Labaik Pvt Limited, a parent company of a diploma-mill and BOL Television, is being investigated by the two most powerful men within Pakistan’s advertising industry as well as one of the biggest advertising agencies. These suits were prompted by what appears to be three hit pieces that were aired on BOL TV’s February 3rd and March 5th respectively.
Fouad Hussi, former CEO of GroupM, Raihan Amir Merchant chairman of Z2C, and Blitz Advertising are the plaintiffs. Petitions were filed on February 7, February 28th and March 26th. The plaintiffs seek Rs500 million, Rs1.5 million and Rs650 millions in damages, respectively, totaling Rs2.65 trillion ($16.02million).
Fahad Sultan, Barrister at Sultan & Sultan, stated that “as far as damages are concerned it is practice here to usually quote this unreasonable amount.” This amount is rarely awarded because it requires you to prove and dissect the damages you are claiming. Because people cannot prove that they have suffered such losses from defamation, courts don’t award them that amount. They do get damages but they are often less than what is actually claimed.
Sources claimed that BOL TV aired the alleged hits after failing to secure advertising contracts from Z2C, Group M and Blitz Advertising for years. This was due to the strained relationship between BOL TV, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, (PEMRA), and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association.
A media auditor stated to Profit that Kantar does not carry ratings from the [BOL network] and therefore, Kantar cannot gain business from these agencies.” “There is no reason to clients that the channel isn’t on Kantar. Ratings are the first step in selecting a channel for a media plan.
Profit also heard from media planners that BOL TV’s connection to an ex-diploma mill was still causing discomfort for industry decision-makers. The channel has repeatedly violated PEMRA guidelines regarding alleged hate speech and defamation as well as questioning religious beliefs and vulgar content. As such, international and local advertisers are allegedly hesitant to advertise with a channel that lacks the endorsement of PEMRA and PBA, and airs content that potentially violates brand safety protocols – which the CMO Council says can result in brands being guilty-by-association.
Soon after PEMRA had revoked the licenses to BOL TV in 2017 and BOL Entertainment 2017, all other TV channels began printing ads of PBA within their group newspapers in Pakistan, detailing the list of charges against Labaik Pvt Limited and BOL TV.
BOL TV received a Rs1,000,000 fine earlier this year after the host of a BOL TV program engaged in inappropriate and vulgar conversation with female contestants. The Islamabad High Court also banned the program from airing again, and prohibited the host from being given any further roles.
Advertisers claimed that repeated violations of brand safety standards and refusal to cooperate with industry trade bodies, as well as a reluctance of the regulator, have led to media planners being asked to exclude all digital and broadcast channels owned by Labaik Pvt Limited, from consideration when creating media schedules.
Profit was told by experienced media planners that the first step to allow BOL Network to be considered as a media plan is to have Kantar rate it, which software is used in MediaLogic. Industry observers said that BOL cannot break into the market without the approval of the three major broadcasters, despite decades of relationship building with HUM TV, GEO TV, and ARY.
BOL TV and BOL Entertainment are legitimized
Sources said that MediaVoir was launched by Labaik Pvt Limited in 2017 after it rejected the MediaLogic low ratings for BOL TV and BOL entertainment. It is a media ratings and ranking company that claims to provide accurate data on television viewing habits and trends. The rating agency, which is compared to Media Bank, The Media Trackers and MediaLogic claims it can provide accurate results and more insights for a cheaper price.
MediaVoir, along with Breeo International and The Media Trackers are all PEMRA-accredited TV Rating Companies according to PEMRA. PEMRA requires that applicants not hold any broadcast media licenses or landing rights permissions from the authority. MediaVoir has evidence to suggest that this requirement was violated due to its connection with Labaik Pvt Limited.
multiple attempts to support shows that were broadcast across the BOL TV channel network are evidence of the connection between MediaVoir and Labaik Pvt Limited. The three profiles that mention MediaVoir on Linkedin claim to have been involved in the project while they were employed at BOL TV.
The May 2017 video rating agency ranked Samaa News fifth with a 0.61 rating. Geo News was fourth with a 0.87 rating. Dunya News was third with a 1.03 rating. ARY News was second with a 1.16 rating. BOL TV was first with a 2.49 rating.
Defamation lawsuits against TV stations
Talking to profit Sultan said that there are two types of defamation: criminal under Section 499 PPC or civil under the Defamation Ordinance.
He stated that in order to satisfy the criminal section, one must prove that the person ‘intention’ to defame him. In civil, however, even negligent statements will suffice as long as the defamation was published. You have several defenses against such a claim as a defendant. You can either reject it completely, or say you didn’t do any “libel” or “slander”, or you may claim that it’s factual/true. In that case, freedom of speech will also play its part.
According to the High Court of Sindh’s case directory, there have been several defamation lawsuits against TV channels filed by politicians and businessmen. The outcomes are not clear as they were based on public records. Roshan Al Kanasro, Waliullah Bangto filed a suit against Abb Tak TV Channel for a Report alleging the Manzoor Kanasro (Director General of Cultural Department) and his brother Roshan Ali Kanasro (Director General of Cultural Department), had acquired foreign properties worth billions of rupees by money laundering through a contractor called Waliullah Binto. Sultan stated that in-house legal teams of media houses deal with trademark infringement notices and notices from PEMRA.
“Most cases do not go to trial until the end, so a judge is unlikely to be rendered in these cases.” He said that defendants who feel they made a mistake or don’t want the lawyers to represent them and/or risk their reputation fighting it out in court will usually settle the matter outside of court.
Sultan stated that it is up to the plaintiff to prove that revenue loss was ‘directly attributable to’ the defamation. However, it is difficult to quantify the loss of goodwill.