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ISLAMABAD: The Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhry, on Thursday, said the advertisement policy is ready to be presented in the cabinet and it is for the first time that 'digital advertising' has been included in the advertising policy.

He said this, while briefing the Senate Committee on Information and Broadcasting, chaired by Senator Faisal Javed. He said digital advertising will be a part of advertisement policy as Google and Facebook have eight billion ads a year so that digital media cannot be ignored.

Referring to print media, he said that Rs700 million has been given to the print media in his tenure in the ministry.

The minister said it is however unfortunate that "the money is not given to the media workers."

He said the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority Bill 2021 should be taken for the protection of journalists. He said that after discussing the contents of the bill with the journalists, he would also give a detailed briefing on the bill to the committee.

He further said that from 2008 to 2018, about 2,200 people who were recruited on daily wage basis in PTV were made permanent which resulted in an expense of Rs320 million in salaries and pensions. He told the committee that even 40 out of 2,200 recruits did not work properly.

Informing the committee about the future policy, the federal minister said that PTV Home and PTV Sports are going to be run through a public-private partnership. He said that we have cartoons for children in Hindi, adding that cartoons for children should be dubbed into Urdu.

He further said that PTV News has been converted to full HD on August 14 and PTV Sports would also be converted to HD in a few months. Radio will also be digitalised on August 14, according to him. Referring to the APP, the federal minister for information said that at present, there are 922 employees working in the APP. Only 300 to 400 are journalists, while the rest are members of administration, he added.

"Over-recruitment leads to the risk of institutional collapse," he added.

Giving a briefing, he said that the APP will also be digitised soon. A router-style news agency will be set up. Studios are going to be given to APP in 11 places.

Senator Irfan Siddiqui said the move towards digitalisation and technology has rendered people jobless. There will also be danger of people losing jobs. He asked: "Where will they go?"

Federal Minister Fawad Chaudhry told the committee that through a partnership with a British company, Pak-China Friendship Center is being made a technology zone, in which various courses will be offered.

He said: "we have to establish our soft image in the world. We are spending very little to keep it. 70,000 of our people were martyred in the war against terrorism but has any film been made on it in foreign countries, has any book been written? On the contrary, India's programmes are running in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. We should formulate a positive policy to establish our soft image in the world."

Fawad Chaudhry told the committee that cinema is closed in the country at present. Until 1971, Pakistan was ranked third in the world in cinema. We have to take joint steps for revival of poetry, film, drama, and cinema, he added.

Chairman Committee Senator Faisal Javed said that the film industry needs at least 100 films to survive but we have only 24 films a year, while in Bollywood 1,800 films are made.

Opinions may be sought on the policy and views may also be sought on the Press Clubs' regulatory body.

At the request of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, with the consent of the Standing Committee, Chairman Committee Senator Faisal Javed recommended to the NCOC allow reopening of cinemas across the country with SOPs.

Senator Siddiqui said that reviving the film industry is not so easy as we lack budget, manpower and ideas.

He underscored the need for forming an effective group of experts to give 'useful' advice to the ministry.

He suggested that the next meeting of the committee be held in Karachi.

He said that in the next meeting, producers' associations should be called and briefed on the film policy. His proposal was accepted by all the members. The federal minister further said the digital media wing is going to be integrated in the APP.

He said that "we do not pay much attention to global politics in the media."

The cable is being shifted from analog to digital, which will bring transparency in channel ratings, adding that 24 million households watch TV. Landing rights fee on educational channel has been reduced to zero.

Briefing the Committee, he further said the cable operators are being given the option to purchase and run the material.

The Pakistan Broadcasters Corporation has Rs one billion pension arrears. He said the buildings of the defunct National Press Trust are in the possession of banks and they are bringing a law to relinquish possession of government lands. No more taxes can be levied on people to cover up the incompetence of government institutions.

Discussion on the Access to Information Amendment Bill 2021 was adjourned due to absence of mover bill.

The secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, while briefing the committee, said that at present 18 agencies are functioning under the ministry, including corporations.

The secretary further informed the committee that at present Shalimar Recording and Broadcasting Company (SRBC) will soon launch an English-language channel in the style of TRT and Al-Jazeera.

Senator Siddiqui told the federal minister that journalists are facing problems and they should be invited to the committee meetings to listen to their problems and highlight their problems separately.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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