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ISLAMABAD: A Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting on Wednesday deferred the Protection of Journalists Bill 2021 till the next meeting. The committee was held under the chairmanship of Chairman Committee Senator Faisal Javed. The committee reviewed the details of expenditure incurred in advertising through print, electronic and FM radio channels from 2008 to 2013, 2013 to 2018 and 2018 to date.

Chairman Committee Senator Faisal Javed said that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has worked very hard and diligently to prepare the report of advertisements given to print and electronic media. Full details of print media advertisements from 2008 to date are provided, but electronic media information from 2008 to 2013 is not provided. He said that it is better to review the report of advertisements in electronic media today. The print media will be read and then reviewed.

PID officials told the standing committee that from 2008 to 2013, electronic media advertisements were not conducted through PID. All departments gave freely. Records started after 2013. The chairman of the committee directed that the report of electronic media advertisements should be taken from all the concerned institutions and a report should be provided to the standing committee.

The Standing Committee was informed that the rates of advertisements were fixed by dividing the TV channels into five different categories on the orders of the Supreme Court. The Standing Committee should be informed as to why some channels of the same category were given fewer advertisements than others. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting brought before the committee the reasons for this discrepancy. Earlier, the rate per minute was Rs 0.275 million.

A-plus category was created for 70% viewer ship channels. A-plus category includes Geo and ARY. The rate of A-plus category is Rs 1.5 lakh per minute. Shakeel Masood of Pakistan Broadcasting Association told the standing committee that the government has to pay Rs 2.5 billion for various channels and Rs 3.5 billion for newspapers.

He said that advertisements should not be used to influence the media. On which Chairman Committee Senator Faisal Javed said that the government is repaying the debts of previous governments.

TV channels should also pay their dues. He said that some audios regarding advertisements have come to light in which instructions have been issued to some channels to give advertisements and some to stop them. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has inquired into this matter. He should report to the standing committee. On which Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said that an inquiry is being held in this regard. Information is also being sought from the provinces as soon as the report is prepared and will be provided to the committee.

Committee was informed that a committee was formed for the payment of advertisement dues which has been paid after reviewing the advertisement dues from 2008 to 2018. Some dues are left. The ministry is working on it.

Committee was informed that 80 per cent of the dues are from 2008 to 2013. The chairman of the committee directed that a mechanism be set up for timely payment of advertisements which would ensure timely payment of not only to the institutions but also to the workers. He said that he had received information that some institutions were employing workers on old salaries.

The chairman of the committee said that in terms of viewer ship, advertisement channels should be reduced and advertisements should be given to news channels as well as sports, religious channels and entertainment channels.

The Minister of State for Information informed the committee that a policy is being formulated in this regard. The advertisements are used. The Secretary Information and Broadcasting said that there should be a mechanism to ensure that the advertisements are paid for the same year. The same formula that was used for news channels should be used for entertainment.

Prime time changes during Saturday, Sunday and Ramadan. Non-prime time rates should also be fixed. Chairman Committee Senator Faisal Javed said that from 2008 to 2013 the PPP government gave advertisements of Rs 13 billion to the newspapers. The PML-N government gave advertisements of Rs While the PTI government gave advertisements worth Rs 7.2 billion from 2018 to 2022. The committee was informed that the bill for payment of advertisements is confirmed within 90 days.

From 2013 to 2018, advertisements worth Rs 6 billion were given to TV channels and from 2018 to 2022, the PTI government gave advertisements worth Rs 2.1 billion. He said that how many newspapers were paid from 2008 to 2013. How many newspapers were paid from 2013 to 2018 and how many newspapers have been paid during the tenure of the present government?

Mechanisms need to be put in place to protect the rights of journalists. The chairman of the committee said that the PBA, APNS and PFUJ should provide information to those institutions which do not pay their salaries. The standing committee meeting reviewed the incident between cricket star Shoaib Akhtar and PTV Sports anchor Noman Niaz.

MDPTV told the committee that the two parties have reached an agreement. A committee of inquiry was formed. Noman Niaz presented his position before the committee while Shoaib Akhtar also appeared before the committee. Noman Niaz was immediately suspended from anchorship while Shoaib Akhtar resigned. The chairman of the committee, Senator Faisal Javed, said that this issue has brought disrepute to the state channel and the country. He wanted to decide on justice. On what basis was Noman Niaz suspended when the inquiry was not completed. And will hear the position of Noman Niaz. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting should invite him to the next meeting. Video clips should also be presented before the committee and a report on the inquiry made by PTV should also be provided.

Due to the absence of Senator Saleem Mandviwala in the meeting of the Standing Committee, the Protection of Journalists Bill 2021 has been deferred till the next meeting.

In today’s meeting of the Standing Committee, besides Senators Irfanul Haq Siddiqui, Anwar Lal Din, Umar Farooq and Taj Haider, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Farrukh Habib, Secretary Information and Broadcasting, MD PTV, Additional Secretary Information and Broadcasting, APNS, PID officials attended.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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