Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Thursday said the government would abolish Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and replace it with Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PMRA) that would regulate all forms of media.
The minister told the Senate’s Committee for Information and Broadcasting that the draft bill for the new regulatory authority had been sent to all the stakeholders for their feedback. The role of regulatory bodies PEMRA, Press Council of Pakistan and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) would be given to the new authority, which would regulate electronic, print and social media, he added.
Senator Faisal Javed chaired the meeting during which senators discussed issues related to the management of media content and PEMRA’s supervision.
The minister agreed with the senators that media should not disrespect and humiliate anybody.
The committee considered the point of public importance by Senator Muhammad Ali Khan Saif regarding derogatory remarks of an analyst on ARY channel about Pashtuns. The senators condemned use of bad language by the analyst.
The senators discussed formation of a committee to consider amendments in the law to stop use of derogatory language and insult of politicians during programmes of television channels.
They also debated the point of public importance raised by Senator Muhammad Usman Kakar in the Senate regarding insult of Pashtuns in a government advertisement. During the discussion on the controversial advertisement, Incharge Additional Secretary Information Shafqat Jalil told the committee that in future advertisements would be aired on television channels after approval from a committee constituted by the Information Ministry.
The committee was also told that many officials had been suspended over airing of the controversial advertisement.
The committee also debated the point raised by Senator Abdul Rehman Malik about character assassination of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders on electronic media.
Senator A R Rehman said the PEMRA law should be amended and media should be stopped from casting aspersions on honourable citizens. Politicians should be granted the same protection as was given to judiciary and army, and media representatives should also be consulted in that regard, he added.
The information minister, however, said no curbs should be put on the media in the garb of regulation and a balance should be observed.
Senator Khushbakht Shujaat talked about the moral bankruptcy caused due to television channel programmes.
PEMRA Chairman Saleem Baig told the committee that the cases of violation of PEMRA law were sent to the Council of Complaints and a maximum fine of Rs 1 million could be imposed.
The committee took a briefing from Pakistan Television Chairman Arshad Khan about the financial situation of his organization.
Arshad Khan said the PTV still had to pay retirement dues of Rs 1.3 billion to 279 employees. The organization was spending 76 percent of its funds on meeting staff costs, he added.
The minister said the government wanted to reform state institutions like PTV and Radio Pakistan, but it was facing resistance.
The PTV News, he said, was earning some Rs 200 million while its budget was Rs 3 billion. Same was the case of Radio Pakistan, which getting huge funds from the government and earning less, he added.