New Pemra chairman means business
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Authority (Pemra) is playing a proactive role in ensuring strict adherence to the code of conduct and law by the TV channels after prominent media man Absar Alam became its chairman.
Starting from December 1 when he assumed the office, the Pemra has intervened at least 43 times to instill a sense of responsibility in the TV outlets, the data available with The News showed.
The Pemra had mostly been an inactive forum. But it had always worked overtime with extraordinary enthusiasm and speed when it had been under directions influential quarters to punish a TV channel, which had not been falling in line. However, there has hardly been any day since the present incumbent came in place when the Pemra had not taken an action.
With the regulator’s being watchful, it is unlikely that the Pemra will let pass any grave violation unnoticed. In this scenario, the TV channels will have to be vigilant about the content they air and the discussions in the current affairs programmes they host.
“So far the focus has been on taking notice of abusive, indecent and derogatory language against different institutions and personalities,” Absar Alam told The News.
He said the Pemra would also start taking notice of hurling of unsubstantiated dirty allegations over the elected representatives and politicians. “Fair criticism is approved but abuses and unproven accusations aren’t. We act without fear or favour.”
The chairman said the Pemra wanted to develop a cordial relationship with the TV channels so that everyone remains within the four corners of the law. Fines are being imposed where they are absolutely necessary, he said adding that he was trying his best to ensure transparency.
He said the Pemra was paying attention to create public awareness and was involving people. That’s why twitter account, @reportpemra, has been created so that people give their feedbacks about the Pemra activities and guide it, he said. Notices are being also issued in Urdu language for convenience of the general public.
Generally, when it comes to commenting on the elected representatives and political figures, most analysts appearing in TV debates subject them to merciless uncorroborated attacks while they spare other segments from such harangues.
The chairman can impose a maximum fine of Rs100,000 on an errant media outlet, which clearly shows that he has limited powers in this connection.
The Pemra authority can fine up to Rs1 million while a court can impose a fine of Rs10 million.
Since December 1, there have been instances where the Pemra proceeded when a specific TV channel failed to offer even a slight defence because its action was extremely obscene and vulgar that the society can’t tolerate.
The Pemra has handled different matters during this time. One advice contained instructions regarding coverage and reporting of law and order disturbances relating to religious intolerance. Another talked of a guest’s controversial and provoking statements that maligned a political party as well as the Pakistan government with regard to the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team.
Other advices spoke against vulgarity and obscenity and aspersion against the judiciary and recommended editing of advertisements of cosmetics and a cell phone.
The Pemra also issued show cause notices to different TV channels for violating the code of conduct and law. In one case, a caller used objectionable language against the judiciary. In another, defamatory and sensational breaking news was aired about the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan.
The regulator received complaints from private persons, law firms and others against certain TV channels. It processed and decided most of them accordingly while some are pending disposal.
The complaints the Pemra received related to the indecent language used by anchors or guests against the judiciary, MPs, the prime minister, individuals and even proprietors of media houses. One complaint pertained to the violation of copyright of a documentary; another was lodged by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against a TV channel; yet another talked of non-payment of outstanding dues; another related to airing of malicious content against Punjab police etc.