The government and Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) have agreed on a ‘code of conduct’ for electronic media, however, differences on three critical issues are yet to be resolved.
The code is to be announced through a regulatory order (SRO) by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), if the two sides succeed in resolving the issues.
According to a Dawn report, the differences are on issues related to definition of ‘obscenity’, timing of airing re-enactment of criminal incidents and the use of foreign content on local media networks along with its control.
The PBA has reservations over the word ‘obscene’ and insists that ‘inclusion of material against basic cultural values, morality and good manners’ should be forbidden from airing.
The government team is against the airing of dramatic re-enactment of criminal incidents, and the PBA wants the airing of such programmes only between 11 pm and 7 am, with parental guidance.
PBA has demanded deletion of section 19 of the draft, arguing that the media industry’s protection should not be a subject of the code of conduct.
The government insists on going ahead with the section, which says that foreign content aired in a day should not exceed 10 percent of the entire broadcast, provided that the broadcaster shall maintain editorial control over advertisements and programmes at all times.
Under the agreed draft, no content will go on air which is against Islamic values, ideology of Pakistan and the founding fathers (Quaid and Iqbal), or calls to take up arms against the federation or its integrity, security and defence or which derogates any religion, sect or community and could create disharmony.
TV channels will not broadcast anything that casts aspersions on the judiciary or the armed forces except in the case of ‘fair comment’, violates copyrights or property rights or incites, aids or abets, glamorises or justifies violence, crime, terrorism or offence, or blackmails or intimidates any person.
The messages of banned organisations shall not go on air and private information, behaviour or correspondence will also not be brought into public domain. Unnecessary details and footage of gory scenes, bloodshed or dead bodies shall not be aired.
In talk shows, the licensee shall ensure that no false, distorted or misleading information reaches the public domain and the shows do not intrude into the private life, grief or distress of individuals.
The personal interest of a reporter and presenter which may call into question the impartiality of a programme shall be disclosed before its airing and news and any other programme shall not be aired in a manner that is likely to jeopardise an ongoing inquiry or investigation.
Live programmes will ensure an effective delaying mechanism and the licensee will ensure that all those involved in a programme development do not take prior advantage of information gained in course of professional duties for private gain, including stock markets and financial matters.
The identity of victims of rape, sexual abuse, terrorism or kidnapping, or their families, and officials of security agencies in a rescue or security operation will not be revealed without prior permission. The channels will not air bounties or head money other than announced by government agencies.
It will be ensured that no interviews will be conducted or attempted to be conducted without the consent of the interviewee, save in public interest.
Advertisements for alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, illegal drugs or narcotics shall not be aired and advertisers will not be allowed to directly ask children to buy a product. Advertisements about lotteries, betting etc, black magic, quackery or superstition shall be prohibited, so will be the use of the national anthem, signs or symbols for promotion of products.
Each licence holder will appoint an in-house monitoring committee under intimation to Pemra to ensure compliance and monitoring with respect to the code of conduct.
The public interest has been clearly defined to avoid ambiguity – exposure or detection of crime, significant anti-social behaviour, corruption or injustice, protection of public health and safety, saving the public from being misled and providing information to assist people to take informed decisions.
Hate speeches will remain off air.