Event Title: The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting convened at PTV Headquarters in Islamabad today, chaired by Senator Faisal Javed
Event Date: 2023-04-11
The meeting commenced with a briefing from the Chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) on the recent suspension of transmission of certain channels and the prohibition on broadcasting speeches of specific political figures.
Senator Faisal Javed emphasized that halting the transmission of channels is tantamount to impeding freedom of expression. The Chairman PEMRA clarified that athority has not stopped transmission of any channel. However, as per the information received from media channels, PEMRA officials order to halt transmissions via WhatsApp calls. The Chairman PEMRA urged the channels to file written complaints with the organization, promising to take appropriate action in response.
The Committee also discussed the issue of the appearance word "delayed" on the screen during the transmission of speeches of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, as word "delayed" was seen on the screen during the broadcast. Senator Aun Abbas pointed out that this phenomenon occurred only during Imran Khan's speeches. The Chairman PEMRA responded that all channels are subject to the same code of conduct, which mandates delayed transmission in order to exercise editorial control. However, the Chairman of the Committee expressed surprise that former Prime Minister Imran Khan's speeches were particularly targeted in this regard.
The Committee directed PEMRA to ensure that all political leaders' speeches are broadcasted live, without interruption, in compliance with the High Court's decision. The Chairman of PEMRA could not provide a satisfactory answer to the Committee's questions on this matter. The Committee further decided to invite the owners and representatives of the media channels to attend the next meeting, to review the ongoing situation regarding the closure of channels.
The committee received a briefing from the Director-General of Radio Pakistan regarding the issue of non-payment of pension to retired employees of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC). The Director-General informed the committee that the required amount has been received by the institution, and the pension for the retired employees for the last two months will be paid before Eid. However, due to a lack of funds, the institution was unable to pay commutation to the employees for the last four years. In response to the Chairman Committee's inquiry, it was disclosed that the institution requires approximately 1.5 billion rupees to settle all outstanding payments. The committee unanimously recommended that the government provide the necessary funds to the institution to ensure that the retired employees receive their rightful payments promptly.
The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Maryam Aurangzeb, informed the committee that no policy had been issued by the Ministry regarding the privatization of Radio Pakistan's land and buildings or the unauthorized visits to the radio stations. The sub committee has already been established under the chairmanship of Senator Irfan Siddiqui, to investigate the matter further and submit its findings to the standing committee shortly.
Senator Syed Waqar Mehdi brought to the committee's attention the issue of Radio Pakistan's property in Karachi, which is currently being used by the Rangers. The committee was informed that a letter had been written to the Ministry of Interior to address the matter. In response, Federal Minister Maryam Aurangzeb instructed the officials to prioritize contacting the Ministry of Interior to resolve the issue as soon as possible. The committee was also briefed on Radio Pakistan's recent establishment of four new, modern podcast studios.
Regarding the closure of the Shalimar Recording and Broadcasting Company's YouTube channel, the committee was informed that the private company's contract for managing the channel had expired. As a solution, an application called PTVFlix had been developed, where all the old programs and dramas are available to the public. The Chairman of the committee commended the Ministry's efforts in this regard and directed the officials to ensure that the programs are also made available on YouTube.
The committee meeting was attended by Senators, Anwar Lal Din, Fawzia Arshad, Irfan Siddiqui, Syed Waqar Mehdi, and Aun Abbas, along with the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Maryam Aurangzeb, Secretary Information, and the Director-General of Radio Pakistan.