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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Wednesday directed the Information Ministry to device a “media plan” along with a comprehensive policy.

The committee was chaired by Senator Faisal Javed in which the Information Ministry gave a briefing on the National Advertising Policy, the modus operandi of PTV Sports, and plans for future broadcast and programme improvement were also reviewed in detail.

The committee was told that the ministry was working on the National Advertisement Policy in which all the stakeholders had been taken onboard and meetings were going on, and as soon as the draft would be prepared, it would be shared with the committee.

The Standing Committee was also informed that the interests of media workers were being further protected in the National Advertising Policy, and regional media offices would be given more protection.

The committee was further told that the ministry was also going to introduce a digital advertising policy.

The role of advertising agencies is being brought into the national mainstream and payment of government advertisements through the PID is being ensured.

The committee was told that ministry is also working on a digital mechanism. Advertising is a big part of the policy. There are separate rules for print media.

There is a 25 percent regional quota for advertising for registered agencies from APNS.

The PID pays 85 percent of display bill to newspapers, TV, radio, and 15 percent is done through news agencies. Rates for TV commercials have been divided into four categories on the direction of the Supreme Court. The rates for Category One advertisements have been fixed at Rs140,000, Category 2 at Rs100,000, Category 3 at Rs75,000, and Category 4 at Rs50,000.

Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar said that regional channels should also be included in the first category since the viewership was quite significant.

He said an effective mechanism was needed to solve those problems.

Responding to a question from Chairman Committee Senator Faisal Javed, it was informed that the rates of advertisements were the same on public and private channels.

The chairman of the committee said that government advertisements did not run in non-prime time so he there was a need for making a media plan. He said that there was an urgent need for a comprehensive policy. He said the government needed “aggressive” planning in terms of public awareness and media growth.

Senator Faisal Javed said the government advertisements did not run on entertainment channels, so those should be run on PTV, FM radio. He said the government should bring an effective marketing plan.

He said media growth had stalled, underscoring the need for boosting it.

He said the ministry should have a research department to find out what people actually want to see.

The DGPIO said that the PEMRA had a rating monitoring mechanism.

Senator Khoshbakht Shujaat said the whole nation had been “destroyed in the cycle of ratings”.

“According to her, ethics is seen in the programmes of regional channels, but it is impossible to watch the rated channels sitting with the family. Our generations are being destroyed and nonsense is being spread through pointless game shows on TV channels. The quality of entertainment has plummeted”.

Senator Pervez Rashid said the advertising policy and its use had always been used by all governments without any discrimination, adding that governments sometimes favour a newspaper with advertisements and sometimes even block its distribution.

He said: “TV channels are rated at the discretion of politicians. We should all make a policy that is not used as a tool by any government”. A ministry official said the current government is not using the advertising policy as a tool.

The official added: “We will provide proof at the next meeting. Criticise but also listen to the position of the government”. The ministry official said the government, the opposition and the media houses all have their own separate procedures.

The issue of PTV Sports was reviewed in the meeting of the Standing Committee. In response to a question from Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar on the removal of Dr Noman Niaz, former Director Sports, PTV Sports, and the appointment of Director PTV Sports as Director, PTV Global, it was informed that 72 audit paras were conducted in the Sports Department.

At which, the Chairman Committee decided to have an agenda in the next meeting regarding the changes made in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, structure and salaries of the employees.

Senator Anwar said that the culture of favoritism should end and the employees who show better performance must be given opportunities, and not be transferred.

Behzad Salimi, the president of the Parliamentary Reporters Association, told the standing committee that the bill to protect journalists was rejected by the opposition, which wasted 19 years of journalists’ hard work, adding that the opposition could have proposed amendments instead of rejecting it.

He claimed that as many as 16 journalists have died in various institutions due to dismissals.

Senator Pervez Rashid said the bill had been opposed for solid reasons, adding that “the committee had opposed the bill in the meeting and I am still abiding by it”.

At which, the chairman of the committee said the PEMRA’s bill would be brought back to the committee meeting and reviewed together with all the stakeholders.

The bill will eliminate flaws and ensure the protection of journalists’ rights, according to him.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021