Senators want ban on foreign channels and ‘odd’ content
ISLAMABAD: While the officials in the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and the information ministry are stressing on a more democratic approach for implementing controls on electric media, members of the Senate Standing Committee on Information on Tuesday called for more autocratic restrictions. The committee which met on Tuesday was chaired by Senator Kamil Ali Agha, who said that foreign entertainment programmes including drama serials were polluting the Pakistani culture.
“In a recent drama, I heard the words ‘Jai Mata Dee’ repeated several times. What are we trying to teach our children and what is Pemra doing,” Senator Agha said. The chairman of the committee then asked the Pemra chairman, who was also attending the meeting, to stop airing foreign channels and argued that Indian news channels are not allowed to be aired in Pakistan as well. “We need to protect our children and our values. You do not understand the negative impact of these foreign dramas, especially Indian ones, on our children,” he added.
Pemra only takes action against news channels and not against the channels on which Indian dramas are aired, he said.Agreeing with him, PML-N’s Senator Sardar Mohammad Yaqoob Nasar said Pakistan needed to stop airing most foreign channels which aired ‘odd’ contents. Explaining the ‘odd’ contents, the senator said: “One of these channels is the Discovery channel on which they show people eating haram and horrible things, which is really annoying.” He added that channels should be forced to stop airing similar programmes.
Senator Saeed Ghani came to the Pemra chief’s rescue and said that airing foreign channels and content was legal and that most of the channels were aired due to public demand. Pemra Chairman Absar Alam then told the committee that though the regulatory body did take action against channels, it also had to take public demand into consideration. “This is what happened after family planning ads were banned. It was realised that there was public support for similar ads which is why we allowed them for the time being and a policy is being devised for this,” he said.
The committee was told that the regulatory body was taking action against news channels because of higher viewership and because they were so many in number. “We have about 93 current affairs programmes being aired daily. Compared to this, there aren’t many entertainment programmes,” the Pemra chief said.“We have also been directed by the Supreme Court to keep an eye on violations by news channels and we are focusing on controlling obscenity,” he said.
Members of the committee took a note of the regular absence of officials from the interior ministry when the issue of Bol TV was being discussed. “If they don’t show up to the next meeting, we will report the matter in the Senate,” Senator Kamil Ali Agha said. At this Senator Farhatllah Babar told the committee that the interior ministry had already refused to honour three previous notices of the Senate standing committee.