The media laws industry and the right to information have seen tremendous growth in the past years across the world, and yet, in Pakistan, media law and information sectors have time and again faced limitations as governments use almost ‘draconian’ laws to subject these industries to restrictions.
What Are the Media Law in Pakistan?
Pakistan is not short on laws and legislations pertaining to regulation of the media law sector. There are numerous acts, ordinances, rules, regulations and codes of conduct which give in-depth guidelines and instructions on how the media law must and must not operate. Below is an extensive list of all relevant enactments:
- Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1973
- Pakistan National Council of the Arts Act, 1973
- Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation Act‚ 1973
- The Indecent Advertisements Prohibition Act, 1963
- The Right of Access to Information Act, 2017
- Associated Press of Pakistan Corporation Ordinance 2002
- Defamation Ordinance 2002
- Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002
- Motion Pictures Ordinance 1979
- National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage Ordinance, 2002
- Pakistan Electronic Media Law Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Ordinance 2002
- PEMRA Rules 2009
- Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance, 2002
- Press, Newspapers, News Agencies and Books Registration Ordinance 2002
Codes of Conduct
- Code of Conduct for Electronic Media2015
- Code of Conduct for Media Broadcasters/Cable TV Operators, 2009
- Distribution Service Operations Regulations 2011
- Radio Broadcast Station Operations Regulation 2012
- Television Broadcast Station Operations Regulations 2012
- ITNE (Procedure & Function) Rules, 1977
- Recruitment Rule of ITNE
- Censorship of Film Rules 1980
- PEMRA Councils of Complaints Rules 2010
- Press, Newspapers, News Agencies and Books Registration Rules 2009
What is the Media Law Regulatory Framework in Pakistan?
The Pakistan Electronic Media Law Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) is the primary regulator of media law in Pakistan, which was established under the PEMRA Ordinance with the directive to regulate the institution and the workings of all broadcast media law and distribution services.
It regulates the circulation of all local and international TV and radio programmes and channels in Pakistan.
PEMRA enjoys exclusive rights with issuance of licenses for the creation and working of such distribution platforms in the country, while ensuring conformity to the provisions on fairness and equity while applying the criteria mentioned in the Ordinance.
Licensing for Radio, Television and Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service (MMDS) broadcast stations is carried out via a transparent and accessible bidding process where there are more applicants than available licences, without which no entity can carry out broadcasting operations.
‘Broadcast media law’ is defined under the PEMRA Ordinance as all such media law that originate and propagate broadcast and pre-recorded signals by terrestrial means or through satellite for radio or television and includes teleporting, provision of access to broadcast signals by channel providers and such other forms of broadcast media law as the PTA may allow, with the approval of the federal government…
Whereas a ‘distribution services’ is defined to include services that receives broadcast and pre-recorded signals from different channels and distributes them to subscribers through cable, wireless or satellite options and includes cable TV, Local Multipoint Distribution Service, MMDS, direct-to-home (DTH) and such other similar technologies.
Who Can PEMRA License and Not License?
The categories of broadcast media law and distribution services, defined above, which are licensed by PEMRA include:
- local area or community-based radio and TV broadcasts;
- provincial-scale broadcasts;
- international- and national-scale stations;
- specific and specialised subjects;
- distribution services; and
- uplinking facilities, including teleporting and digital satellite news gathering.
However, licences will not be granted to:
- a person who is not a citizen of Pakistan or resident in Pakistan;
- a foreign company organised under the laws of any foreign government;
- a company the majority of whose shares are owned or controlled by foreign nationals or companies whose management or control is vested in foreign nationals or companies; or
- any person funded or sponsored by a foreign government or organisation.
What are PEMRA’s licensing requirements?
Those issued licences by PEMRA must take care of the following terms and conditions:
- ensure the preservation of the sovereignty, security and integrity of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan;
- ensure the preservation of the national, cultural, social and religious values and the principles of public policy as enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan;
- ensure that all programmes and advertisements do not contain or encourage violence, terrorism, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, sectarianism, extremism, militancy, hatred, pornography, obscenity, vulgarity or other material offensive to commonly accepted standards of decency;
- comply with rules made under the PEMRA Ordinance;
- broadcast, if permissible under the terms of its licence, programmes in the public interest specified by the federal government or PEMRA in the manner indicated by the government, or, as the case may be, PEMRA, provided that the duration of such mandatory programmes does not exceed 10 per cent of the total duration of the broadcast or operation by a station in 24 hours, except if, by its own volition, a station chooses to broadcast such content for a longer duration;
- comply with the codes of programmes and advertisements approved by PEMRA and appoint an in-house monitoring committee, under intimation to PEMRA, to ensure compliance with the Code;
- not broadcast or distribute any programme or advertisement in violation of copyright or any other property right;
- obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) from PEMRA before the import of any transmitting apparatus for broadcasting, distribution or teleporting operation; and
- not sell, transfer or assign any of the rights conferred by the licence without prior written permission of PEMRA.
How Can A License Be Applied From PEMRA?
According to the PEMRA Ordinance, any party wishing to obtain a license must apply to PEMRA in the manner and form as prescribed under the Ordinance, with an applicable fee.
Each application will be processed by PEMRA in accordance with the prescribed criteria. For granting or refusing licenses, public hearings in provincial capitals will be held.
The licence granted would require submission of annual fee, and a license of 5, 10 or 15 years will be granted, which would be renewable after the term if it continues to meet the terms and conditions.
What Is PEMRA’S Criteria For Grant of Licenses?
As per the PEMRA Rules, applications for the grant of a licence will be short listed on the following criteria:
- financial viability;
- technical feasibility;
- financial strength;
- credibility and track record;
- majority shareholding and management control shall vest in Pakistani nationals;
- prospects of technical progress and introduction of new technology;
- market advancement, such as improved service features or market concepts;
- contribution to universal service objectives; and
- contribution to other social and economic development objectives.
For more information regarding licensing from PEMRA, or any other aspects regarding media laws in Pakistan, stay tuned to our blogs.
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