Firdous says various initiatives in pipeline to strengthen media industry

KARACHI: Government has planned to set up Media Courts for providing quick justice to media workers besides coming with a new advertising policy and issuing licenses to 58 new TV Channels of these 8 will be of news and current affairs.

The Government is also working for a mechanism like the Press Council in consultation with Pakistan Broadcasting Association (PBA) to better address the issues between the media employers and their employees including the sudden downsizing of the employees, said Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan while talking to media after a meeting with office-bearers of PBA in its office.

Chairman PBA Shakil Masood Hussain was also present at the press conference.

She said the new advertising policy would help protect the rights of media workers and would support the industry.

It would ensure better relationship between the media houses and their employees, and create the best equation between the government and the media.

She said that the media courts would hear only media related complaints/cases, and would help provide justice to the aggrieved within the shortest possible time.

These would also handle the issues between PEMRA and the cable operators, who used to get stay from the courts of law against any action by PEMRA, which caused delay in the execution of PEMRA’s decisions/policies.

She assured that her ministry wanted to play an effective role for the resolution to media workers’ problems and protect their rights.

“My ministry will work as a bridge between media houses and the employees,” she re-assured.

As per Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision to provide the best shelter and support to working class in the country, the media workers would also be well protected under PM’s Ehsas Program.

“We are going to introduce new initiative Media Workers Ehsas to mitigate their problems,” she added.

PM’s Aide said, in the meeting, she had discussed in detail the issues relating to payment of salaries/dues to their workers and the media houses dues to be paid by Federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

She said that the broadcasters expressed some reservations over the working of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and gave suggestions to align its role with the media industry.

“I shall try to resolve the issues and ensure justice to all,” she said adding that PEMRA as the regulator was playing an effective role to execute the code of conduct devised in consultation with electronic media houses representatives.

Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan informed that the government had a plan to formulate a framework, in consultation with PBA as a stakeholder, to regulate the social media, which was not under the control of PEMRA. And, she continued, it would be implemented in letter and spirit.

She said PEMRA had some issues with the cable operators, who numbered 3500 throughout the country. There were two million cable users only in Karachi.

For better reception of transmission of TV Channels through cable operators and to enhance the capacity of the channels, the Federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was to introduce digitalization policy to replace the old technology of the Analog and other less efficient gadgets.

She assured that the government would soon clear dues of media houses. At the same time, she urged the media houses to pay the salaries and other dues to their workers immediately.

“If stove in the workers’ houses stops burning, the channels will not be allowed to operate,” she warned.

The PM’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting said when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf came into power, huge backlog of media houses dues was left for the new government to pay.

In addition to Rs 720 million, Rs 100 million dues belonged to the period of 2008-2013.

During this period, 18th Constitutional amendment was passed and neither the Centre nor the provinces accepted the responsibility to pay off this amount.

On the Prime Minister’s directives, despite reservations of the Federal Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Rs 560 million had been paid off so far and that major portion of the dues belonged to print media.

She said now Rs 1.3 billion due to be paid to the electronic media and the big share was of the provinces.