Another Pemra lie caught -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Another Pemra lie caught

ISLAMABAD: Another lie of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has been caught as legal experts belie the Authority’s claim that security clearance is a condition for issuance of licence to a television channel.

On Wednesday Pemra, the government sponsored regulator of broadcasting, issued a press release stating that the allegation that “it is acting with bias is not true”.Pemra confirmed that it did not issue Geo Super a broadcast licence due to security clearance but it said the “security clearance” condition itself was part of clause 10 of Pemra rules 2002 and was not inserted to target Geo/Jang Group.

The Pemra press release stated, “The security clearance clause existed way before the application from Geo Super was received so it would be totally false to claim that the rules are tailor-made to victimise a certain group, the rules instead regulate and facilitate the proper functioning of the electronic media.” The press release further stated that the Geo Super application was sent to interior ministry because of “…security clearance according to rule 10”.

However, legal experts have confirmed that there is no mention of “security clearance” in Clause 10 and in fact even in the rest of the document Pemra is referring to there are no words “Security Clearance”. Clause 10 of Pemra Ordinance 2002 is given below: Clause 10. Criteria for evaluating licence application. – Applications for the grant of a licence shall, in the first instance, be short-listed by using the following criteria; namely:

i. economic viability;

ii. technical competence;

iii. financial capability;

iv. credibility and track record;

v. extent of Pakistani share in ownership;

vi. prospects of technical progress and introduction of new technology;

vii. market advancement, such as improved service features or market concepts;

viii. contribution to universal service objectives; and

ix. contribution to other social and economic development objectives.

This is another example of how Pemra has been biased and misleading. Recently in the Senate Committee formed to review Geo Super issue at the request of the Leader of the Opposition Ch Nisar, senators asked how come illegal Indian channels are airing across the country and Pakistani channels Geo Super and Aag are closed. Honourable Supreme Court had asked Pemra to enforce the law regarding illegal channels.

Media analysts also have asked Pemra if it and the government have spent as much money hiring lawyers and running ads against Geo and Jang Group compared to any other media group. Media analysts have also asked how come other cable operators and regional Pemra chief confessed that Pemra asked them to shut Geo Super off during World Cup. It was also asked why Jang Group/Geo government advertisements have been reduced by more than 90%.

Geo Super has been closed for 22 days and considerable financial loss inflicted on it. There is also a loss to sports fans who are not able to enjoy local sports from PakistanÂ’s only local sports channel as Pemra through a letter dated April 4 ordered “not to carry out any uplinking from Pakistan”. Geo Super was told that it could broadcast from any country other than Pakistan and not to uplink any material from Pakistan including any Pakistani sports coverage of events, any Pakistani sports discussion and sports news.

The Government and Pemra have failed to give explanation why security clearance is not given to Geo Super even though the country’s largest news and entertainment channels are broadcasting from Pakistan and have been given licences but sports channel has not been given licence.

APP adds: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Wednesday rejected the claim of a media group that Pemra rules were intentionally amended to harm its interests.

In a statement, Pemra termed the news item baseless and a blatant distortion of the facts. The Pemra statement said that in reality, the Independent Music Group (IMG) private limited applied for Geo Super Satellite TV licence on July 2, 2007 which was sent for security clearance according to rule 10 sub rule 4 of Pemra Ordinance 2002.

“The security clearance clause existed way before the application from Geo Super was received so it would be totally false to claim that the rules are tailor-made to victimise a certain group, the rules instead regulate and facilitate the proper functioning of the electronic media,” it said. It further added that the application, after initial scrutiny and receipt of deficit documentation, was sent to the Ministry of Interior for security clearance on February 27, 2007 which was regretted by the Interior on June 9, 2009. Subsequently, it said, the authority in its 55th meeting held on July 3, 2009 refused the grant of licence due to non-security clearance which was conveyed to the applicant on July 8, 2009. “Whereas, Pemra rules were finalised in December 2009 therefore, the claim of Geo Group that rules were made in antagonism to Geo Group is not true.”

It is worth mentioning that cross media restriction is applied in most parts of the developed world which bar print media owners to enter into electronic media business. This very clause also existed in initial Pemra Ordinance-2002. Since, the restriction of cross media was lifted through legislation, it then became obligatory to determine certain cap on number of broadcast media licences to be issued to any media group in order to avoid undue concentration of media. This is an international practice in vogue in US, UK, France and number of other countries. The law of land applies to all across the board and cannot be an individual specific. Hence, Rule 13 of Pemra rules-2009 which applies limit that a media group can not own more than four satellite TV channels applies to all media groups and not to Geo Group specifically.

Other entirely total misleading statement that the Geo Super is continuing its transmission from Dubai and Pemra is not granting up-linking permission. The fact of the matter however is that Pemra did not close transmission of Geo Super as being propagated by the Geo Group. They have blocked transmission of Geo Super at their own to fetch undue public sympathies by deceiving factual information. One of the Director of Geo Group Muhammad Suleman has confessed before the members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on April 19 as well as the members of Senate Standing Committee on April 26, that the Geo Group blocked transmission of Geo Super at their own as they were illegally up-linking from Pakistan and not from Dubai which was violation of their Landing Rights Permission.

The Pemra, however, a number of times tried to accommodate the Geo Group if they abide by the law but they backed out all the times even on April 18 their legal counsel backed out from consent given before the Lahore High Court which reflects their mala-fide intentions.
Source: The News