PTV rejects opposition’s charge of partisanship
ISLAMABAD: State-run Pakistan Television on Monday denied that it favours government MPs in its coverage of parliament and that it breached the privilege of the Senate by broadcasting live the speech Defence Minister Khawaja Asif made in the upper house on December 31.
“On December 31, the question hour was going on and PTV was telecasting the proceedings live. As Khawaja Asif was replying to questions about Afghanistan, an important issue, he was broadcast on PTV News and PTV National channels,” PTV managing director (MD) Mohammad Malick told the Senate Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges, which had called him to explain why the Senate chairman’s permission was not sought for live coverage of the minister.
“Those who watched PTV News felt that only the minister’s speech was telecast,” said the MD. “PTV doesn’t earn any money by telecasting parliamentary proceedings.”
“We can stop the coverage but that would earn us criticism,” he said, adding that “it is impossible to seek permission in the midst of a live broadcast which speaker should be put on air.”
However, the Senate committee directed that its Director Media and the Director Current Affairs of PTV sit together and devise a strategy for the coverage of Senate proceedings.
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani had expressed displeasure that the PTV did not broadcast the speeches that opposition members made after the minister had spoken.
Before issuing notice to the PTV, Mr Rabbani had drawn the attention of Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid to the understanding that he and senior PTV officials had reached that except for Question Hour, PTV would not telecast live any part of the house proceedings without the permission of the Senate chairman.
But in his appearance before the standing committee on Monday, Mr Malick said the understanding was that the Question Hour in the Senate would be telecast live on PTV National.
Standing Committee Chairman Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini, who belongs to BNP-Mengal, suggested that officials of the PTV and Senate should sit together and address the issue.
Dr Jamaldini said that PTV should give equal coverage to all provinces and political parties. All senators and MNAs should get coverage without any discrimination.
“Politicians of only two-and-a-half provinces count in the PTV and are discussed in its current affairs programmes. PTV’s English language news channel is watched all over the world but we hardly hear anything about Balochistan or Fata on it,” he said.
Committee member Senator Attaur Rehman advised PTV “not to create negative impressions about people from specific areas and religious orientation.”
“Television dramas present Pakhtuns and Maulanas in negative roles. PTV should not project Pakhtuns and Balochs as terrorists,” he said.
MD PTV Malick insisted that PTV was ‘independent’ in its current affairs programmes and invited two or three opposition representatives which showed that “opposition gets more time on PTV compared to government”.
It was a different matter that some parliamentarians “feel uncomfortable before television cameras and shy away,” he said.
“We want to make PTV a state channel not a channel run by the government of Pakistan,” he said.
“We gave the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf proper coverage even during its sit-in and we run a separate channel for Balochistan,” he added.