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PAKISTAN: Operators slam Pemra move to ban channels

35 channels likely are likely to be closed, most from India

Dawn
Thursday, December 22, 2005

By Arman Sabir

Karachi --- People will not be able to watch at least 35 cable television channels, as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulator Authority has barred cable operators from broadcasting "non-permitted" channels.

The two associations of the cable operators said that they had received a list of banned channels, most of which were Indian. They said that the Pemra had asked cable operators to stop broadcasting the banned channels. As per instructions from Pemra, they said, almost 10 channels were closed forthwith on Thursday.

They were of the view that the business in term of advertisements went to foreign channels and by not showing those channels in the country, a huge chunk of foreign exchange could be saved.

The chairman of Cable Operators Association of Pakistan, Khalid Shaikh, said that the list was handed over to cable operators on Wednesday and the channels, banned by the Pemra, were subsequently closed down. "We have to close down more channels which we do not have permission to relay. The banned channels include Super Sports and Discovery. The Pemra should take into account the entertainment and informative channels, which are of public interest and they should not be closed down," he remarked.

He said that Pemra had instructed the cable operators to shut Star package and the Reality TV. Besides, the Cartoon Network and National Geographic of Hindi versions had been switched to English versions on the Pemra's instructions.

The president of All Pakistan Terrestrial Cable Operators Association, Hanif Ghani, said that at least 10 to 11 channels were closed down soon after the instructions issued by the Pemra to cable operators. "The Pemra issued a list of valid 40 channels but the cable operators have been showing more than 40 channels owing to leniency by the Pemra," he added.

About the local channels showing Indian stuff in their respective telecast, Mr Ghani said that the Pemra had set a standard that 60 per cent of total content of a channel, produced in the country, was allowed to be relayed.

He said that some 400 yards away from the headquarters of Pemra, a foreign banned channel had opened its office and selling its cards to decode its chain of channels. It had been earning a lot of money and sending abroad, which was illegal and Pemra had not taken any action against it.

He recalled that a seminar was held under the auspices of Pemra last year in Islamabad, where the minister concerned had promised that the government would consider legalizing showing of Indian channels with regard to confidence building measures with the neighbouring country.

However, sources said that the Indian channels had been attracting businessmen and a major chunk of advertisements went to the part of Star channels. They said that the local channel owners influenced the Pemra to issue instructions banning Indian channels so that they could grab the business of advertisement. This was the reason why the Indian channels were closed, they said and added that instead of improving their programmes the local channels had been opting for other ways and depriving the people of their right to view channel of their choice.

Viewers in general criticized the closure of Indian channels and said that the government was depriving people of viewing foreign channels at the cost of local channel owners. They said when Indian movie clips, award ceremonies, talk shows and plays were being shown by local television channels, the ban on Indian channels was incomprehensible.

AsiaMedia