Electronic Media-Sector Development
By: Dr Abdul Jabbar
The media landscape in Pakistan took a leap in the year 2002, after the promulgation of PEMRA Ordinance. The Authority was mandated to explore new avenues of investment for the private sector in broadcasting and distribution services. However, the Authority was authorised to improve the standards of information, education and entertainment for the public. Also, it was assigned to enhance the choices in media for news, current affairs, religious knowledge, art, culture, science, technology, economic development, social sector, music, sports, drama, etc. The Authority was also made responsible to ensure accountability, transparency and good governance by optimising free flow of information through broadcast / distribution media.
To carry out its mandate, PEMRA has formulated rules, regulations, and code of conduct ‘or broadcasting and distributive, on services. The rules have been formulated in consultation with stake-holders, as well as, general public in line with inter- national media practices to ensure level playing field for all the existing and prospective stake-holders. The Rules, Regulations and Codes have been deised with the aim to safeguarding our national ideology, socio-cultural norms, ensuring a state of-equality for stake-holders, plurality and diversity and discouraging monopolistic trends in this sector.
All operational decisions, including issuance of licenses to satellite television, Cable television, FM Radio etc. are taken independently by the Authority comprising representatives of the public and government officials. Through regular consultation with stakeholders and the public, it is ensured that the entire licensing process is made absolutely transparent.
Moreover, under section 26 of PEMRA Ordinance, Council of Complaints constituting representatives of the people have been set up at the Federal and Provincial capitals to redress public grievances against the licensees for the violations made by them. Moreover, in order compensate public complaints against the licensees, a 24×7 toll free call center has been established at PEMRA Headquarters, Islamabad which receives complaints round and are subsequently forwarded to concerned wings / regions for immediate action in the shortest possible time.
PEMRA being a regulator for broadcasting media is well aware fits social responsibility and takes cognizance of the viola-ions made by its licensee’s vis-à-vis content aired through broadcast and distribution networks. Although, broad guidelines have been formulated for the licensees, nevertheless, PEMRA is striving to formulate comprehensive content regulations for the private broadcast / distribution media.
The prime objective if these regulations are to protect social, cultural, religious and ethical values of the country by ensuring healthy entertainment D the Pakistani viewers. The raft content regulations are being finalized in consultation with the stakeholders, academia, civil society, chamber of commerce and legal fraternity. This raft is also available on official ‘website of PEMRA www.pemra.gov.pk.
During the last one decade, media in Pakistan has witnessed unprecedented growth in the private sector. The media and broadcasting reforms introduced in the last few years have contributed substantively in improving the standards of education, information and life style and helped in generating significant job opportunities for the skilled, as well as, unskilled workforce. Statistics given in Table-i provide a vivid picture of the media in Pakistan.
Present media landscape contributes substantially in the economic growth of the country. It is believed that investment in media industry is approximately U.S. dollar 03 billion. Approximately, 200,000 job opportunities have been created through private broadcast / distribution media.
During the last ten years PEMRA has issued 89 licenses of satellite TV channels in different genre such as entertainment, news and current affairs, education, health, agro, etc. To date, 54 licenses have been issued in entertainment, 29 for news and current affairs, 4 for education and 1 each for health and agro. Year wise status of satellite TV channel is shown in Table-2:
Since 2002, the Authority has awarded 173 FM radio licenses across the country, through open and transparent bidding, for commercial as well as non-commercial purposes. In non-commercial category, FM radio broadcast licenses have been issued to the educational institutions and public sector organisations, etc. Yearly growth in FM Radio is presented in Table-3:
Besides, promoting local broadcasters, PEMRA provides opportunities to foreign satellite TV channels to market and distribute their respective satellite TV channels in Pakistan, by conferring Landing Rights Permission. In this context, PEMRA has granted permission to 28 foreign satellite TV channels.
As far cable television licensing is concerned, PEMRA has con erred 3,364 licenses in diiferrit categories, across the country. It is quite encouraging to note that almost 60 per cent of the licenses have been granted in rural areas of the country to provide access to information for the dwellers in those areas (Table-4).
PEMRA has given a road map for digitisation of cable distribution networks and a deadline in this regard has been fixed as 2015. In compliance with this initiative, 60 per cent of the cable distribution networks in the metropolitan city have deployed digital technology; however, its outreach to the consumer has yet to attain a significant figure, in terms of digital households.
The Pakistani consumer, in times to come, will be benefited with the services like conditional access system, pay per view, video on demand, home shopping, surveillance, electronic program guide, etc.
PEMRA, as a regulator, is committed to explore new avenues for the future technologies in the broadcasting and distribution services in the country such as Digital Terrestrial TV Broadcasting (DTTB), Direct to Home (DTH), Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), Satellite Radio and Digital Cable Distribution Networks.