to question the organizers of the intended strike. I am not saying that they don’t have the right but the point I am making here is about the double standards.
    Why CSB have not say anything in this regards? This proves that CSB is like Al-Saeedi (a tool) to suppress anyone who thinks about forming any union in any goverment organization.

  • mahmood
    6 August 2008

    hear hear

  • Ali
    6 August 2008

    Ebrahim

    I am not saying that they don’t have the right but the point I am making here is about the double standards.

    HOw many rights do you give your housemaid?

    (Apart from Droit de senor!!)

    We have double standards engrained in us at birth – it is good to see that we are now treating each other the way we have treated the slaves these past 100 years.

    If my housemaid wanted to join a Union I would ship her back to Brazil.

  • Grace
    7 August 2008

    Ali, your maid is from Brazil 😯

    I’ve heard of Philipinas, Indians, Srilankans, Ethiopians, and sn occasional English house keeper or nanny, but Brazilian maid? Wooohoooo!

    A new trend in the market perhaps…

    :mrgreen:

  • Ali
    7 August 2008

    I tried to get a Bahrainia, but she wanted a day off!!

  • Sam
    7 August 2008

    I think some of us chip in and put a big ‘WANTED’ advert in the GDN “Full time, live in housemaid wanted – BAHRAINI FEMALES ONLY”… I’d probably get arrested for it! 😆

  • voyer
    7 August 2008

    I thought we were getting well off topic here but: houseboys and housegirls were actually working at the radio aren’t they, or used to be? Sounds like it most of the time and I am not talking about the Indian channel. Anyway, since the inception of the LMRA and the instantaneous subservience of the management at the Indian Channel; all the part-time DJs (That would be all of them then) were told they could not do work at the radio as presenters/DJs and have other jobs. The result; they were all ousted without as much as even a tepid argument for sanity. Shows how much the management there is tuned into the biz.
    This epitomizes what we have been saying all along. Art has no value here. Those government Civil Servants cannot distinguish between artistic pastimes and hobbies and the never-ending quest to deport or bung as many Indians in prison as possible for the slightest thing. So what about all the DJs at Radio Bahrain? Only Ian Fisher is part of th e furniture there for sure.

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