Pak beckons cross-media ownership

MUMBAI: The Pakistan government has decided to relax media ownership rules and allow cross-media ownership in the country. An amendment to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance (PEMRA) will allow the Pakistan print media owners to operate electronic media including satellite TV channels.

Government will table the amendments in the next parliament session.

According to Pak Information and Broadcasting minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, PEMRA would convene a meeting of the authority shortly to make necessary proposals for amendments in the relevant provisions of the ordinance 2002 and Pemra Rules 2002.

The next meeting of the authority will be held on May 7, 2004 to decide about issuing licenses to those applicants who fall under the category of cross-media ownership, said Ahmed.

The approval of the amendments would follow the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting notifying the sequential changes in the Rules in the Gazette. Such changes would also make provisions to create a level playing field and prevent undue media concentration and unfair business practices, said the minister.

Necessary safeguards would also be incorporated in the PEMRA ordinance and rules to prevent misuse of media power. Those applicants who come under cross-media ownership and had not applied for satellite TV license will also be granted an opportunity to apply for a satellite TV license. The deadline for this is May 15, 2004.

It is learnt that no bidding would be held for the awarding of the licenses because there is space to accommodate more than 12 new television channels. The licenses will cost a fee of Rs 2.5 million each. PEMRA will charge an annual fee and a percentage of each channel's annual revenue.

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