Pak media authority bans Indian TV channels

MUMBAI: Looks like Pakistan's cable fraternity is voting with their feet on the issue of banned Indian television channels - and they have just been halted in their tracks.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) chairman Mian Javed on Sunday ordered Pakistani cable operators to strictly observe the ban on Indian channels, reports AFP.

“We have (re)-enforced the ban as these channels do not come under the approved eligible list,” AFP quoted Javed as saying. PEMRA banned the relaying of Indian TV channels over private cable networks after the December 2001 terrorist attack on Indian Parliament, which New Delhi blamed on Islamabad-backed militants.

Following the recent thaw in relations between the two neighbours, cable operators across the border had started showing Indian TV channels, which are extremely popular among Pakistanis.

For the beleaguered cable operators in Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's “hand of friendship” offer in April provided just the excuse they needed to get the Indian channels back on air. Without waiting for any government go-ahead, popular Indian channels like Star Plus, Star News, Zee Cinema, Zee Gold, Sony and B4U, reappeared in Pakistani cable TV homes and became so popular that they even began attracting Pakistani advertisements.

Aside from a ban on Indian channels, PEMRA has also imposed a ban on broadcasting Indian DVDs and VCDs over cable networks, a senior official was quoted as saying.

Reacting with dismay to the news, Cable Operator’s Association of Pakistan chairman Khalid Sheikh was quoted as saying, "We will suffer a great financial loss as people will discontinue watching cable television when they will not find Indian channels over it."

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