ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Wednesday appro­ved two key amendments to the Pakistan Electronic Media Reg­ulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023, streamlining the procedures to register and monitor ratings agencies of TV channels.

However, broadcasters have expressed concern over the government move and said that the powers to monitor the rating agencies should be given to advertisers.

Moved by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb, the lower house of the parliament passed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023, along with some amendments.

The information minister also introduced the Press Council of Pakistan (Amendment) Bill, 2023, advocating for the replacement of the term “government” with the phrase “secretary of the (information) division to which business of the council stands allocated”.

Both the bills were examined by the Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting and a report of the committee was presented in the house for approval.

The information minister mo­­ved the amendments in the Pak­istan Electronic Media Regu­latory Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023, and the House passed the proposed amendment in clause 2, after paragraph (iii) — “ensure fair, transparent and independent rating to the broadcasters for their TV channels.”

The other amendment proposed by her was in clause 3 of Section 4 was, “The Authority by registering rating companies shall ensure that fair, transparent and independent forums shall issue ratings to the licensees’’.

There are currently two rating agencies in country that monitor viewers at different locations and determine the popularity of different programmes at various TV channels.

The rating agencies are registered by Pemra, but that was without any legal backing and the registration process was being done on the directives of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The rating report is used by advertisers to place their relevant advertisements in the relevant TV programmes.

However, the President of the Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND), Azhar Abbas, told Dawn that rating mechanism and its fairness should be monitored by advertisers as it was their money and their interest to place ads on any programme.

“This was neither the responsibility of the government nor TV channels and not even the viewers,” Mr Abbas said.

Ms Aurangzeb also introduced an amendment in Pemra Bill, 2023, which said that electronic media regulator would “ensure that the content of all channels available on electronic media, including logo and name, etc. shall not vary, alter, substitute, tempered on digital media or any other similar forum”.

Another amendment in clause 11 suggested that each Council of Complaints of Pemra will compile and submit its annual report of licence regarding the compliance of Code of Conduct to Pemra.

Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2023

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