Cross-media ownership: Changes in PEMRA rules okayed
* Formal announcement on Monday g New TV licences expected by June
By Shahzad Raza
ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to amend the rules to allow newspapers and other media organisations to own television channels, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told Daily Times on Saturday.
“Yes, we are going to allow them,” he said when asked whether the government had decided to lift cross-media ownership restrictions by amending the rules of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).
He said he would announce the decisions at a press conference on Monday. He added that the Cabinet had sought PEMRA’s legal opinion in this respect. He confirmed that the necessary amendments would be made to PEMRA rules to allow cross-media ownership.
Section 3 of PEMRA’s Media Ownership and Control Regulation 2002 says, “There shall be no undue concentration of media ownership, cross-media ownership, monopoly power or restrictive trade practices by a person or associated persons or associated undertakings.”
Meanwhile, PEMRA sources said the authority is expected to award television licenses to interested parties by June 2004 after holding a public hearing to determine the genuineness of the parties and to remove objections from different quarters.
They said that although the authority had accepted applications from those applicants falling in the purview of cross-media ownership, they were still not included in the list of 12 short-listed parties to be awarded television licenses.
“Nonetheless, the owners of a few newspapers applied for the licenses. We did not include them in the list of pre-qualified parties.
Their cases were deferred for later decision,” a senior official in PEMRA said. Earlier, the Cabinet had directed PEMRA to amend its rules to allow cross-media ownership. Under that direction, PEMRA was accepting applications from those applicants falling under the purview of cross-media ownership.
Sources said that some of the newspaper owners had obtained the license forms from PEMRA, but did not apply for the license after observing the condition that cross-media ownership was not allowed under PEMRA rules.
They said that no bidding would be held for the awarding of the licenses because there is space to accommodate more than 12 new television channels. The licenses will be awarded for a fee of Rs 2.5 million each. PEMRA will charge an annual fee and a percentage of each channel’s annual revenue.
Sources said that public hearing might be held a few weeks before the date when licenses will be awarded. In the hearings, concerned people from different quarters will be invited and allowed to voice objections against the parties interested in the television licenses.
They said that applications by all interested parties were sent for security clearance. PEMRA will also verify if the applicants are defaulter with PEMRA or any other financial institution in Pakistan. Radio stations: A senior PEMRA official said that PEMRA has so far received a high bid of Rs 3.5 million for a FM radio station in Karachi.
“We had fixed the floor price of Rs 400,000 for each FM channel in the big cities. We received the high bid of Rs 3.5 million through open bidding,” he said, adding three other bidders (among many) had to match the highest bid to obtain the licenses. He said PEMRA has fixed the floor price of Rs 100,000 for the FM stations in cities with populations of less than one million. He added that licenses for seven FM stations were awarded in Karachi, four in Lahore, three in Islamabad, three in Faisalabad, two each in Quetta, Peshawar and Gujranwala.