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May 23, 2019

IHC extends stay order on issuance of new TV channels’ licences


May 23, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday extended the stay ordered on issuance of new television channel licences till May 30.

IHC Chief Justice Justice Athar Minallah on Wednesday resumed the hearing into petition filed by Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) against issuing of new television channels licences by Pemra.

During hearing, IHC chief justice remarked why Pemra wanted to issue licences to new television channels despite of regularising the channels which are already on air. Justice Minallah further remarked what television channels are showing every day, raising the question if Pemra is fulfilling its responsibility.

Pmera lawyer told the court that total 181 companies participated in bidding in which 58 companies were given licences for Rs53 billion. He said that after the stay order by the honorable court 42 companies are reluctant to pay 15 percent of initial amount.

To this PBA lawyer argued in the court that Pemra only wants to generate money that’s why it is doing all this. Hearing the argument the Islamabad High Court adjourned the hearing till May 30.

Petition has requested the court to bar Pemra for issuing new licenses. Petition states that Pemra has issued 119 licenses for Satellite TV Channels under Section 19, Pemra Ordinance 2002, however, the current analogue system can only accommodate a maximum of 80 channels at a time. “As a result, there are at any given point 39 channels that cannot be aired because of the technical constraints of the present system”.

Petition further stated that around 2200 Cable Operators are working across Pakistan and they can only accommodate a maximum of 80 channels at a time, therefore, resulting in the fate of existing channels being completely dependent on the whims and wishes of the cable operators as any channel would be taken off air any time as desired by the cable operators. Therefore, the unregulated discretion in the hands of the cable operators and the fact that a number of channels cannot be aired at any given time is volatile of the right of business.

PBA in its petition said setting up a Satellite TV channel required huge investment including License fee of about Rs.5 million and annual renewal fee of about Rs.0.3 million to Rs.1 million whereas, the only source of revenue for the licensees is advertising, and with limited advertising budget, which is not increasing and ever-increasing expenses and prices, the survival of existing licensees is already difficult as due to the constraints of the present analogue system, only a maximum of 80 channels out of 119 licensees can be kept on air at a time.

Issuance of more licenses would also create undue advantage and unfair competition, especially in favour of those licensees which are profitable as result of their strong infrastructure and monetary background. Moreover, unfair competition would lead to unfair practices at the end of the cable operators as it would be in their unregulated discretion to decide which channel goes on air and which goes off air.

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