Fawad reveals plan to promote state narrative

Published May 16, 2021
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry. — APP/File
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has said the entire ministry will be revamped in seven to 10 months to turn it into an effective “voice of the state” and not the ruling party for which besides introducing latest technologies and public-private partnership in the media, reforms will be carried out in each department.

“Unfortunately, nobody has ever realised that information ministry has become a spokesperson of the ruling party [whichever comes to power] though it should be a spokesperson of the state,” Mr Chaudhry said while talking to Dawn on Saturday.

He explained that he had tried to bring about changes in the ministry in 2018 when he had become the first information minister of the present government but the process stopped soon after his portfolio was changed.

The minister said all major components of the ministry including administration, news wing, broadcasting and Press Information Department (PID) were being revamped.

Says information ministry to be revamped

As a first step, the minister said the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) would become High Definition (HD) channel by June. “PTV will begin digital transmission next month,” he said, adding that PTV was also available on YouTube. As PTV and Radio Pakistan were being revamped at present, people would see changes in next few months, he said.

He said there was a dire need to overhaul PTV and run some of its components on the basis of public-private partnership.

The minister said PTV should focus on substantial issues instead of following private TV channels. “For example the government is implementing uniform curriculum for the first time in the history of the country but nobody is highlighting it in a way it should have been highlighted,” he explained.

Mr Chaudhry said entertainment and sports channels of PTV — PTV Home and PTV Sports —would be run through public-private partnership to bring some quality in their programmes especially the entertainment side. In this connection, he said private parties even the youth would be encouraged to make quality dramas. “In the whole world entertainment and sports channels are not run by the state but the private sector,” he argued.

The minister said PTV News Channel and PTV English News Channel would be run by the government and would be improved on modern lines with an aim to present quality news so that the state narrative was promoted in the “war of opinions”.

He said he was deadly against a proposal to increase TV licence fee which was deducted in electricity bills of consumers from Rs 35 to Rs100 per month. “I am not in the favour of increase in the fee but we will use dead assets of the PTV to cater to financial needs of revamping,” he added.

The minister said surplus staff of PTV would be given golden handshake and benefits before being sent home. Asked if he would bring back some officials removed from PTV, Mr Chaudhry made it clear that he had no such intention to re-appoint the officials who had been recently removed from the organisation.

While expressing dissatisfaction over the performance of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), the information minister said the authority was not playing its basic role of media development and policing. “It is just acting as a regulatory body,” he added. He said the ministry would establish a media university in Islamabad.

The minister said Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation was being restructured on modern lines and it would be soon connected to YouTube and other internet platforms.

He was of the opinion that the virtually ‘dead film industry’ would be revived and a new policy was being introduced to encourage people to establish cinema houses which would be almost tax free. He said soft loans would be given under PM Kamyab Jawan Programme to the youth so that they could make quality films.

He was completely against imported films and dramas and proposed heavy taxes if anyone imported foreign dramas, he said, disclosing the plan to remake 10 legendary dramas of PTV such as Waris, Taabeer, Shama etc with new actors. Plays for kids like Ameer Hamza and others would also be presented, he added.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2021

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