Cash-starved PBC in dire straits -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Cash-starved PBC in dire straits

* Corporation demands Rs 5 billion; govt allocates only Rs 2.2bn

By Manzoor Qadir

ISLAMABAD: The proposed allocation of Rs 2.2 billion against a Rs 5 billion demand for the Pakistan Broadcasting Cooperation (PBC) in the next financial year 2012-13 is expected to hit hard the state-run institution, which is already facing serious financial crisis resulting in delay in salaries to its employees and payment of other important liabilities, Daily Times has learnt through reliable sources.

According to details, PBC has demanded the government to allocate Rs 5 billion for the next fiscal year not only to meet its day-to-day affairs but also to restore its prestigious position. However, the government proposed to allocate only Rs 2.2 billion. Ironically, the proposed allocation is far behind to meet the annual salary bill of its 3,000 employees that is about Rs 3.83 billion and other expenditure Rs 1.12 billion required during the next financial budget.

The major break up of demand includes Rs 3.8 billion for salaries and allowances, pensions and commutations; Rs 337 million for production expenditures; and Rs 473 million for operational expenditure.

A huge gap between the demand and supply suggests that the PBC would be unable to meet the salary bill in the next financial year.

It is learnt that the PBC is a public-service institution that provides radio service since independence. In addition to providing information, education and entertainment to the public, the national broadcaster has also been instrumental in effectively projecting the government’s policies and playing a pivotal role in safeguarding the ideological borders of the country.

The PBC is believed to be the most effective and popular medium with its varied and wide range of programmers catering to all the segments of society in 22 national/regional and 11 foreign languages. The institution has extensive national network of 64 AM SW/FM stations spread across the country. It covers 96 percent of population and 85 percent of total area in Pakistan.

The government has been providing subsidy to meet its establishment and operational expenses since 1973. However, its financial position started deteriorating in 1999 when the Nawaz Sharif-led government abolished radio licence fee. It was a main source of income for the PBC, while exemption from income tax; business profit/wealth tax was also withdrawn through Finance Bill 1999. During the financial year 2011-12, the financial position of PBC deteriorated more when only Rs 2.1 billion was allocated against its demand of Rs 4.3 billion.

It is learnt that the government had asked the PBC authorities to make the cooperation viable through expanding its commercial network. Information Secretary Taimoor Azmat was reported as saying that the government was not in a position to provide financial support to the PBC, adding that the PBC had to explore other sources of income to become self-reliant.

Unfortunately, total business of the 109 radio stations across the country, including private and state-owned, do not exceed to Rs 1 billion. The PBC is carrying a liability of Rs 1 billion, besides having a liability of Rs 440 million for the salary payments of the police and security guards since 2005-6.

A summary of a Rs 1.7 billion bail-out package was moved to the Finance Ministry to meet PBC’s liabilities, but it only received Rs 300 million as supplementary grant to pay the immediate liabilities. In the current year, PBC head Murtaza Solangi came up with a novel idea of levying radio tax on mobile-phone users. The government already charges all electricity consumers a ‘PTV fee’ that is a part of electricity bills. However, the proposed radio tax was severely criticised by the opposition in the National Assembly and the government had to keep mum over it. Sources said the operational efficiency of the PBC had been adversely affected due to financial constraints, adding that to overcome the crises the government should intervene and review its allocation to keep this state-run institution alive.

Daily Times