The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Wednesday initiated an auction at its headquarters in Islamabad for the issuance of 70 more licences for satellite TV broadcast stations.
The auction will continue until tomorrow during which licences will be auctioned in seven categories — news, current affairs, education, sports, health, entertainment and agriculture.
Representatives from 187 companies have been participating in the auction.
According to the details, licences for eight new channels will be offered in news category, 27 in entertainment, 12 channels of regional languages, 12 in education, five in sports, four in health and two in the agriculture category.
As many as 21 companies participated in the open-bid round for auction of eight licences for news and current affairs. Out of the 35 companies pre-qualified for the auction, 14 didn't take part. Al Kamal Media Private Company placed the highest bid in the sector at Rs283.5 million.
Pemra Chairman Saleem Baig inaugurated the auction. In his speech, he said that 70 licences will be issued today. He hoped that each TV channel would provide livelihood to a large number of people.
He said that the authority works in consultation with all stakeholders. Currently 88 local TV channels and 227 radio channels are being operated in the country. He said that eight Internet Protocol TV licences have been issued, besides one DTH which is expected to be operational soon.
The Pemra chairman expressed his hope that today's auction would be held in a transparent manner.
Out of the total 70, 47 licences in three categories — news and current affairs, entertainment and regional satellite TVs — will be auctioned today.
The base price for news and current affairs TV licence has been fixed at Rs63.5m, entertainment TV licence at Rs48.5m, and regional at Rs10m. The successful bidder will have to submit 15 per cent of the bidding price today.
Pakistan Broadcasters Association's objection
A day earlier, the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) had criticised Pemra's decision to conduct an auction without taking up a petition filed by PBA against the proposal.
The association has now appealed to the prime minister to intervene and stop the process. According to a press release, the PBA had filed the petition in compliance with an order of the Sindh High Court.
“The present cable network in Pakistan is based on the analogue system, which has a capacity to carry a maximum of 80 channels at a given time. But since Pemra has already issued 121 licences for satellite TV broadcast stations, at least 40 channels cannot be aired," it read.
“Therefore, issuance of more licences will put a large number of channels off the air, resulting in irrecoverable losses to the media industry at a time when it is already suffering due to the economic slowdown,” the press release said.