ISLAMABAD: Within a week of assuming office, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has announced it would make Pakistan Television an independent institution regulated and protected by an independent board.
The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhary, told The News that he has appointed Malik Ahmad Nawaz of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to the PTV board of directors, to ensure that the mainstream opposition political parties had a say in the state broadcaster's affairs
The PPP administration, which governed between 2008-13, attempted a similar endeavour by appointing controversial anchor Dr Shahid Masood as the chairman and managing director of the state TV, but to no avail. The TV has remained a sinking ship since then, despite the attempts of several captains to raise it from the depths. While the new minister's initiative may be appreciable, the success of its outcome is anything but guaranteed.
Fawad said the government does not have the funds to raise the state-run TV to the status of the world-renowned BBC, but it wants the PTV English channel to become a major broadcaster in South Asia and would finance it accordingly.
The minister said he has ended the policy of censorship on PTV, enabling the state broadcaster to air statements of opposition party leaders on Eidul Azha. Similarly, the government plans to relax the censorship of commercial films, in response to the complaints of investors who had suffered at the whims of state censors during the PML-N administration.
Fawad said he would tolerate no corruption in PTV and would build it into a sustainable institution. Its staff would be encouraged to dispense with the broadcaster's slavish mindset and work independently, criticising the government when it went wrong.
Regarding the state Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency, Fawad said he would recall all employees posted to other departments, and hunt down the fake degree holders and ghost workers who have long haunted the organisation. To make APP a credible institution, all of its employees would be vetted. “We are on it,” he told this scribe.
He said a respected professional broadcast manager would be appointed as the director general of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, to make the state radio station a matter of pride for all Pakistanis, at home and abroad. “From next week, Radio Pakistan will air an eight-hour English transmission daily so that Pakistan’s message could be spread effectively," Fawad said.
PTV, APP and Radio Pakistan have always been treated as the mouth-pieces of governments of the day. Political interference and the induction of excessive numbers of staff have marred the reputations of these state news organisations, as well as rendering them financial insolvable.