‘Electronic media facing legal dichotomy’
KARACHI: Justice (Dr) Nasim Hasan Shah, former chief justice of Pakistan, said here on Wednesday that whatever might be the historical reasons for the situation, the fact was that at present there existed a “legal dichotomy” with regard to the electronic media in Pakistan.
“The Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), or Radio Pakistan, operates under a specific law called the PBC Act of 1973. PTV operates as a joint stock company just like any other commercial firm subject to the corporate laws of the country. Unlike the PBC, there is no specific Act of parliament or law to govern PTV. Similarly, the Shalimar Company, which operates the STN channel, is also a commercial firm whose majority shares are owned by government entities. It is not governed by a specific media law. New private channels are supposed to be governed by a specific media law such as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Act of 2002. Yet several private TV channels, which produce most, if not all their content from Pakistan but use overseas locations to broadcast their signal, are doing so without being subject to any specific media law because they are broadcasting from outside Pakistan.
“But also, at the same time, some other new channels have been specifically licensed by PEMRA and are subject to the PEMRA law. All the private FM radio stations are also subject to the PEMRA law. Simultaneously, legal provisions to prevent piracy and illegal actions are not being effectively enforced. Thus, there are discrepancies and disabilities within the legal framework,” he said.
Justice Shah made these observations while making his inaugural address at the Roundtable on Electronic Media Freedom Day organised by the Citizen’s Media Commission of Pakistan of which he is the chairman. Shan Taseer said it was true that cable operators did play Indian content, but added the viewers were free to watch whatever they wanted to watch. He said nobody had a right to play the role of a moral policeman. He said on legal grounds, our licences allow us to play Indian content. He said in a meeting held in June last year, PEMRA urged the stakeholders to get inspiration from the world. He said cable operators are subject to local taxes. He said the media tide has come to Pakistan and it is only private enterprise that can guide us through these times. staff report