Foreign content: Only three channels seem to have crossed limits: Pemra chief
Following the launching of a crackdown on the local electronic channels, FM radios, cable operators and those selling Indian DTH, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) wants that only those channels having landing rights should be allowed to use Pakset platform.
Addressing a press conference here on Tuesday Absar Alam, Chairman Pemra said his organisation has written a letter to Suparco to streamline the process so that only the channels that have approval for landing rights from Pemra can use their platform. He said that a vast majority of electronic media and its distribution network has voluntarily abided by the laws regarding foreign contents.
As the deadline set by Pemra for all the channels, FM radios, cable operators to follow the foreign contents limits and traders selling Indian DTH expired on October 15, 2016, a nation-wide crackdown has been initiated by the Authority. The law allows only ten percent foreign content in which the Indian contents has to be only of up to six percent to be aired in 24 hours by the local channels and FM radios.
“There are 120 channels in the country. Only 2-3 channels are suspected to have crossed the limits,” Mr Absar Alam said, “While we are conducting an inquiry into the total time allocated to the foreign contents mainly the Indian shows by these channels.” He said that if the inquiry revealed that these channels have crossed the foreign content limit than their licences would be suspended. After suspension of the licences either they will go to the court or face a hearing with the Authority, he added.
To a question, Chairman Pemra said that there were no plans to initiate action against the cable operators at the current stage as it would broaden the front beyond their capacity. There are around 4,000 cable operators in the country and 40,000 loop operators who act as distributors of cable operators, but most of them were not following the law regarding ‘bouquet of channels’.
“We plan to take action against the cable operators but it is likely that they would start following this policy after witnessing Pemra’s continuous stern stance against airing foreign contents and Indian DTH,” he added. Regarding actions taken against the Indian DTH during the past two days, the Pemra chairman said that it was a serious issue because billions of rupees are at stakes.
“There is a huge chain starting from the buyers abroad and clearing the illegal DTH equipments from the ports to their distribution and retail in local markets,” he said adding, “but local banking channels are being used to collect the monthly subscription fee and the flight of this capital abroad.” Chairman Pemra also appealed to the rich and influential to stop subscribing to Indian DTH as it is illegal. Absar Alam said, “I appeal to the residents of DHA and Cantonment areas too that they should discard subscription of Indian DTH”.
Pemra has also sought the help of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to track and stop the money trail of subscription fee going out of the country to the Indian dealers mostly based in Dubai. He also said that seven more companies have applied to be part of Pakistani DTH bidding process and their short listing is scheduled to start soon. “We will have an open and transparent auction for three DTH licences for the country,” he said. He added that 16 requests have been received for three DTH licences and licences will be granted over the next few weeks.