Key points from Fawad Chaudhry’s interactive session with digital broadcasters [VIDEO]

  • The Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Fawad Chaudhry, held an interactive session with digital broadcasters on Monday.
  • The minister disclosed some surprising developments during the session.
  • He initiated the session by discussing the rise of the media and the subsequent challenges in contemporary times.
  • Due to the emergence of the media into a more complex form, the flow of information has become harder to authenticate, Chaudhry added.
  • The minister remarked that this had lead to a swift increase in the spread of fake news.
  • He provided an example of the recent police operation against the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in Karachi, falsely hyped by Indian netizens as a “civil war” on Twitter.
  • The minister remarked that he had already predicted the takeover of digital media over traditional media back in 2018.
  • During that time, he had also informed the Finance Ministry over the growth of advertising in the coming years.
  • It is pertinent to note that the advertising figures predicted by Chaudhry were surpassed by the actual figures, revealing the unpredictable rise of advertising on digital media platforms.
  • The minister emphasized the need for implementing regulatory measures to curb the spread of misinformation and manipulation over the ever-growing digital media platforms.
  • Consequently, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has decided to establish the Pakistan Media Development Authority (PMDA), Chaudhry added.
  • The minister disclosed statistics regarding satellite channels, radios, broadband networks, and newspapers.
  • Following this, he revealed statistics regarding gadgets, broadband depth, internet depth, over-the-top-media (OTT) services, and sim networks, which proved his point of the massive growth of digital media.
  • In Chaudhry’s own words: Ultimately, digital media will define the media landscape of Pakistan.
  • This does not mean the content will change, but only the medium of communication, Chaudhry added.
  • The minister, however, emphasized the need for the implementation of regulatory measures over digital media for the public interest.
  •  He explained this by saying TikTok videos of random girls going to school might not be a problem in Australia/England, but it might be in Pakistan.
  • The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has studied the media jurisdictions of the United Kingdom (UK), Australia, India, Malaysia, and Singapore to gain a broader perspective.
  • Currently, seven laws regulate Pakistan’s media landscape, Chaudhry added.
  • These include the PTA, the Press Council of Pakistan, PEMRA, ITNE, ABC, and others.
  • The minister remarked that laws — unless they are converged — could not be implemented via different regulatory bodies due to the modern mobile phone’s functioning as a single source of different media platforms.
  • This is why the authorities have now decided to terminate the seven existing laws and replace them with the PDMA, Chaudhry added.
  • The minister explained that the existing Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) would also be terminated as it was creating hurdles for filmmakers due to decentralization.
  • Instead, a new, centralized CBFC is set to take shape.
  • The minister remarked that PEMRA has always been an affluent department. Nevertheless, it had not spent a single penny on the training and development of journalists.
  • The incumbent authorities will change this and have created a development wing for the capacity building of journalists, Chaudhry added.
  • The minister disclosed that the new media laws would not include imprisonment if breached, unlike some previous laws. Instead, a fine would be imposed.
  • He added that PEMRA had the authority to impose a maximum fine of ₨. 1 million. However, this had created loopholes.
  • Therefore, the authorities can now impose a maximum fine of ₨. 250 million.
  • The minister added that the authorities are now forming a Media Complaints Commission and a Media Tribunal.
  • The Media Complaints Commission would resolve the grievances pertaining to the media. A decision would be announced within 21 days, and a right would be granted to appeal against the decision in the Media Tribunal, Chaudhry added.
  • The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has also formed a Media Commission in this regard.
  • Previously, only the people from the print media could go to the ITNE regarding their complaints, Chaudhry added.
  • The minister remarked that the authorities have recently released ₨. 700 million for advertisement.
  • The Press Information Department (PID) has been integrated fully into the digital system. As a result, the payments of the ads are made via an automated system, Chaudhry added.
  • The minister reiterated the importance of media tribunals’ formation to resolve the complaints pertaining to the media.
  • In the new advertising policy, the registered digital media agencies would potentially receive funding from the government for advertisement, Chaudhry added.
  • A journalist shared his positive experience of using TikTok and discussed with the minister to lift the restrictions on the app.
  • To this, Chaudhry concurred with the journalist and said that he is against banning apps. TikTok can be used positively or negatively; it depends on the individual.
  • Another journalist questioned the minister about the dates of the new developments’ implementation.
  • He also asked the minister about the criteria to get funding from the government for digital media advertisement and whether there would be bias in its implementation or not.
  • To this, Chaudhry assured that there would be no bias as the funding would be done transparently, and the criteria is to just get registered with the government.
  • Another journalist inquired from the minister about the criticisms from the opposition and how the authorities would bring the opposition on the same page.
  • To this, Chaudhry remarked that there is no such thing as “same page” with the opposition on big decisions.
  • The opposition is against the media tribunal and the convergence as it would be beneficial to the ordinary media worker, which would ultimately threaten the big names, Chaudhry added.
  • The minister added that journalists should stand with ordinary media workers and not with big names in the media.
  • Another journalist appreciated the minister’s initiatives but questioned whether the advertisement support by the government would subjugate the media.
  • To this, Chaudhry reiterated that the advertisement funds to digital media organizations would be in the most transparent way.
  • The minister added that the authorities are open to changes in the developments if the journalists point out ways to improve transparency.

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