IHC moved for restoring Geo channels to April 19, 2014 -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

IHC moved for restoring Geo channels to April 19, 2014 position

Pakistan Press Foundation

Petition says slots kept changing despite Pemra directives; regulator should be ordered to take action against violating cable operators; court issues notices to secretary, Pemra chairman, 20 cable operators

LAHORE. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday issued notices to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting secretary, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman and 20 cable operators in a petition filed by Geo TV Network seeking restoration of channel’s position of April 19, 2014.

The petition has been filed in the Islamabad High Court against placing the TV channels of Geo, the most popular network of the country, on the last numbers of cable. In the petition filed under Article 199 of the Constitution, the Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Ltd has made the information secretary respondent.The other respondents are: chairman and CEO of WorldCall Telecom Ltd Lahore, Wateen Multimedia (Pvt) Ltd Lahore, Logitech Multimedia (Pvt) Ltd Lahore, Gulf Cable (Pvt) Ltd Lahore, Bright Multimedia Cable Network (Pvt) Ltd Lahore, Magic Broadband Communication (Pvt) Ltd Lahore, Askari Cable Quetta, Five Star Cable Peshawar, Raja Cable Jacobabad, AB Cable Network Jacobabad, Al Mehran Cable Daharki, Set Vision Nowshera, Universal Cable Larkana, Media Plus Cable Larkana, Bahawalnagar Cantt Cable, Pegasus Cable Gujranwala, New Sarfraz Cable (Cantt) Hyderabad and Digital Cable Malir Cantt Karachi.

In the petition filed through Asma Jahangir Advocate, it is requested that orders should be issued to make Pemra take action against the violating cable operators, execute the June 20, 2014 orders concerning Geo TV Network transmission and restoring the Geo TV channels at their slots as of April 19, 2014.The petition argues that Pemra issues licences to all cable operators and is bound to ensure implementation of rules and regulations described in the Pemra Ordinance. Section 28 says that no cable operator can suspend or block the transmission of any TV channel without the approval of the regulator which has the authority under Section 20 to suspend or cancel the licence of a cable operator violating the Pemra Ordinance. The petition mentions that the Pemra on June 6, 2014 imposed a fine of Rs 10 million and suspended the Geo News transmission for 15 days amid the situation arising out of the attack on famous journalist Hamid Mir. But despite the fact that the petitioner faced the punishment, some cable operators delayed the restoration of transmission while some others didn’t restore it, resulting in huge losses.

Meanwhile, the Pemra, despite the protest, did not take action against the cable operators giving advantage to other channels. Furthermore, the cable operators restoring the transmission switched the position and some are still doing so, with an aim to discourage the Geo TV viewers. On the other hand, the Geo Network channels instead of their categories are being shown on different numbers. On June 20, 2014, the Pemra issued an order concerning restoration of transmission, in which the regional directors had been ordered to ensure that the network’s channels were restored to their previous positions by June 21, 2014.But despite the Pemra directives, the slots of Geo News was kept changing and mostly shown on last numbers. In several instances, Geo News was slotted in a field other than of news channels so that the viewers could be forced to watch other channels, and the situation persists despite the higher judiciary’s orders.The petition mentions that Pemra’s counsel Ibrahim Satti on the directives of Zahid Malik, Pemra Legal Department head, assured that the regular by implementing the orders dated August 13, 2012, would ensure that channels were not shifted of other number in violation of court order. But nothing happened on the ground.In this connection, Geo News filed a petition in the Lahore High Court, which was disposed on No 21, 2014; however, the court orders were not implemented. Another petition filed in 2015 seeking implementation of court orders is still sub judice.Acting on a similar application, the Sindh High Court on August 4, 2015, directed to contact the authorities concerned although the petitioner had already filed a complaint with the regulator. The high court orders were challenged in the Supreme Court which on Dec 7, 2015, ordered Pemra to submit a report after hearing the complaints within six weeks.

As the petitioner submitted the complaints concerning different regions to the Pemra Council of Complaints, the same were declared not maintainable, stating that there was no clause in the Pemra Ordinance under which the cable operators could be forced to show a channel on a fix number. The council further said there was also no agreement between the Independent Media Corporation (Pvt) Ltd and the cable operators to show the Geo TV channels on particular numbers. The petition says the Pemra on the recommendations of Council of Complaints issued a verdict only concerning Sindh on Feb 15, 2016, while the petitioner has not ever been heard at the federal level in any decision. The Pemra Council of Complaints does not have any authority to take action under Section 26 of Pemra Ordinance and the regulator should have make decisions under Regulation 14 of Pemra (Distribution Service Operations) at federal level as each region’s recommendations. According to the petition, Pemra Cable TV (Operators) Regulations 2002’s Regulation 29 (3) says the operators should to national channels from number 1 to 5. According to the Regulation 8 (7) of Pemra (Distribution Service Operations) 2011, the operators should place all channels of a category in sequence so that the subscribers could easily search the desired channel.Regulation 9 says the operator should give 48-hour notice to subscriber before changing the position of a channel. As such, the petition requested the court to issue directives to Pemra for taking action against the operators violating the rules and directives, executing the June 20, 2014 orders concerning Geo TV Network transmission and restoring the Geo TV channels at their slots as of April 19, 2014.

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