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November 19, 2019

Allowing foreign content dubbing in Urdu: Pemra move to hit local entertainment channels hard

Top Story

November 19, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A meeting of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), scheduled to be held on Nov 20, will consider allowing several foreign entertainment channels having Landing Rights Permission (LRP) in Pakistan to dub 50pc of their total programming content in Urdu and other Pakistani languages, a move that will hit local entertainment channels and roduction houses hard.

Presently, according to the LRP regulations, dubbing of foreign content in national language is allowed in all genres except films, drama, soup operas, lifestyle, and fashion, however, there is no restriction of sub-titling.

This means that the content used by the LRP foreign entertainment channels like films, drama, soap operas, lifestyle, and fashion was not permitted to be dubbed in the Pakistani languages.

While it is proposed to introduce dubbing of 50pc of content by foreign LRP entrainment channels, local entertainment TVs are allowed to air only 10pc foreign content dubbed in local language.

Pemra documents say the licensing fee of a foreign LRP entertainment channel is Rs2.6 million with the annual renewal being 40pc of LRP fee plus 2pc of Gross Annual Advertisement Revenue (GAAR) as per audited accounts.

On the other hand, in the last bidding held by the Pemra in May, 2019 an entertainment category channel was sold for Rs50.5 million. A total of sixteen such channels were sold. Already, over two dozens Pakistani entertainment channels are in operation besides several production houses.

The June 21, 2019 minutes of a committee constituted by the Pemra Authority for the revision of the LRP regulations, a copy of which is available with The News, proposed introduction/ insertion of a new definition of dubbing: Dubbing is a post-production process used in filmmaking and video production in which the original soundtrack in one language is replaced by soundtrack in another language.

Simply dubbing can be defined as the replacement of soundtrack of a video recording, film etc., in one language by a soundtrack in a different language.

The 153rd meeting of the Pemra authority on Wednesday, which will take into consideration the introduction of 50pc dubbing of content by foreign LRP entertainment channels, has this item at number three on its agenda: review of Pemra LRP regulations as recommended by the Authority committee.

The minutes say the committee noted that the Regulation 5 of the LRP regulation regarding dubbing has direct bearing on the LRP category 5 (i.e. music, film, drama, soap, fashion, lifestyle, cooking) or entertainment category only while in all other categories, dubbing is allowed.

Forcefully arguing the introduction of 50pc dubbing, the committee also observed that the literacy rate of the country is around 60% and majority of the viewers in rural areas find it difficult to understand the programmes in foreign languages like English.

Moreover, even the educated people living in urban areas cannot understand foreign languages i.e. Chinese, French, Turkish, Spanish, if they are not dubbed in Urdu or other Pakistani regional languages.

According to the minutes, the committee further observed that majority of the Asia Pacific countries either require foreign programming to be dubbed into national/ local languages or there are no specific laws that prohibit dubbing of foreign language content into national or local languages.

Besides the committee noted that the dubbing is allowed in most of the regulatory regimes prevalent in different countries of Asia Pacific regions i.e. in Indonesia 30% of the total foreign programming content should be dubbed in national or regional languages, similarly in Vietnam 100% of the foreign language content should be dubbed in national/ local languages before rebroadcast etc.

The minutes said the committee also considered the concerns of United Producers Association (UPA) against dubbing of foreign content in Urdu or any other regional languages which, according to them, is adversely affecting the local drama industry.

In order to address the issue and to provide a level playing field, the committee was of the view that 50% of the total programming content of the channel should initially be allowed to be dubbed in national language (Urdu or other Pakistani languages only) in entertainment category as well and same may be reviewed subsequently.

It is stated that because of the Pemra move the local drama industry will suffer as it produces original programming, which requires significantly higher costs.

If the foreign LRP channels are allowed to broadcast their programming content, which is not produced in Pakistan and does not contribute to the economy of Pakistan, it will impinge hard on the domestic production that provides working opportunities to the local talent and adds to the growth of Pakistan economy as a whole.