ISLAMABAD: Seemingly in a move to counter decisions taken by the Indian film industry, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Monday asked the government to impose a complete ban on Indian content on cable TV networks.

The Pemra Board at a meeting made the consensus decision to ask the federal government to amend the existing policy, adding Pakistan should allow airtime to the Indian content only if New Delhi allows airtime to the Pakistani content.

The Pemra Board decried the policy formulated in 2004 by the government of Pakistan allowing six per cent airing of Indian content.

An official of the authority told Dawn that there was no policy in India regarding the Pakistani content and artists, and decisions in this regard were made by the relevant industry themselves.

“We have made this consensus decision to link the airing of the Indian content with the policy in that country after looking at their treatment of our artists and productions,” said one of the Board members.

The member referred to a decision by the association of film producers in India and the demand made by some actors in Bollywood to ban Pakistani artists, musicians and technicians.

The current policy in Pakistan allows a total airing of 10pc foreign content that is more than two hours and 40 minutes in 24 hours while the airing of Indian content is limited to six per cent which is a little less than one hour and 35 minutes daily.

However, both the entertainment/news channels as well as the cable operators have been exceeding this limit, and despite repeated efforts Pemra has failed to contain them.

Similarly, Pemra has been striving to end the sale of Indian DTH across the country but the authority has failed to muster the support from the provincial governments and the FIA to stop the sale of the Indian DTH.

The DTHs are digital decoders that allow viewing of multiple Indian channels directly through the dish antenna.

Chairman Pemra Absar Alam said around three million Indian DTH decoders were being sold in the country, and the authority had sought the support of relevant agencies to trace the money trail to determine the mode of payments made to the Indian dealers selling these decoders in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Pemra Board criticised former prime minister Shaukat Aziz and retired Gen Pervez Musharraf as the current policy allowing airing of six per cent Indian content was formulated in 2004.

“The policy made during the Musharraf regime was put into effect by the then prime minister Shaukat Aziz. Now only the federal government has the powers to revoke them,” Pemra said.

The Pemra Board forwarded its recommendations to the federal government to amend the policy and impose a complete ban on airing Indian content, linking it to Indian policy of airing Pakistani content.

“The decision would be helpful for Pakistani artists, performers and musicians as it would allow the local entertainment industry to grow,” Pemra said.

The Pemra Board reiterated that a crackdown would be launched against airing of all unauthorised content and TV channels in the country from October 15.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2016