Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage in its meeting on Thursday has called for conducting a thorough feasibility study as to the suitability of introducing more channels in the face of continuous financial challenges the state owned enterprise is facing. The Committee members were of the view that while the PTV is already relying on re-running old content, content generation and filling airtime for more channels can become a burden and take the organisation to further losses.
The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Senator Faisal Javed Khan here at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services on Thursday and was attended among others by Senators Tahir Bizenjo, Anwar ul Haq Kakar, Rubina Khalid, Pervaiz Rasheed, Khushbakht Shujaat, Sabir Shah, Ghous Muhammad Niazi, Secretary Information & Broadcasting, Chairman PEMRA and other officials. Chairman Committee observed that PTV should consider consolidation of some existing channels and then look into the prospects of opening new channels.
Regarding the matter of pending payment of pensions to retired officials of PTV, the Committee was told that the total amount of pending pensions amounted to 1639 million rupees since April 2016. After Committee’s directions over the last couple of meetings the PTV administration has paid pensions amounting to 377 million to 90 pensioners. The backlog of pending pensions has now since August 2016. The Committee was further told that a sum of 90 million has been arranged and will be paid within the next week. The Chairman Committee remarked that the pending payments still amount to a very large number and rigorous efforts need to be made to expedite the payments. The Secretary Information and Broadcasting said that the administration is making the best efforts to pay their due rights to the pensioners and remarked that this pendency is not just a loss to the pensioners but also to PTV which could have otherwise used the money on technical up-gradation and content generation.
The Committee, after considering ‘The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 (Ordinance No. IX of 2018)’, passed the bill that was treated to having been originated in the Senate and referred to the Committee. The Bill aimed at bringing the Regulatory Authority out of the direct control of the Government has altered the composition of the Board of Directors of PEMRA. The Board will now comprise of eight members and the Chairman. The eight members will comprise of one member from each of the four provinces, one nominee by the federal government, one federal secretary, Chairman PTA and one nominee by Broadcasters Association. The provinces will be asked on rotation basis to nominate female members such that two out of four provincial members are women. The government will only have the power to give policy guidelines to the authority and not be able to directly control the body.
The Committee held detailed discussion on revamping and restructuring of the state owned enterprise PTV. Chairman Committee was of the view that content should be the driving force in this regard and said that unless content is strong, there will be no viewership and consequentially no advertising or revenue for the channels. The members of the Committee strongly called for professional Managing Directors for each of the channel, bringing back the experience from early days of PTV, proper distribution mechanisms and other measures in face of growing competition with a vibrant media landscape.
The Committee was unanimous on the issue of taking Parliament on board in any decision regarding changing the existing media regulatory framework.