Supreme Court directs PEMRA
The Supreme Court has directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to take immediate notice of programmes and advertisements that could be described as vulgar, being aired by private television channels. PEMRA has also been ordered to set parameters to curb such waywardness. SC’s bench came into action after Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed and former Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmed wrote letters to the Chief Justice seeking his attention to control vulgarity.
The court has given PEMRA one month’s time for completing the process and submitting a compliance report. PEMRA’s complaint that technologically it is impossible to stop television chnnels from airing what they wish to is unfounded, and while there should be some standards of what television channels air, which is produced locally, the setting of watershed hours or of any such limits of good taste and decency should not fall to the religious interests and popular columnists that the court has directed PEMRA to receive guidance from. An independent body such as Ofcom in the United Kingdom is a good model for such regularization.
Some may disagree with the court that only those programmes satirizing politicians are in good taste, whereas those debating court decisions are defamatory. PEMRA as a government agency can all too soon become a tool of censorship, for a media only recently freed. What it can do is regulate the airwaves concerning Indian television channels, which are not licensed to operate in Pakistan and there is not a single Pakistani television channel which is allowed the same freedom in India. Pakistani content and television channels are evolving and will continue to do so, hopefully in a positive direction, under the court’s guidance. However, an independent body with representation from all spheres of society, would be the best platform to discuss in detail what falls under the purview of acceptable taste in Pakistani society.