Latest news: There is no fair game arena for private media in Pakistan Opinion | Instant News

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The decision, reportedly, allowed state-owned Pakistani Television (PTV) to collect Rs100 instead of Rs35 per month in electricity bills, was another addition to the long list of discrimination against mainstream media in Pakistan. The list began in 2003, the year Pakistan’s Electronic Media Regulatory Agency (PEMRA) was formed.

Pakistan is ranked 142th, out of 180 countries, in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, mainly because such policies pose an existentialist threat to the media.

This new policy will allow PTV to collect Rs21 billion of annual distribution / license fees, in addition to the billions it gets from private sector advertising. I can’t think of any other public broadcaster in the world that earns income from private sector advertising, other than fixed distribution / license fees. In fact, PTV is the only television network in Pakistan that produces both.

Since Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf came to power, 70 percent of private channel ad rates have been cut. Separately, advertising from the government and the private sector fell by more than 50 percent. For more than a year, government officials have debated how to remove more than Rs6 billion in media contributions.

As a result, financially strained media lay off a number of people, cutting salaries and delaying payments to their employees for months.

Now, public broadcasters like PTV already have a niche and an important role to play. However, an equal and equal playing field must be provided for other media houses in democracy, to ensure a plurality of opinions and information.

Until now, PTV continues to be outside the preview of PEMRA, the regulatory body, and thus does not need to pay licensing fees upfront to launch new channels or annual revenue sharing fees like other broadcasters. In addition, state broadcasters are not limited by PEMRA regulations to only broadcast four channels and instead have eight channels to date. This restriction applies to all other media groups, except PTV. This rule came into force in 2009, after the lawyer’s movement and the 2008 election.

In its neighboring country, India, there is no limit to the number of channels per TV network. In fact, the main media groups run almost 50 to 60 channels each.

Another discrimination in PEMRA regulations in 2009 is that owners of Pakistani channels are prohibited from owning shares in TV distribution platforms such as cable television, Direct-to-Home (DTH) and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV). This is again without precedent.

Such discrimination is the reason why Pakistani media do not increase in size and income and are almost 30 times smaller than Indian media in terms of annual income. India has more than one thousand TV channels now. Due to the large number of successful digital TV, cable TV and DTH platforms, Indian channels have a reach of more than 90 percent for households, compared to around 50 percent in Pakistan.

Until now, Pakistani cable TV is still largely non-digital. Pakistan has not yet launched the DTH TV distribution platform, while the Indian DTH platform has gained billions of dollars from the Pakistani market through illegal distribution networks in the past 15 years.

Around the world, private sector media are encouraged to earn income from advertising and subscription / distribution. In Pakistan, the opposite is true.

The previous government, as well as the current one, have been very responsive to the misery of PTV, but they have not yet introduced the pay television regime in Pakistan to private sector channels. Such a system will ensure distribution income for TV networks.

Also, in other countries, regulators such as PEMRA ensure that cable TV operators pay a fixed fee to the channel owner to bring their channel. For this purpose, cable television and other distribution platforms order a portion of the subscriptions they collect from customers and pass it on to the TV network.

The television industry in Pakistan has played a major role in the success of Pakistan’s only satellite, the Paksat 1-R. However, due to the policy restrictions it has not been able to contribute like the Indian media industry, which has taken a number of Indian satellites for DTH and TV channels.

Due to payment savings and other financial crises, Pakistan’s television industry now owes billions to Paksat 1-R and is forced to look for cheaper alternatives that will hamper Pakistan’s satellite programming.

Before the latest directives, to increase licensing fees to Rs100, viewers were not consulted. No one asked them if they wanted to pay higher fees for state coverage and propaganda.

The majority of shows in Pakistan have turned to the private sector media, while state television stations have been piling up losses in recent years. In fact, operating profit was announced only last year by PTV. But instead of supporting the expansion of mainstream media, the government chose to provide additional resources for state media. PTV now has an additional revenue stream of Rs14 billion. On the other hand, mainstream media contributions of Rs6 billion are still pending, despite repeated demands by the Pakistan Broadcasting Association and the All Pakistan Newspaper Society.

All of the above differences are clear violations of Article 25 of the constitution, which states equality and non-discrimination. It also contradicts the spirit of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects and promotes freedom of expression.

The State of Pakistan builds cases against itself in global forums with differences and discrimination against local media outlets.


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