national-assembly-670
A view of the National Assembly. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: As a perceived waywardness of Pakistan’s electronic media came in focus in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Information and Broadcasting Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the government wanted to bring a new law, possibly to deal with questions of morality.

He did not elaborate his remark, apparently made in passing, after talking of what he called the government efforts to create a “balance” between modernity and conservatism in response to complaints by lawmakers of an allied party about foreign plays being shown on the country’s private television channels at the cost of domestic productions.

“We are trying to create a balance,” the minister said and added: “We want to bring this matter in the form of a bill.”

He gave no details nor said when such a law could be introduced in parliament.

Apparently referring to a pending case about obscenity, he said the government could assist the Supreme Court in the matter.

The minister acknowledged violations of restrictions of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority by “some” of a total of 89 licensed television channels – 47 of them news channels – but said all deviations could not be traced until the planned digitalisation of the monitoring system.

Mr Kaira briefly referred also to the government’s own complaints of bias against unspecified private channels but noted there had recently been a move within the media for self-correction while a code of conduct proposed by a three-member committee headed by the Chief Election Commissioner, Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, was yet to be implemented.

The issue came up in a call-attention notice from four Muttahida Qaumi Movement members, who saw detriment to Pakistani plays and writers in telecasting foreign plays, which are sometimes dubbed from English into Urdu or Punjabi.

Mr Kaira informed the house that the existing code allowed the television channel programmes to have only up to 10 per cent of foreign content – 40 per cent of it being in English and 60 per cent Indian – and said there had been some positive response from India for telecasting Pakistani plays there.

Before being adjourned until 11am on Thursday, the house passed a government bill to provide for elimination of decimal and old coins, which are no more transacted in daily life due to their negligible worth, while the government introduced a new bill to empower the State Bank of Pakistan to impose monetary penalties on banks and exchange companies for violations of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947.

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