Media reforms to be initiated in consultation with stakeholders: Fawad Chaudhry

The establishment of Pakistan Media Development Authority would solve the problems of media workers, he said while briefing the Standing Committees of the Senate and National Assembly on Information and Broadcasting on the key features of the draft law of Pakistan Media Development Authority.

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ISLAMABAD, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said on Wednesday that all existing laws related to media regulation were being repealed and new legislation was being enacted in consultation with stakeholders.

The establishment of Pakistan Media Development Authority would solve the problems of media workers, he said while briefing the Standing Committees of the Senate and National Assembly on Information and Broadcasting on the key features of the draft law of Pakistan Media Development Authority.

He said media regulatory authorities of four countries had been studied for setting up the new authority.

The minister said that the government wanted to reach a consensus on the draft law of the authority and consultation process had been started with stakeholders, adding that PMDA would focus on development, innovation, digital economy, training and research.

The meeting was chaired by Senator Faisal Javed, Chairman, Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, while in the absence of the Chairman, NA Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, Nasir Khan Musazai, MNA chaired the meeting with approval of the members of the committee.

Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that at present seven regulatory bodies were regulating media including PEMRA, Press Council of Pakistan, Pakistan Telecom Authority, Central Board of Films Censors, Press Registrar’s Office, Audit Bureau of Circulation and Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees.

He said that at present digital media platforms were not under any regulatory framework. He said that in modern times, television, radio and newspapers had become part of mobile phones and they needed a single and converged regulatory authority.

The minister said that it was important to regulate electronic, print, digital and emerging media platforms through PMDA.

Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that under the present mechanism of regulation, there were more than half a dozen outdated laws which do not meet the requirements of modern times.

The minister said that under the present system, it took a long time to resolve public grievances and time was wasted in applications for registration and permission of NOCs for launch of a new platform.

He said that the proposed framework would address the challenges and requirements of the convergent media environment in line with global practices to make Pakistan a major global hub for multimedia information and content services.

Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that PMDA would be an institution that would encourage all stakeholders to serve the public interest.

He said that unlike the existing system of policing and revenue collection, the new authority would focus on development, innovation, digital economy, training and research.

The minister said that the establishment of a new authority would also eliminate paperwork and facilitate the business environment.

The process of transparency would be ensured by simplifying the rules and procedures, he added.

He informed the meeting that there were 114 satellite television channels operating in Pakistan out of which 31 were news and current affairs channels.

He said that 42 were entertainment, 23 were regional language channels while two out of seven education channels were working.

Similarly,only one of the three sports channels was working, he added.

He said that landing rights were granted to 42 foreign TV channels, out of which 5 were news and current affairs channels and 14 were children’s channels. Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that the number of FM radios was 258 out of which 196 were commercial and 62 were non-commercial.

He said that the number of cable TV operators in Pakistan was 4026, IPTV channels were 12 and mobile TV channels were 6.

The total number of print media approved by ABC in Pakistan was 1672 out of which 1192 were daily, 203 weekly, 28 fortnightly, 389 news agencies and 134 print and press. The minister said that he wanted to convene an informal meeting of the committee members to reach a consensus on the draft of the Pakistan Media Development Authority.

He said that this authority would consist of 12 members in which six members would be from the private sector with technical expertise in media, art, film, law, cyber security etc.

He said that PMDA would have Press Directorate, Digital Media and Film Directorate, Electronic Media Directorate, Media Complaints Council and Media Tribunal. He said that the media tribunal would consist of 10 members including the chairman. The minister said that consultation process had been started with the stakeholders.

A committee headed by Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib has been constituted and has held meetings with officials of APNS, CPNE, PBA and PFUJ and Press Clubs.

He said there were some reservations on the part of media owners regarding the formation of media tribunals and fines.

During the meeting, members of the Standing Committees of the National Assembly and the Senate appreciated the draft of the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority prepared by the Ministry of Information.

Speaking at the meeting, Senator Faisal Javed said that he and other members would study the draft of the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority and present their suggestions for further improvement.

Committee member Akram Cheema said it would be a comprehensive bill that would benefit media workers, politicians and the general public.

MNA Syma Nadeem said such a regulatory law was needed. There is no mechanism in place in the current regulatory rules for victims of WhatsApp and TikTok to redress their complaints. Earlier, Senator Mustafa Khokhar objected to the joint sitting of the lower house and upper house standing committees and walked out of the meeting.

The joint meeting of the standing committees was attended by Senators Syed Ali Zafar, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Anwar Lal Dean, National Assembly members Muhammad Akram Cheema, Aftab Jahangir and Syma Nadeem.

Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib, Secretary Information and Broadcasting Shahera Shahid and other senior officials of the ministry were also present in the meeting.

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