SBP bans online payments for Indian content

Published November 13, 2020
The State Bank of Pakistan has asked banks to stop online payments for electronic media content from India with immediate effect. — APP/File
The State Bank of Pakistan has asked banks to stop online payments for electronic media content from India with immediate effect. — APP/File

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan has asked banks to stop online payments for electronic media content from India with immediate effect.

“We are in receipt of a letter from the cabinet division, Government of Pakistan, whereby they have instructed to stop different modes of payments, including credit cards, for subscribing (to) Indian Content in Pakistan, including Zee5 video-on-demand service,” said the circular issued on Nov 9.

“In this regard, it is advised to ensure meticulous compliance of aforementioned instructions of Government of Pakistan and submit compliance status to SBP (by) Nov 13, 2020,” the circular added.

When contacted, former chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Absar Alam said that Indian content has already been banned in Pakistan, so the new circular could hit online payments for Direct to Home (DTH) service.

Circular issued after instructions from cabinet division

He said those who have DTH facility are mostly using Indian content and they make online payments.

“Now the subscriber cannot pay directly from Pakistan, but the Indian provider can get payments from other countries like the United Arab Emirates,” said Mr Alam.

In India, DTH broadcasting service refers to the distribution of multichannel TV programmes by using a satellite system and providing TV signals directly to subscribers’ premises. No data is available about how many Pakistanis are using this option to subscribe to Indian content.

Bankers said they only have to ensure that no payment is made from Pakistan for Indian content.

In response to a question, an official of one of the biggest local channels said the organisation subscribes to only some content from India and all the payments are made through Dubai, so no online payment from Pakistan is required.

Sources in the entertainment circles said they were sure that the ban was imposed against the background of a drama serial that is broadcast by Indian channel Zee5.

The BBC reported on Nov 2 a Pakistani web series called “Churails” had caused a furore in the country for its bold subject matter and edgy portrayal of its female leads.

The 10-episode serial features a group of women from diverse backgrounds who get together to start a secret detective agency called “Churails” — the Urdu word for “witches”.

According to BBC, the electronic media regulator asked Indian video-on-demand platform Zee5, which streamed the show, to take the serial down for Pakistani audiences. The platform initially complied with the instructions only to later restore it.

The show ran into controversy when Pemra banned it in Pakistan after a backlash over a clip that went viral on social media.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2020

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