Govt agrees to lift ban on Aag -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Govt agrees to lift ban on Aag

Tahir Khalil

ISLAMABAD: On the recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, the government has shown its agreement to lift ban from the transmission of Geo Aag, while no decision could be taken about Geo Super in the committee because of inflexible attitude of the government; therefore, the committee deferred the issue till its next meeting.

Senators Mrs Farhat Abbas, Gul Muhammad Laat, Haji Muhammad Adeel, Syed Zafar Ali Shah, Tariq Azeem and Aafiya Zia as well as Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan attended the meeting of the committee, chaired by Senator Haji Ghulam Ali.

In the ongoing session of the National Assembly, which started on April 11, Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan forcefully raised his voice against the ban on the transmission of Geo Super almost daily and the opposition demanded of the government to lift the ban because of which the members created such an atmosphere wherein the government was compelled to review its stance on Geo Super and Aag.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting discussed the issue of ban on the transmission of Geo Super and Aag in its meeting on April 19, but no progress could be made because of the stubbornness of the government.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman Dr Abdul Jabbar adopted tough stance against the Geo and Jang Group in the meeting of the Senate committee on Tuesday as well, which was rejected by the committee members.

The committee members accepted the stance of the Geo that the Pemra rules were amended as per desire to harm Geo. The Pemra chairman could not answer the question of Senator Tariq Azeem and Haji Muhammad Adeel that Pakistani channels are not allowed transmission while ads of the Indian army and Indian air force are being run on foreign channels in Pakistan.

The Pemra chairman admitted that receipt of tax on Indian ads in transmission of foreign channels in Pakistan has never been considered.

Information Secretary Taimur Azmat Sultan agreed with the views of the committee members and said the senators identified an important issue and the government would consider it. He said that the committee would be given an in-camera briefing about the ban on the religious channels.

Pointing out contradictions in the government’s policy, Haji Adeel said the amendments of choice to the Pemra rules amplified the difficulties. The secretary information said the room exists for improvement in the Pemra so the committee should frame its recommendations and they would implement them.

The Pemra chairman said they could not issue five licences to any organisation for transmission in Pakistan. He said that Geo already has four licences and if it surrendered one of them, they would consider issuance of licence to the Geo Super.

Senator Haji Adeel said they have understood the whole issue. He said the real issue is of the Geo licence and this is the reason that the Pemra officials are emphasising on four licences. He said what type of the law it is that the licence holders need prior permission to show any sports event. He said it means the government wants to maintain its authority in every matter.

Senator Tariq Azeem said: “Geo Aag is our own channel, why it has been shut?” The Pemra chairman said that Geo Aag is a music channel and it had started showing the Indian Premier League (IPL) matches. Senator Tariq Azeem said that all IPL matches are being shown on a movie channel, is it not a violation? The Pemra chairman; however, expressed his ignorance.

Senator Tariq Azeem said the government should not make the issue of the Geo Super and Geo Aag a matter of its rigidity, stubbornness and ego, and rather it should solve it.

The Geo Super representative, Muhammad Suleman, told the committee that the Geo Aag did not violate the licence rules because the IPL matches also include music programmes therefore IPL is a part of entertainment.

Haji Adeel said if the viewpoint of the government and Pemra is accepted, then news channels could not telecast even national anthem. The Geo Super representative said that their real issue is Pakistani licence for the Geo Super. “We applied in 2007. The government first granted the security clearance and then said that security clearance has not been granted,” he said.

Muhammad Suleman said there was no bar in the Pemra Ordinance in 2002 on the number of licences for any organisation. He said an application was submitted for the Geo Super licence in 2007 and it was refused in July 2009 and new rules were framed stipulating that more than four licences could not be issued. He said as the Jang Group had four licences, the rules were intentionally amended so that the Jang Group could be harmed. He said the telecast of Pakistani sports events from Dubai is not possible. He said the Pemra used various tactics against the Jang Group.

About the contention of the government that the Geo Super can telecast its programmes only from Dubai, Haji Adeel said on one point that if there is a hockey match in Peshawar, would the Geo Super telecast it from Dubai and why permission is repeatedly needed for coverage of every sports event in Pakistan?

Senator Syed Zafar Ali Shah said that under the law, any Pakistani channel could be given relaxation in the public interest and why it is not being done in case of the Geo Super? He said it is the only national sports channel.

The Geo Super representative once again strongly rejected the government’s allegation that the Geo Super has itself stopped its transmission. He told the committee that the transmission of the channel from Dubai is continuing but after the Pemra prohibited, the up-linking from Pakistan has been stopped. He offered the committee members as well as the information minister to themselves check that transmission of the channel is continuing from Dubai.

The committee members expressed their astonishment on the strong stance of the government and Pemra, saying the Geo Super has not been allowed transmission from Pakistan for not having security clearance in 2009.

The minister for information said that the government respects the freedom of the media and it neither wanted to put any restriction nor is any media group its target. She said they want to improve the present role of the Pemra and the Complaints Council of the Pemra has been activated for the first time. She said that elected representatives would be included in the Pemra Authority Board. She once again described the Pemra as uncontrolled and said they would end ‘Lifafa’ culture in the Pemra and the police and customs officials in the Pemra would be sent back. She admitted that telecast of the World Cup matches was the right of the Geo Super. She said they sought documents from the management for showing IPL matches. She claimed that the government did not shut the channel rather the management itself did so. She alleged that one channel wants to hijack the parliament and they could not accept its dictation. She said under the law no group could have more than four satellite channels. She said if the Geo surrendered one of its licences, they would consider granting the licence for the Geo Super.

The information minister said the cable operators are relaying programmes against the Pakistani culture and some steps are under consideration to stop the practice.

The question of the committee members was, however, not answered that four licences were granted on security clearance of the directors of the Geo Group and the same group is also publishing Jang and The News, then double standard has been adopted in case of the Geo Super?

The secretary information said that the security clearance pertains to the directors and it is given by the agencies. He said the government has no role therein. The committee chairman, Senator Haji Ghulam Ali, said the committee members are of unanimous view that the Geo Aag, which is an entertainment channel and of youth, should immediately be allowed transmission so the government should lift on the unanimous recommendation of the committee.

The secretary information said the government respects the recommendations of the standing committee and the Geo Aag would be allowed transmission. The standing committee deferred the consideration of the Geo Super issue so that any final stance could be adopted after examining the recommendations of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information & Broadcasting.
Source: The News