Although the credit goes to the present government of
breaking the ice with the permission to the private sector in this so
far exclusive domain of the government, yet the initiative to this
effect was actually taken by the former information minister Javed
Jabbar in the care-taker government of Moin Qureshi.
Due to bureaucratic complexities and stringent
policies, a number of private tv channels have got registered themselves
abroad specially in the United Kingdom. Some of them have already
started their telecast such as ARY, Indus and another is in the process
of transmission namely GEO. Although these channels are known
pro-Pakistani as their management originally belongs to this country,
however, they obviously preferred to launch their operations from abroad
to remain, what they described, free from the clutches of social,
political and administrative curbs within Pakistan.
Realizing the ground realities, our neighbouring
countries especially India has gone a step ahead of us by allowing
foreign investment even in the print media. According to informed
sources, as a result of this Indian policy to allow foreign investment
in the print media, a large number of leading publishing houses are
coming in either in the form of joint ventures or to start their own
All the leading foreign news agencies have already
opened their full-fledged bureau offices in Pakistan while leading world
television channels have also made arrangements for flow of information
from Pakistan. The situation calls for a decision to allow foreign
investment in the print and electronic media from Pakistan as well which
would certainly bring investment at a massive scale, opening job
opportunities and also help promoting Pakistani products abroad.
It may be noted that with the opening of doors of
electronic media for the private sector, a large number of interested
parties have approached to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory
Authority for putting up their radio and tv channels in Pakistan. It is
however yet to be seen that how many of them are going to survive in the
face of strong competition from local as well as foreign television
channels. Naturally, survival will be for the fittest alone.
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA)
has started receiving a large number of applications both for setting up
radio and television stations in Pakistan.
According to informed sources, PEMRA has so far
received 64 applications for setting up radio stations in private
sector, while the last date for submitting applications for the
television station is September 20, 2002.
Out of 64 applications for radio transmission, five
will be given permission in the initial stage and almost similar number
of tv broadcasting houses will be given permission in the private
sector, it is learnt.
It may be noted that PEMRA has invited applications
from Pakistani companies, incorporated under the Companies Ordinance,
1984 for grant of licence to establish and operate a Satellite
Television Broadcast Station (International Scale) from Pakistan. It is
however heartening to note that for the first time in the history of
Pakistan, the area of electronic media which, used to be the exclusive
domain of the public sector has been opened for investment in the
Practically speaking, it was however the need of the
hour to respond to the global trends as the cutting edge information
technology and satellite technology have done away with all frontiers,
borders and all administrative curbs against the spread of information
around the world. One has no option but to accept the ground realities.
According to Information Minister Nisar A. Memon, the
government is actively working on different laws relating to the media,
including the press and publication ordinance, access to the freedom of
information and defamatory laws were likely to be promulgated before the
installation of new government as a result of forthcoming National and
Provincial elections.These laws were discussed during the cabinet
meeting and expected to be promulgated before October 10. The government
would soon be setting a 100 Kw radio station in Mirpur, Azad Jammu and
Kashmir and a 100 Kw short waves radio transmitter and a radio repeater
in Northern Areas to relay programs for Skardu. The government has also
decided to establish a bureau office of Pakistan Television at Gilgit.
The PTV office is most likely to commence working from next month.
Outlining the media policy, the Information Minister
has observed that our mission should be to protect and project Pakistan
through information management. He emphasized that it was the
responsibility of the print and electronic media to bring out facts
objectively. He said that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority
had invited bids for putting up radio in the private sector. The
government was planning to award five radio licences before October 10.
He further said that licences for launching television channels in the
private sector would also be given soon.
Syed Sajjad Ali Shah, Chief Justice of Pakistan in a
foreword of a book on Mass Media Laws and Regulations in Pakistan says
"all over the world, the citizens' right to acquire knowledge and
information is increasingly being proclaimed and recognized as a
fundamental right. The internaional human rights instruments as well as
national constitutions and laws, acknowledge and safeguard this
right." An essential concomitant of this right is to right to
freedom of information and freedom of the press. The right to know and
have access to information is essential, not just for the harmonious
development of an individual's personality but also the socio-economic
evolution and political development of the society. Such right is
inextricably linked to making the government accountable, and its
dealings and operations transparent, better governance is indeed the
central theme and ultimate objective of the democratic philosophy. James
Madison, a founding father of the American Constitution, linked the
right to, and freedom of, in formation to the very survival of the
democratic system. "a popular government without popular
information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or
tragedy, or perhaps both", said James. His contemporarian and equal
in vision and wisdom, Thomas Jefferson, observed that the freedom of the
press is the "enternal vigilance" to guard the performance of
the government. The degree to which the press is free and independent,
is the degree to which it can perform its role as a watchdog on the
conduct of the government and its officials. It helps in preventing the
government from showing laxity or inefficiency or becoming corrupt. As a
former Editor-in-Chief of Time Inc. Henry Grundwald wrote "Even a
democratically elected and benign government can easily be corrupted
when its power is not held in check by an independent press".
The right to know, acquire knowledge and information
is indeed our cultural legacy, rooted in Islamic law, philosophy and
Syed Fayyaz Hussain, General Manager, Pakistan
Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) while expressing his views
on the liberalized electronic media policy of the government said that
the private sector is being encouraged to keep pace with the global
situation of technological advancement. He said that the private sector
in Pakistan which has always risen to the occasion would certainly
deliver the goods in the electronic media sector also. He said that in
the face of satellite technology proliferation around the world which
knows no boundaries, limits or frontiers you have to flock together.
However, social responsibility demands that the new TV channels coming
in the private sector are expected to serve the interest of the nation
and the country. As an authority we have to give them a sense of
direction however the entire responsibility to promote and protect the
interest of the country lies on these private channels. When asked how
the growing number of Pakistani tv channels would survive economically
especially in the face of limited market and economic resources, he was
of the view that it is the test of true professionalism. They would have
to carve a place for themselves in the market. Fayyaz recalled the days
when the Information Technology was being introduced in Pakistan. At
that time people had expressed fears that introduction of information
technology may add to the problem of unemployment in Pakistan. Contrary
to that fears and apprehensions, IT helped creating new and diversified
job opportunities especially for the youngsters. He expressed the hope
that as a result of private sector participation in the electronic
media, possibilities of new economic dimensions can not be ruled out.
Introduction of information technology in our economy is one of the best
precedence to that effect, he observed.
In order to keep pace with the growth, the government
has decided to engage the private sector in the electronic media. So far
the TV channels representing Pakistan are not registered within
Pakistan. TV channels like Indus, ARY etc are operating from abroad. He
was of the opinion that license to the private channels may have no
negative sign on the economy, instead it will help creating healthy
competition among themselves which consequently improve creditworthiness
of the information quality of the programmes presented by the electronic
media in Pakistan.
He reiterated that the policy is to give a sense of
direction to the electronic media to promote national culture, represent
a true national colour on the most effective and power mode of
transmission to help building a positive image of the country in and
around the world.
Federal Information Minister Nisar A. Memon has also
recommended to the business community to come forward and establish
television, radio and sports channels in the private sector.
The minister said that government has recently
established Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) which
is fully responsible for issuing licences to private TV and Radio
He was of the view that press and electronic media in
Pakistan are totally free to write and criticize government policies as
well as give coverage to political opponents, adding the government
issuing no press advice as well.
There was no law specifically enacted to establish
Pakistan Television Corporation which was incorporated as a joint stock
company in 1967 and then, upon the Memorandum and papers went through
minor amendments. The entire share-holding rests with the Federal
Shalimar Recording Company Limited (SRC) which
operates the STN TV channel is also a joint stock company in which
Government holds 54 per cent shares.
In 1990 SRC awarded an exclusive, monopolistic
contract to a private sector company known as Network Television
Marketing (NTM) to provide all programming and advertising to the STN
Channel originally known as PTN i.e. People's Television Network.
However, the Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance 1997 contains a
section that excludes the continuation of private monopolies in
Shaheen Pay television, the country's first
"wireless" cable TV operates as a corporate enterprise
registered under the Companies Ordinance 1984 in which a foreign
investor holds 50 per cent shares, a Pakistani based group holds 24 per
cent shares and the Shaheen Foundation, sponsored by the Pakistan Air
Force for the welfare of retired personnel, holds 25 per cent shares.
In October 1996 a Bench of the Supreme Court of
Pakistan had admitted a constitutional petition filed as public interest
litigation by Javed Jabbar and Mubashar Hasan requesting the court to
declare that the air waves of a country being a national asset, the
issuance of a licence by the then-Government of Benazir Bhutto in 1995
to Shaheen Pay TV and to a 3 FM radio stations was an illegal action
which was challenged on the grounds that the award of this licence was
made on a non-transparent basis and that it is monopolistic in nature.
ELECTRONIC MEDIA REGULATORY AUTHORITY ORDINANCE.
For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a law
acknowledges the right of private citizens to use the air-waves of the
country for the operation of privately-owned radio stations and TV
stations. Also for the first time, the law permits electronic media to
broadcast news bulletins other than those originated by the
Government-controlled PTV and PBC.
Freedom of Information Ordinance 1997 (promulgated
January 1997-lapsed in May 1997).
An Ordinance to provide for access by citizens to the
This ordinance enables citizens to obtain a wide
range of documents constituting the record of all public offices
including policy statements, contracts and papers relating to
transactions, licences, agreements and official orders given on various
At the same time it excludes certain types of
documents such as noting on files, record of banking companies, material
relating to the personal privacy of an individual etc. the law provides
for a simple and easy procedure to obtain such documentation and also
contains a provision for an appeal to an ombudsman in case the request
for a document is declined.
The law enables government to categorize documents as
being "classified" and thereby refuse access to such
documentation. Nevertheless this law opens up the public record for the
first time to the citizens and represents a significant advancement in
the direction of transparency and good governance.
As far as the law is concerned the government has
paved the way for the good governance through effective participation of
the private sector in Pakistan. In the second phase, the follow up to
ensure effective implementation of the policy and law is also equally
important which needs constant attention of the authorities to make
these policies as fruitful for the society.
Electronic media is considered as today's most
effective and powerful tool for opinion mobilization across the globe.
Relatively speaking, electronic media has grown also in Pakistan but
only in its volume of transmission and assets but pathetically lacks in
spirits. Pakistan Television has grown from one channel to three
channels including PTV world transmission which are said to be seen in
52 countries. It is however funny that almost all its transmissions on
PTV word are addressed only to the audience which understand the
national or local languages which serves no purpose or point to send
your message around the world.
If you have to mobilize world opinion in respect of
your cultural, social, political or economic strength and to counter the
political and cultural invasion of channels hostile against Pakistan at
least 50 per cent of the transmissions should be made in English