LHC strikes down Pemra’s DTH licensing rules
The Lahore High Court on Wednesday struck down the rules of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) with regard to eligibility and bidding procedure for Direct to Home (DTH) licensing. The court observed: “We find that rule 13(3) and (4) of the rules along with regulation 2.11 and 3.23 of the DTH regulations have gone beyond the authorised mandate of section 23(2) of the Pemra Ordinance and are inconsistent with the intent of the Ordinance, hence declared without lawful authority and of no legal effect.”
The court said that the Pemra misunderstood its regulatory functions and the objectives of the law while putting a restriction on media broadcasters to be in distribution services. The court declared that the restriction is based on a presumption that any vertical-integration between broadcast media and distribution services would result in undue concentration of ownership.
The bench held that the letter and spirit of the law is to increase the free flow of information by increasing participation of media enterprises. The court further ruled that while creating a regulatory framework which is geared towards encouraging diversity and plurality the lawmaker did not oust any media enterprise from integrating with another media enterprise. The court held that the Pemra, without determining the balancing requirements of the local market, sought to rely upon the debates emerging in international markets which are dealing with concentration issues within their own systems as per their peculiar circumstances.
The court further observed that nothing was placed before the court in support of Pemra’s contention that if broadcasters are allowed to operate DTH license they would cause undue concentration of media ownership. The court held that the section 23(2) of the ordinance did not leave it open for Pemra to set out a new regulatory policy but instead required it to work within the confines of the prescribed objectives.
The court allowing the petition of Independent Newspapers Corporation Pvt Ltd observed that the law did not impose any prohibition or restriction upon the aggregation of interests that is on common ownership. It added that the law essentially promotes the participation of all media enterprises that is a necessary consequence of open access and fair competition.