Pemra, govt officials' obstinacy makes NA body meeting fruitless -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Pemra, govt officials’ obstinacy makes NA body meeting fruitless

Rana Jawad

ISLAMABAD: Federal Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan and other government functionaries told the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Tuesday that the country’s most popular and only sports channel Geo Super could air its transmission only from abroad and not Pakistan.

The panel’s meeting was convened to discuss the lingering issue of Geo Super’s closure on the orders of Pemra more than two weeks back, which sparked widespread resentment and concern among sports lovers throughout the country and abroad.

The Pemra’s refusal to uplink Geo Super from Pakistan had come on the heels of attempts by the regulatory authority and the government to deprive Geo Super of its exclusive rights to show the cricket World Cup matches on satellite and cable throughout Pakistan.

Pemra gave a new twist to the broadcasting licence issue of Geo Super from Pakistan at Tuesday’s meeting of the parliamentary committee by telling the members, some of whom demanded that the country’s sole sports channel should have permanent broadcasting licence from Pakistan, that Geo already had four licences and a fifth could not be issued to the network.

Geo’s representative in the meeting, Mohammad Suleman, strongly denied PemraÂ’s claim and pointed out that four licences had been issued to different companies and did not agree with the interpretation of Pemra.

This was a changed stance as in 2009 the government denied broadcast licence to Geo Super to transmit from Pakistan on the whimsical plea that the permission was not given because of reasons linked to security clearance.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) member Farhat Mohammad Khan of the panel inquired as to why Geo Super was not being given a temporary licence when it had already paid the prescribed fees for temporary uplinking from Pakistan pending settlement of its claim to have permanent licence to broadcast local sports events from Pakistan.

Dismayed by the lack of a plausible answer from the government side, the members belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Begum Shireen Arshad Khan and Waseem Akhtar Sheikh, boycotted the deliberations of the panel and walked out.

Pemra had no explanation to repeated queries of the committee members at all as to why Geo alone was targeted and whether the authority had taken similar aggressive action against any other channel or hired so high-paid lawyers as it had done in case of Geo Super.

When Geo Super had exclusive rights to show cricket World Cup then how PTV and other channels were able to show the same, Pemra authorities were asked. The secretary information argued that Pemra’s law does not apply to PTV.

The secretary could not answer as to how many other channels had faced action for not possessing licences.

In reply to a question about ban slapped on the youth channel ‘Aag’ for showing IPL matches, the government authorities cited the reason that being an entertainment channel it could not show matches. Geo representative told the committee that the ban was imposed without following the due process of law by Pemra.

It was pointed out to them that PTV Home and PTV News did show the World Cup matches but no action was taken against them on similar grounds. The secretary information took the stand that PTV was official network and they could not proceed against it. “It is free to do what it likes.”

The government as well as Pemra did not have any answer to accusations of being partial and discriminatory towards the Geo Group.

During the meeting it was repeatedly claimed on behalf of the Pemra chairman that Geo Super’s broadcasts from Dubai remain suspended, whereas Geo representative made it amply clear that the sports channel’s transmission from the Gulf state was continuing and from Pakistan the transmission was discontinued on the order of Pemra. “We say it with full responsibility that Geo Super’s transmissions from Dubai are not at all suspended,” Geo representative Suleman said.

The Standing Committee set up a four-member sub-committee to determine whether Geo Super was transmitting from Dubai or it has closed its transmission from the Gulf state. Geo representative invited the committee’s members to travel to Dubai to see the factual situation on the ground themselves and expose the false claim of Pemra.

An unending stream of people have voluntarily signed petition authorizing Geo Super to transmit from Pakistan, in apparent popular snub to an unjustified and vindictive move against the only sports channel of the country by Pemra and the government.
Source: The News
Date:4/20/2011