Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira on Thursday told the Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting that the government wants to find an amicable solution to the issue of code of conduct for the private TV channels and hoped that they would adopt a code voluntarily.
During the meeting of the Senate Committee meeting chaired by Haji Ghulam Ali, he said “We want to hold an interactive meeting with the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) to finalize a code of conduct.
About violation of code by the private channels, he said that if the government tries to implement Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) rules, it is alleged that the government is arms twisting the media. There are no two opinions that the TV channels should follow code of conduct.
However he said if the government implements the code agreed in the documents signed at the time of issuance of licence, half of the channels might be closed.
He said that the committee headed by Justice Fakharuddin Ibrahim presented its recommendations which have been given to PBA. He said that the PBA has also presented a draft of its own code but the issue is of implementation.
After all a regulatory authority is needed as they themselves cannot implement it, he added.
He said that there is a debate going on in the media on adoption of the code.
He said that a monitoring mechanism is being evolved to check objectionable advertisements on media.
About the performance of Pakistan Television he said it has improved recently and opposition gets fair chunk of coverage.
However he said that PTV cannot indulge in sensationalism so it telecasts news stories after due confirmation.
About the issue of right of telecasting the upcoming cricket world cup, he said that the matter was sub-judice and PTV is contesting its case in the best possible manner and hoped that PTV’s rights would be protected.
Kaira said that due to open sky, it was very difficult to block Indian channels in the country as decoders and satellite dishes are easily available in the market. He said that PEMRA has no power to conduct raids for confiscating such material available in the market.
About cable operators he said that there are over 2500 cable operators working in the country and monitoring them is very difficult. He said that PEMRA has expanded its monitoring network and steps are being taken to ensure better monitoring of the content shown on the cable.
About the status of PEMRA act, he said that the original ordinance was issued in 2002 which became an act in 2007. On November 3, 2007 this was unilaterally amended by the then president.
He said that all political forces opposed these dictatorial changes, so we tabled an amendment bill to undo the changes in the act. However the standing committee suggested that some good clauses should be retained.
The Prime Minister sent it back to the concerned committee asking it to remove all clauses inserted on November 3, 2007 as it was promised by the PPP before 2008 elections.
Kaira said that recently PML-N MNA Zahid Hamid told him that according to the Supreme Court ruling all the ordinances issued on November 3, 2007 stand expired, so he has sent the same to the Law Ministry for seeking its opinion.
He assured the committee that after Ministry of Law’s opinion, the government would take steps to get the bill approved through consensus.