Pemra bars anchors from offering opinions in talk shows

Updated October 28, 2019

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Electronic media watchdog limits anchorpersons’ role to "moderator", directs them not to "appear as experts" in a scathing directive. — Dawn/File
Electronic media watchdog limits anchorpersons’ role to "moderator", directs them not to "appear as experts" in a scathing directive. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be another move to curb the media, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has barred television anchors from giving their “opinions” during talk shows and limited their role to “moderator”.

In a scathing directive issued on a weekly holiday, the electronic media watchdog also directed the anchors hosting regular shows “not to appear as experts” in talk shows in their own or other channels. Media houses have been advised to select the guests in talk shows with utmost care and keeping in view of their knowledge and expertise in a particular subject.

Read: Pemra issues notice to TV channels for 'unedited live telecast' of Maryam's press conference

“Participants/invitees should be selected with due care having credibility as fair and unbiased analysts with requisite knowledge/expertise on the subject matter. As per Pemra code of conduct, the role of anchors is to moderate the programmes in an objective, unbiased and impartial manner, excluding themselves from their personal opinions, biases and judgements on any issue. Therefore, anchors hosting exclusive regular shows should not appear in talk shows whether own or other channels as subject matter expert,” said the directive issued to all satellite TV channel licencees.

Electronic media watchdog limits anchorpersons’ role to ‘moderator’

It said the Islamabad High Court had in its order dated Oct 26 in the matter of Shahbaz Sharif versus the state taken cognisance of various speculative TV talk shows whereby anchorpersons, in violation of the code of conduct, tried to malign the judiciary and its decision with mala fide intention. “The court has sought a report of Pemra’s actions on such violations with reprimand,” it added.

Pemra said the IHC had also noticed that some anchorpersons / journalists held speculative discussions on Oct 25 on some TV channels and alleged a purported deal with regard to the bail granted to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Oct 26.

“This was believed to be an attempt to tarnish the image and integrity of honourable superior courts and to make their judgement controversial,” it added.

Pemra said it had been issuing notices [including suspension of services of some TV channels] to the media houses time and again; however, the other side [media groups/journalists] believed that these actions of the regulator were “media curbs” being imposed by the present government.

“Pemra has been issuing repeated directives asking news channels to refrain from airing discussion, views and analysis on sub judice/under-trial matters and a number of show-cause notices were served on the channels for holding such programmes to derogate and malign judiciary and instructions to tarnish the credibility of regulator before appellate forums,” the order said.

“Now, therefore, all news channels are hereby directed henceforth; refrain from airing discussion, analysis, speculations, etc, on sub judice matters. Licensee should disallow their platform to be used by anyone to mislead public through disinformation/conjecturing and speculations and they [licensee] shall be held responsible for any biased, unfair analysis or propaganda against judiciary and state institutions by their employees,” it added.

The electronic media watchdog also directed TV channels to ensure deployment of effective time delay mechanism and constitute an impartial and independent monitoring committee/editorial board as required under clause 17 of the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisement) Code of Conduct 2015.

“Channels without effective delay mechanism to refrain from telecasting live shows. The composition of committee/editorial board should be in line with directives of the Supreme Court under suo motu case’s judgement which is reproduced as under. With regards to the monitoring committee, we direct that licensees include [for each of its meetings] at least one practicing lawyer of at least five years or above practice, with adequate understanding of the law to advise the licensee regarding any potential violations of the code of conduct by programmes to be aired in the future,” the directive said.

Pemra warned the media houses that non-compliance with its directives/guidelines and orders of the Superior Court shall compel the authority to initiate legal action under sections 27, 29, 30 and 33 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 as amended by the Pemra (amendment) Act, 2007.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2019