PAKISTAN: Pemra seeks AJK help to tame cable TV operators

The electronic media authority asserts jurisdiction over "defiant cable TV operators" that have refused to obtain a PEMRA license

Dawn
Thursday, May 15, 2008

By Tariq Naqash

MUZAFFARABAD --- The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) has sought help from senior officials of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government with a view to exert its clout in the region, Dawn has reliably learnt.

According to official sources, the Pemra Ordinance 2002 was adopted by the AJK Council in 2005 as AJK Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Adaptation and Extension of Functions to AJK) Act 2005, granting the status of sole regulatory authority to Pemra in the liberated territory for media broadcast and distribution services.

No private TV channels but a few FM radio stations are operating from the territory of Azad Kashmir and the extension of Pemra's jurisdiction to the region is largely believed to tame the cable TV operators which were earlier being controlled by the home department.

According to Pemra, the cable TV and other broadcast media operators were required to obtain Pemra licence for their operations from the very date of extension of the authority's jurisdiction to AJK.

But in view of the devastating impact of October 2005 earthquake upon the cable TV networks, mostly owned by small scale investors than the broadcast media, the authority had permitted them to continue their operations under an NOC from the AJK home department.

The authority decided to initiate its own licensing process for cable TV operators from July 1, 2007, and 30 out of 44 'detected cable networks' had applied and of them 14 had been given the licenses, according to Pemra sources.

The Pemra was however irritated about some cable TV operators which, according to it, had refused to obtain its license, saying they were already registered with the AJK home department.

The sources said the authority had complained that "the local administration in AJK was under the delusion that it was its prerogative to regulate the affairs of broadcast media and distribution services in AJK whereas in effect they were only to assist Pemra and not to act on their own in this regard."

The authority, the sources added, had pointed out that its campaign against "defiant cable TV operators" and a subsequent raid on the office of one particular "violator" in Muzaffarabad had proved abortive as the AJK administration had not cooperated with it "ostensibly for want to awareness."

Citing one particular case in which the Pemra enforcement team had faced difficulty in bailing itself out of an embarrassing situation, the authority had sought "close working relationship with all relevant AJK departments" so as to effectively discharge its responsibilities in the region and avert such situations in future.

"Denial from (AJK's) local administration of Pemra's legal right to seize and confiscate the equipment being used in illegal operations, non-cooperation from local administration in Pemra's efforts to take action against the violators and muddling of local administration in issues of content regulation," had been cited by Pemra as problems being faced by it in AJK, according to the sources.

The sources said a meeting between the two sides was scheduled to be held early this week in Islamabad but had to be deferred at the eleventh hour due to other pressing engagements of the senior AJK government functionaries.