PTVs Kashmiri channel stumps India, Doordarshan,

NEW DELHI: At a time when patriotism is being sold as a brand in the run-up to the general elections, neither the Indian government nor the domestic cable operators have heard of it. PTV, the state-controlled broadcaster in Pakistan, has launched a satellite channel, called AZK Channel (Azad Kashmir Channel), to cater to the Kashmiri-speaking populace on both sides of the line of control.

This is just one of the initiatives of the Pakistani government to add to the war of words, though both the countries are attempting at bringing about a semblance of reason in their bilateral peace talks that have, most of the time, got bogged down in jingoism.

Confirming the launch of AZK channel, a PTV official told, The channel was launched sometime back and has a mish-mash of programming, including news and current affairs. A PTV team is on a three-day visit to Delhi to participate in a seminar of public service broadcasters in the Asian region.

Since AZK channel is beamed via the Thaicom-3 satellite, its footprints are not confined to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, but also cover most parts of India. And PTV has kept this channel free to air so it can be downlinked by cable operators without any hitch.

Compared to the programming that AZK channel dishes out, Doordarshans terrestrially distributed Kashir channel, aimed at the Kashmiri-speaking populace and to counter Pak propaganda, would find it difficult to stand up in a popularity race. Whats more, the Indian government seems to have been caught napping despite the modern tracking and monitoring devices that are claimed to be at the disposal of the security agencies.

Quizzed on the issue, a senior information and broadcasting ministry official today expressed ignorance on the AZK channel and said,Wed have to look into the issue and the type of the programming that is put on air. The cable fraternity expressed similar ignorance. A senior executive of a multi-system operator said , Has PTV started a Kashmir-specific channel? Well, if they have, then it is our national duty not to re-distribute it. We would not. But the fact remains that though the government and metro-centric cable ops have not heard of AZK channel, the chances of the channel being re-distributed by operators in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be ruled out.

What adds gravity to the matter is the fact that though Indian channels, including the likes of Star Plus, Zee TV and Sony, are officially banned in Pakistan, no such ban has been put in place by the Indian government as far as Pakistani television channels are concerned, which are re-distributed by cable ops freely in India and in most parts of the country PTV and PTV World can be viewed easily. Only during the Kargil war, for a short period of time, the Indian government had appealed to the cable ops to stop re-distributing Pakistani channels, which are known for their India-bashing programmes and news and current affairs shows.

AZK Channel apart, PTV is also mulling starting a slew of other channels, predominantly for the domestic population. These include ones dedicated to sports and women. PTV is likely to start in a years time a sports channel as also a channel meant for ladies who remain at home during the day, the PTV official said.

A KU-band DTH service too is in the offing for which a few applications have been received by the Pakistani regulator for broadcasting sector, the PTV official informed

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