ISLAMABAD: With the Pakistani DTH (direct-to-home) service set to be introduced in the coming months, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) announced on Wednesday that it would launch a crackdown on the illegal Indian DTH and airing of excessive foreign content by TV channels and cable operators.

“Adequate time is being given to the cable operators and satellite channels to adjust their timings as per the legal requirements. Otherwise, punitive action will be taken against the two important segments from Oct 15,” Pemra chairman Absar Alam said at a press conference at the authority’s headquarters.

However, he added, action against the dealers of Indian DTH would be launched with immediate effect.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Pemra board held recently.

Mr Alam said Pemra would write letters to the Federal Board of Revenue, the State Bank and agencies, including the Federal Investigation Agency, for curbing the sale of Indian DTH decoders in the country.

“Around three million Indian DTH decoders are being sold in the country. We not only want this sale stopped but will also ask the relevant agencies to trace the money trail to determine the mode of payments made to Indian dealers selling these decoders to Pakistanis,” he said.

Mr Alam said all stakeholders, including cable operators and the Pakistan Broadcasters Association, had been forewarned that steps would be initiated in near future against the airing of excessive foreign content.

Under Pemra rules, only 10 per cent of airtime (two hours and 40 minutes in a 24-hour transmission) is allowed for foreign contents.

The Pemra chairman directed the managements of television channels and cable operators to voluntarily follow the rules.

The Pemra board meeting decided to completely stop the airing of any Indian channel in the country since none of them had landing rights in Pakistan.

Mr Alam said the cable operators had been allowed to display two to five CD channels, but some of them were exceeding this limit and they had been warned and issued notices.

In reply to a question, he said the punitive action would begin with fines and might lead to suspension and revocation of licences for repeated violations. He said the authority would write letters to the chief ministers for implementation of the Pemra decision with the help of police.

The bidding for Pakistani DTH will be held by the end of October this year.

The Pemra chairman also said that at the next stage action would be taken against the morning shows violating its code of conduct, adding that the authority had recently banned reenactment of crime-related incidents, but some channels had obtained stay order from court.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2016

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