Private radio, TV stations to go on air next year -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Private radio, TV stations to go on air next year

ISLAMABAD- Information Secretary Khawaja Ijaz Sarwar said private radio and television channels would become operational in the first quarter of year 2001. However, the Pakistan Television (PTV) and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PTA) will continue functioning in the public sector, he told World-net Dialogue on “Independent TV and radio operations” held at American Centre. “I must clarify that we are not going to privatise radio and television in Pakistan, but private individuals will also be able to set up their own TV and radio stations.”

“The Ministry of Information has already moved a draft legislation for this purpose,” he said. Once the Ministry of Law and Justice formulates the legislation, “we will be asking applications from the private individuals through a public notice,” the Secretary Information said. The government, he said, will also be establishing a media regulatory authority that will vet the applications and grant licences to the deserving candidates. “We hope to complete this process by the end of this year.” Sarwar said the fee will be in accordance with the category of the TV and radio stations applied ranging from the international satellite to the terrestrial and the community based television, special interest groups and provincial TV networks.

The Regulatory Authority for the Grant of Licence will be a totally autonomous independent body, having 6 out of its 9 members from the private sector, he said. It will only have 3 ex-officio members like Information Secretary, Chairman PTA, and Chairman of Frequency Allocation Board. Even the chairman will be from the private sector, he said. He added there will be representation of the female gender, as four out of the nine will be ladies and one member each from the four provinces.

The authority will fix the fee for different categories of the channels and also decide about the contents of the programmes of the new radio and TV stations, he said. The government is not placing any restrictions on the number of TV channels or radio stations in the private sector, nor it is going into the details about the contents of the forthcoming channels at the moment, he said. ‘We have mentioned a council of interest in the regulatory authority, a body for deciding any complaints about the advertisement and the contents of the programmes,” he said. The government, he said, believes in encouraging the private sector and expects to share the talent with people in the private sector for improving the quality of programmes. “We are open to all kinds of applications and all the five categories of the TV channels can take place at the same time.”

However, Sarwar said: “They will certainly have to observe some code of ethics. For example, no body will be allowed to talk against Islam or Pakistan.” He maintained the authority will assess the financial soundness and the professional competence and knowledge of the applicants. After assessing the capacity of the applicants, he said, the authority may give a licence say for about 10 to 20 years. “We would also welcome radio stations like small FM radio stations operating in a small circuit say in one to 20-kilometre radius.” He said after the authority becomes functional, applications would be sought through an advertisement and the authority would give licences by adopting an open transparent procedure keeping itself within the ambit of granting licences.

Aslam Azhar, former chairman PTV, said the governments in different parts of the world hurt themselves by trying to control the news and current affairs programmes. He was of the view that there is no network in the world that is absolutely objective whether it is CNN, BBC or any other network. These networks base their credibility on the facts that they will not go against or threaten the strategic interest of their state. However, he stressed that independent radio and TV stations must include news and current affairs as the centrepiece.

Panellists participating in the programme from Washington included Miss Joan Mower, Programme Director, Freedom Forum, Dr Joe Foote, Dean, Mass Communication and Arts, Southern Illinois University, and Michael F Starr, President, New Radco Broadcasting, LLC. Babar Ayaz, Business Update, Salad A Gul and, Azhar Abbas participated in the dialogue from Karachi while Dr Mughees Sheikh, Professor, University of the Punjab, represented Lahore.

Source: The News