Ban on Afghan channels hits cable operators in Peshawar
By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR: Local cable operators are rapidly losing their clientele due to restrictions by the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on the screening of programmes of the Afghanistan-based satellite channels.
“Dozens of local subscribers are switching over to dish antennas because of the non-availability of the Afghan Pashto channels in Peshawar,” said Mushtaq Khan, managing director of the National Cable TV, in Board area of Peshawar.
He said that it was becoming difficult for them to continue their business as majority of the people wanted Pashto music, dramas and political programmes aired by Afghan Pashto channels that were not available on the Pakistan-based TV channels.
The Supreme Court had placed ban on screening of the Indian TV channels in August last year after which the Pemra asked the cable operators to stop these programmes or face penalties.
Mr Khan said that the court had banned showing about 32 Indian channels such as Star Plus, Sony, Zee TV, and Zee Cinema.
But, the Pemra also placed a ban on the Afghanistan-based Pashto channels that were popular among the Afghan refugees as well as the local population, he said.
“We have been receiving requests from the people to restart Afghan channels but we cannot do this due to the Pemra directives,” Wazir Shah, assistant manager of the Afghan TV Network in old city, told Dawn.
He claimed that the Pemra had allowed the Pakistan-based satellite channels to air the Indian movies, soap opera, talk shows and entertainment programmes on which no action was taken.
About 75 big and small channels have been operating in the war-ravaged Afghanistan and of them Tolo TV, Ariana, Lamar, Hewad and Shamshad etc are popular among the Pakhtun population. “These channels are regularly watched by Pakhtuns all over the world,” he said.
Mr Shah claimed that about 35 cable operators in the Peshawar city were unable to pay the Pemra fee after the restrictions on the Afghan Pashto channels.
He said that the number of his clients had reduced to 315 from over 500 a year ago. He said that each cable operator in the city was paying Rs50,000 as licence fee to the Pemra and additional Rs25,000 each per 1,000 connections annually.
About other expenses, he said that they had also been paying Rs40 per pole to the Wapda and Rs300 for installing of an amplifier besides Rs5,000-8,000 monthly power bills.
“I have installed a dish antenna and can watch about 200 channels that included Indian and Afghan channels,” said Mohammad Rafiq of Canal Town, near the University of Peshawar.
He said that some of the programmes presented by Afghan channels were widely watched by people because they portrayed Pakhtun traditions.