PEMRA to Establish its own USF for Stretching Digital TV Across Country

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority would establish its own Universal Service Fund (USF) to extend digitalization plan to un-served and underserved areas of the country.

PEMRA demanded Rs 75 million as seed money for a new project of Universal Service Fund for implementation of digitalization plan in the budget for upcoming financial year 2017-18.

This was revealed in the National Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting here on Thursday.

PEMRA licensees would contribute to the Fund to reach the under-served and un-served areas of the country.

Not to mention, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has already established USF where telecom operators contribute 1.5 percent of their gross annual revenue to spread the telecom services to under-served and un-served areas of the country.

The National Standing Committee on Information on Thursday approved budgetary proposals of Rs 3008.02 million under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) for Information and Broadcasting Ministry and its attached departments for 2017-18.

The proposals would be forwarded to the Ministry of Planning and Reforms and Finance Division for inclusion in the federal budget for year 2017-18. The Committee met under the Chairmanship of Pir Muhammad Aslam Bodla.

The Committee thoroughly discussed and scrutinized the budgetary proposals relating to Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) of Information and Broadcasting Division and its attached departments for the year 2017-18.

The Committee was apprised that Information and Broadcasting Division had demanded allocation of Rs 447.9 million for 12 ongoing projects besides Rs 2560.12 million for 28 new projects. The Committee was apprised that 10 and 2 projects of Pakistan Television and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation respectively were ongoing and would be completed in the current fiscal year upon grant of budgetary allocation.

The committee was informed that there were a total of 22 projects for 2016-17 with total capital cost of Rs 1125.68 million. The government earmarked Rs 335.405 million for 2016-17 of which Rs 174 million was released and Rs 114.77 million has so far been utilized. The committee members expressed serious reservations over the delay in completion of projects while saying that cost of these projects increased by 10 times due to delay in completion.

The Representative of Information and Broadcasting Division apprised the Committee that PTV had submitted 3 new projects which mainly relate to establishment of rebroadcast stations, replacement of obsolete equipment and construction of auditorium at PTV Academy, Islamabad.

The Committee was further apprised that the Division had demanded budgetary allocation for 25 new projects of PBC, PNCA, PID, APPC, DEMP, ISA and PEMRA which mainly relate to establishment of infrastructure, replacement of obsolete equipment and capacity enhancement of above mentioned departments.

The Committee directed the Information and Brocading Division to direct PTV and PBC to complete the ongoing project within current fiscal year. The Committee also directed the Division to submit report of inclusion or non-inclusion of the PSDP budgetary proposals in the federal budget within thirty days of the Committee’s recommendation required under rule 7 of rule 201 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007.

Talal Chaudhry, MNA of Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) expressed annoyance over delay in completion of ongoing projects. He further questioned that billions of rupees are being collected in electricity bills, still funds are being sought from the government. He further said that cameras procured in 1980s are still being used, then why huge bills are being collected from the general public.

Chairman PEMRA Absar Alam said that country is moving from analogue to digitalization, which would improve services. He said that software would be developed for monitoring upto 250 channels. Currently 107 TV channels are operational in the country, however only 50 are being monitored. New satellite channel licenses are not being issued which is negatively affecting revenue of the authority and the country.

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