SC admits for hearing Pemra petition in DTH case
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday admitted for hearing an appeal filed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) against a Lahore High Court order of Dec 28, 2016 that had set aside its regulations prohibiting television broadcasters from entering the Direct to Home (DTH) market.
A five-judge bench of the court headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed granted leave to appeal after hearing the arguments of Salman Akram Raja, who was representing Pemra.
In its order the high court had declared regulations 2.11 and 3.23 of the DTH Regulations 2016 as ultra vires and illegal.
The two regulations mentioned, when read with Rules 13(3) and 13(4) of the Pemra Rules 2009, prohibit the participation of broadcasters in the DTH distribution market.
The DTH satellite television system is the latest technology meant for delivering responsible and socially acceptable digital TV content to the households. Globally, the DTH projects have led to the modernisation of TV distribution services.
During the hearing, Advocate Raja argued that the country’s television broadcast market is currently dominated by 10 television channels out of a total of 90, in terms of market share and advertising revenue.
On Nov 24, 2016 Pemra auctioned three DTH licences for Rs14.69 billion with the aim of curbing the proliferation of illegal Indian DTH broadcasts which are annually causing the loss of billions of rupees to the national exchequer.
According to the Pemra’s petition, the establishment of a DTH platform for distribution of television content requires expenditures running into billions and therefore only the biggest broadcasters will be in a position to set up such a platform.
It said that if the broadcasters were to be allowed to enter the DTH market, one or more of the larger broadcast channels would end up controlling the distribution of the content while controlling one-third or more of the market.
In such a broadcaster-cum-distributor scenario significant powers would be vested in one of the larger broadcasters controlling one-third or more of the DTH distribution market, the petition argued.
Pemra emphasised that the regulatory decision to not allow a broadcaster from owning and controlling one-third or more of the DTH distribution market was a reasonable decision that required no detailed setting of standards or empirical data collection.
But the high court judgement had imposed unwarranted restrictions on the scope of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 in arriving at the conclusion that vertical integration between broadcasters and distributors might not be prohibited through rules-making.
Messrs MAG Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd, Messrs Startimes Communications Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd and Shahzad Sky (Pvt) Ltd have also filed appeals before the court on the issue.