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Event Title: Senator Fawzia Arshad , Presiding over a Meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting at Parliament House Islamabad

Event Date: 2023-10-09

Senator Fawzia Arshad presided over a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting here at Parliament House on Monday, engaging in a comprehensive discussion encompassing a range of matters falling within the Ministry's jurisdiction.

Senators Waqar Mehdi, Irfan Siddiqui, and Lal Dean were present at the meeting. Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi, the Secretary of the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting, as well as Chairman Pemra, DG PBC, and DG PID, along with other pertinent officials also participated.

The Committee expressed serious concerns regarding the hiring of 53 new employees by the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) on a daily wage basis, without following any discernible selection criteria. Several discrepancies and anomalies were identified in the list of these 53 daily wage workers. The Director-General PBC highlighted an acute shortage of manpower in the IT Section, justifying the engagement of these individuals as unskilled or semi-skilled workers on a daily wage booking basis in line with the government's wage policy.

However, the Committee raised significant queries regarding the selection process and requested the Secretary of MI&B to form a committee to thoroughly investigate these 53 cases. The Secretary committed to reviewing these cases and reporting back to the committee. Furthermore, no new hiring on a daily wage basis will take place in PBC until this issue is resolved.

In addition, the Secretary of MI&B provided a compliance report on the recommendations made during the committee's previous meeting on September 6, 2023, concerning the leasing of PBC land to Pakistan Security Printing Corporation Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of the State Bank of Pakistan. Ongoing negotiations are anticipated to yield a resolution in the coming days. The panel stressed the importance of regular updates from the ministry regarding this matter in each standing committee meeting until it is resolved.

The Panel was also briefed on ad distribution mechanisms, rating systems, and criteria for electronic and print media. The committee identified certain discrepancies in the details submitted by the Ministry and decided to revisit the matter in the subsequent meeting. In response to a question, officials from PID informed that 450 federal government organizations advertise through PID, and rates are determined by assessing viewership of specific TV channels. The Chair suggested establishing a transparent mechanism for ad distribution and forming an impartial board to oversee the process, ensuring unbiased ad distribution.

Furthermore, the Chair highlighted concerns about advertisements in print media that promote immoral or unethical practices, such as ghostwriting for candidates/writers, which undermines the principles of merit. The committee also raised inquiries regarding the role and function of the Press Council of Pakistan (PCP) and the National Press Trust (NPT).

The Secretary of MI&B informed the committee that the PCP currently lacks a Chairperson, rendering the Council ineffective. A proposal for the appointment of a PCP Chairperson has been submitted to the president. The committee emphasized the need for new acts or amendments to enhance the effectiveness of the PCP. Additionally, Senator Irfan Siddiqui raised concerns about the non-functionality of the NPT and requested a detailed briefing on its structure, role, and functions at the next meeting. The Acting Chairman of NPT stated that the trust, operating without its Chairman since 2019, oversees 9 properties and has approximately 23 employees stationed in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, and Multan.

Likewise, the Chairman of PEMRA briefed the panel on PEMRA's policy and role in discouraging drama content that is detrimental to society. He clarified that PEMRA does not have a pre-censorship policy and highlighted the longstanding dysfunction of the Council of Complaints, the primary body overseeing drama content. Senator Irfan recommended appointing eminent individuals from relevant fields to make the Council of Complaints operational and enhance PEMRA's effectiveness. The Committee underscored the importance of reviving the Council of Complaints to oversee drama content effectively