Government to formulate new media policy -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Government to formulate new media policy

* Information and broadcasting minister says electronic media not following PEMRA’s code of conduct

By Tanveer Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday informed the Senate that a new media policy would be devised to ensure that electronic media could function in accordance with the needs of the new age.

The current policy was formulated at the time when electronic media was not as developed as it is today and did not meet the requirements of the vibrant electronic media of today, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan said in reply to the questions of the Senate members.

The one-hour question answer session was mostly consumed by Dr Firdaus in answering the questions of the members. The minister was critical of the role of the electronic media, which she believed was not following the code of conduct put in place by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).

She told the House that a new code of conduct would also be formulated by giving it a legal cover to ensure compliance with it. The information and broadcasting minister hoped that the new media policy would be completed by June.

Dr Firdaus said that members of both the parliamentary committees on information and broadcasting, representatives of the electronic media, civil society and all stakeholders would be taken on board for their input in devising the new policy.

On a question about legal action the government had taken against those channels which had violated the code of conduct, Dr Firdaus said that as per the law show cause notices had been issued to the channels, but in most cases, the channels had taken stay orders.

She lamented that whenever the government took action against electronic media for violating the code of conduct, some politicians would back it just for the sake of political scoring.

Commenting on the violations of the code of conduct being committed by the TV channels, the minister told the House that under PEMRA’s rules, no TV channel can show advertisements for more than 12 minutes per hour, however, the code was not being followed.

Similarly, every TV channel is bound to deposit five percent of their gross revenue in the national exchequer, but no payment had been made so far by these channels and they continue to generate money from their clients.

She claimed that the national exchequer was fated to a loss of billions of rupees, due to the non-payment of the amount.

The minister also expressed her dissatisfaction over the role PEMRA was playing because its regulatory role had not been so effective due to its association with the Information Ministry.

Worldwide practices envisage that a regulator always functions independently, but in Pakistan, they have been put under the purview of the ministries. “We have to make PEMRA an autonomous body to remove the image that the government is behind arm-twisting of these channels,” she said.

Firdaus also pointed out that there are certain irregularities in cable operators, which need to be corrected to ensure that the true Pakistani culture and values are projected in the country. Earlier, some senators strongly criticised the electronic media for projecting a “shameful image” of politicians and relaying transmissions which did not reflect the national culture and values.
Source: Daily Times
Date:4/1/2011