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Pemra defends issuance of licences for new TV channels

Updated May 23, 2019

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Faisal Siddiqui, the PBA’s counsel, took the plea that while the system had space to cater for only 80 channels. — Online/File
Faisal Siddiqui, the PBA’s counsel, took the plea that while the system had space to cater for only 80 channels. — Online/File

ISLAMABAD: The Pakis­tan Electronic Media Regu­latory Authority (Pemra) has defended the issuance of licences for new satellite television channels and requested the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to dismiss a petition filed by the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA).

Pemra informed the IHC on Wednesday that a representation filed by the PBA against the issuance of the TV licences had also been “regretted”.

Faisal Siddiqui, the PBA’s counsel, took the plea that while the system had space to cater for only 80 channels, Pemra had already issued licences for 119 channels.

He said the Sindh High Court had directed Pemra to take a decision on an application filed by PBA by the end of March, but Pemra issued the new licences instead.

In the written report Pemra filed before the IHC on Wednesday, the authority stated that PBA had filed the petition without realising that the process of granting licences was entirely controlled by market forces. The report said Pemra’s consultant had recommended the establishment of 250 channels for Direct to Home (DTH) technology operations.

It said at present there were “only 123 licensed [local and foreign] TV channels in the country, leaving room for another 127 channels”. “The regulator has to weigh this fact to make the digital distribution service a success.”

According to Pemra, the successful bidders are reluctant to pay even 15 per cent earnest money to the regulator due to the court’s restraining order.

The Pakistan Broad­cas­ters Association’s counsel sought time from the court to examine Pemra’s reply. The court adjourned the hearing to May 30.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2019