Pemra official admits issuing bogus licence to foreign channel
A senior Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) official admitted before the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting that a bogus licence was issued to a foreign TV channel which did not even exist.
The committee met with Kamil Ali Agha in the chair here on Monday, where representatives of United Producers Association (UPA), noted artists including Asif Raza Mir, Humayun Saeed, Qawi Khan and Laila Zuberi briefed the committee over the quality foreign contents and its negative effects on the local industry.
The UPA proposed the government to introduce a duty regime for the import of foreign TV contents. In the absence of any tax regime, foreign TV content is being purchased directly, which is not only causing a huge loss to the national exchequer, but it is also depriving the nation of its vital foreign exchange, according to UPA. Ashfaq Jumani, Director General (DG) Licensing Pemra claimed that a Dubai-based media group applied for a TV channel licence two years ago; however in reality it did not exist in Dubai. The committee was surprised by the revelation, it directed the Secretary Information to investigate the matter and report to the committee in a next meeting. Senator Farhatullah Babar urged the authority concerned to take action of the issue and punish the responsible in this regard.
The UPA told the committee that the recent influx of foreign TV channels (Indian dramas and reality shows, and Turkish dramas with dubbing in Urdu) airing on Pakistani private channels and foreign channels with downlink licences had put the very existence of local industry at risk.
Senator Babar further said the Pemra laws were inadequate while its implementation was also questionable. The committee directed the Secretary Information to revisit the policy on foreign content in consultation with all stakeholders to protect the local industry from an impending debacle.
Asif Raza Mir told the committee that Pemra was promoting Indian programming by allowing permission to 3200 cable operators and four CD channels. Each CD channel is running pirated Indian programming, which is not only hurting local industry, but also promoting piracy in violation of international copyright laws. In the absence of an effective check-and-balance mechanism, different TV channels are running various such programmes and negatively affecting society, according to him. Dubbed programmes were only allowed for education and information purposes; however Pemra allowed entertainment programmes as well.
The Association further told the committee that when the issue was raised with Information Minister, he agreed that a check would be kept on Turkish dramas; however, he maintained that the government wanted to improve relations with India and would consider the matter in this regard. It was told that due to no check on the Indian contents, local films and music had already been destroyed and if measures were not taken in this regard, dramas would also be destroyed.
Senator Robeena expressed her apprehension that if creativity stopped it would encourage extremism in the country, while fashion and media schools would face severe losses. The Pemra official maintained that channels’ owners and cable operators were important stakeholders and they should be taken on board on policy matters. The UPA urged the government to protect the local TV production industry, as it had done in the case of local automobile and polyester industries, adding that the governments of 47 countries had made rules and regulations and policies to protect and preserve their respective industries.