ISLAMABAD Jan 08: The Senate’s Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage on Monday asked the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to get approval of the committee and include its input in the process of merging media regulatory authorities, including the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, the Press Council of Pakistan and the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.

The committee, which met here with Senator Faisal Javed in the chair, asked the ministry that its input should also be taken before finalisation of the new advertising policy.

Javed said print, electronic and social media had their own dynamics and it would be difficult to cater to their requirements under one roof.

He said advertising should not be used for personal projection of the government functionaries, but was needed for creation of awareness among the people and it was also necessary for media growth.

It was a specialised field and services of experts were needed to achieve targets, the minister added.

The government had proposed in the draft that it would discontinue involving advertising agencies in its media campaigns.

On the issue of merger of regulatory authorities, Secretary Information and Broadcasting Shafqat Jalil said the present system was complaint-based while PEMRA and the PCP had no judicial powers.

Under the new authority, a special tribunal had been envisaged to ensure instant implementation of decisions, he informed.

The secretary said the initial draft of advertisement policy was submitted before the committee to get input of its members. He dispelled the impression that the government had imposed major cut on the advertising budget as compared to past two years.

Total advertising budget of both government and private concerns in the year 2017 stood at Rs86 billion, and in 2018 at Rs81.6 billion.

He said with the passage of time, the advertisers shifted towards digital media and the government had nothing to do with the private parties.

Jalil said up to 1997, private agencies were not involved in the advertisement process, which were introduced in that year to overcome the backlog of payables to newspapers.

Unfortunately, the payables had now crossed Rs3 billion which showed that the problem had multiplied during the past 20 years, he added.

The secretary said lack of creativity was visible in government’s advertisement projects and it wanted to have its money valued.

Under the new policy, he said, government institutions would themselves prepare advertisements without involvement of private agencies.

The secretary said for the promotion of media technology and training of Information Technology (IT) professionals, the government was planning to open a state-of-the-art National Media University in near future.

Earlier on an agenda item about alleged character assassination of politicians, PEMRA Chairman Saleem Baig said show cause notices and advices were issued to some 26 television channels while a programme of a new channel was also banned for a month for violation of PEMRA rules.

The PEMRA was taking strict action against news channels airing fake news and now the situation had improved, he added.

PPP Senator Rehman Malik said media persons did not know the difference between accused and convict.

Character assassination of his party’s leadership was being done by a section of media in violation of the Supreme Court’s order regarding sub judice matters, he maintained.