PTV in the red despite licence fee, NA told: STN earns profit
ISLAMABAD, March 3, 2005: People paid Rs738.8 million in the last six months of 2004 as television licence fee along with their electricity bills, record put before the National Assembly on Thursday revealed.
Comparative revenue figures of the Shalimar Television Network (STN) and PTV showed that without getting any subsidy from the government or having the cushion of the taxes to finance its transmissions, the STN delivered profits while the PTV had its revenue records in the red during 2003-04.
The record of PTV losses during 2003-04 was placed before the lower house by Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed in response to a question by MNA Dr Fareed Piracha. He had sought details of the revenue collected by PTV through licence fee and its total expenditure.
The minister informed the house that total annual expenditure of PTV during 2003-04 was Rs3.1 billion while it earned only Rs2.6 billion through licence fee and advertisements. The losses of PTV amounted to over Rs469 million in the said period.
From July to December 2004, the citizens paid Rs738 million as license fee with their electricity bills to finance PTV’s transmissions, irrespective of the fact if they viewed the channel or not.
When the elected representatives of the people questioned the information minister about not giving proper coverage to the proceedings of the National Assembly on PTV, Sheikh Rashid expressed his inability to increase the airtime for the parliamentarians, as it would incur further losses.
The minister said the per minute transmission cost of PTV amounted to over Rs100,000 and if the government provided more funds, the coverage could be increased.
In reply to a question by MNA Yasmeen Rehman, the minister informed the house that three government corporations held 92.81 per cent shares in the Shalimar Recording and Broadcasting Company (SRBC) while 61 individuals held the remaining shares. During 2003-04, the SRBC showed a net profit of Rs29.9 million after tax deductions.
The minister said the STN had upgraded its transmissions to reach all the four provinces and 38 countries without receiving any monetary assistance from the government in the form of grants, subsidies or budget allocations.
Answering a question by MNA Tasneem Ahmed Qureshi, the minister said PTV was working on a project of direct to home (DTH) platform which would initially telecast some 50 channels which later to be increased up to 300.
Asked if the cable operators would also be allowed to increase channels to 300, the minister said that under the Pemra rules, they had been allowed to distribute maximum 49 channels.
Replying a question of MNA Rana Mehmoodul Hasan, the information minister said the government had received applications to issue cross media licenses to 24 entities. The minister said 10 licenses had been issued for the establishment of satellite television channels, 26 for FM radio stations and 182 for cable television.
Earlier, the minister faced some tough questions from the treasury and opposition members over the coverage of the National Assembly proceedings by the PTV, on various points of order.
MNAs Naveed Gabol, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, Khurshid Afgan, Kunwar Khalid Younas and Hamid Nasir Chathha suggested that private TV channels should be allowed to cover the parliament’s proceedings to overcome deficiencies in PTV’s coverage.
The minister said the National Assembly standing committee on information and broadcasting had met earlier in the day and the issue of cross media ownership was taken up.
He said a bill to allow cross media ownership would be presented before the house soon. Answering a question of Ijaz Chaudhry, the minister said the government was not bound to give advertisements to private TV channels.