ISLAMABAD: The deadline set by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) against local news and entertainment channels showing excessive foreign content and traders selling illegal Indian Direct-to-Home (DTH) sets expired at midnight on Saturday and the regulator is ready to start taking action on Monday.

On Aug 31, Pemra announced that strict action would be taken against the channels airing foreign content more than the prescribed limit and traders selling illegal DTH sets.

As per the law, only 10 per cent of airtime is allowed for foreign content, while the maximum limit for Indian content is 6pc in 24 hours.

Pemra Chairman Absar Alam said that adequate time had been given to cable operators and satellite channels to adjust their timings as per the legal requirements. He added that strict monitoring would commence from midnight on Saturday and action would be taken against channels from Monday.

Although Pemra announced that channels airing foreign content more than the prescribed limit would face suspension of their licences directly, a senior official of the authority claimed that only the details of the violation would be forwarded to the respective channels on Monday.

The official added that “this time they will not be given much time to correct their programmes — details of the violation will be the show-cause notice”.

Apart from the foreign content on Pakistani channels, Pemra is also set to launch a massive operation aga­inst Indian DTH sets from Monday.

“Pemra has held meetings with chief ministers of all four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan and the prime minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, apart from federal ministers, in this regard,” said a Pemra spokesman.

“The Punjab government has even formed a committee headed by Zaheem Qadri while all the regional offices have held meetings with respective police officers to conduct raids at main markets selling Indian DTH sets,” he added.

Meanwhile, in a recent meeting with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Pemra sought support to trace the money trail — from the subscribers to the beneficiaries stationed in India or Dubai.

“We told the finance minister about details of the subscribers and their mode of payment for the subscription fees which is mostly through the mobile phone transfers,” Mr Alam said.

He added that the account numbers of “certain middlemen had been traced but further steps could only be taken with the help of the State Bank of Pakistan”.

Pemra estimates that around three million Indian DTH sets are being sold in the country.

However, they have decided not to engage with cable operators at this stage.

“Cable operators are allowed to display between two to five CD channels but some of them were exceeding this limit too and were given a warning notice,” said the Pemra spokesman, adding that other key violations by cable operators was about not following the “bouquet of channels”.

A bouquet of channels is legal binding for cable operators and means that they have to display relevant channels one after the other — so as to have all news channels in one cluster, sports channels in one sequence and a similar pattern for other categories.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2016

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