Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA)’s new Chairman Absar Alam on Wednesday directed to immediately postpone the bidding process of Direct to Home (DTH) licences scheduled to be held on December 7.
The chairman also summoned an immediate meeting of the authority to review the bidding process and to seek an approval to postpone the bidding so that more companies can enter the bidding and the process can be made more transparent, a well placed source requesting anonymity told Pakistan Today. Another PEMRA meeting has been scheduled for Friday December 4, 2015.
Under the PEMRA law, the chairman cannot stop the bidding process and only the Authority can take any such decision.
This decision may postpone the injection of millions of dollars in foreign direct investment in the form of DTH licence fees.
The source told Pakistan Today that Alam had summoned an urgent meeting of the authority to discuss the bidding and to get it stopped.
“During the meeting, Absar Alam said that acting chairman Kamal Tipu could not take any decisions on DTH licencing and that the entire process conducted by the authority had been in violation of the law.”
The source said that in their opinion, the authority and not the acting or full time chairman could take a decision in this regard under the law.
The new chairman told a meeting held on Wednesday that he had doubts over the process adopted and that the authority needed to make it more transparent.
“During the meeting, former SC judge Justice (r) Ijaz Ahmed gave legal opinion to postpone the bidding due to legal flaws and pointed out that the Peer Review process had not been conducted,” the source said.
The meeting expressed displeasure that the former PEMRA acting chairman had ignored the advice of Board of Investment (MoI) to allow more time so that more foreign investors could join the bidding process.
Another source pointed to hidden interests that may be actively trying to sabotage the process.
But PEMRA may also have shut the doors on legitimate media outfits that wanted to participate in the bidding process and the new PEMRA chairman was certainly not shy about pointing that out to the Authority’s top officials.
“The meeting was informed that a Chinese company, Star Times, China, had filed a request to enter the bidding but was disallowed by the PEMRA high ups,” the source said.
Earlier, PEMRA had shortlisted eight companies for participation in the bidding for DTH Licences scheduled to be held on December 7.
The short-listed companies include Sardar Builders (Pvt.) Limited, Parus Media & Broadcast (Pvt.) Limited, Mastro Media Distribution (Pvt.) Limited, HB DTH (Pvt.) Limited, M/s IQ Communications (Pvt.) Limited, Nayatel (Pvt.) Limited, Shahzad CGG (Pvt.) Limited and Sharif Feed Mills (Pvt.) Limited.
Earlier, the Information Ministry and PEMRA had entered into a spat over the DTH licencing bid, with the Ministry asking OGRA in increasingly stronger terms that it should cease the bidding process until the new PEMRA chief takes over. PEMRA had been dragging its feet telling the Information Ministry that the process had been going on for several months and that it could not be abandoned at this stage. But this just forced the Ministry to respond with sterner warnings and compliance directives.
An advertisement inviting applications for award of DTH licences was published in newspapers on September 10. An Information Memorandum containing eligibility criteria, Licence Terms and condition, application forms etc was made available online at PEMRA website www.PEMRA.gov.pk.
The last date for submission of applications for DTH licences was November 6. As many as 10 companies had submitted their applications/proposals by the closing date. The applications received were evaluated as per eligibility criteria stipulated in the DTH Regulations-2015 and the Information Memorandum uploaded on the PEMRA website.
According to sources, with the launching of DTH in Pakistan, the subscribers would have more access to high quality TV channels embedded with digital features like parental control, electronic programme guide, internet and video on demand.
Officials believe that DTH service would help in easier regulatory control besides addressing complaints of TV channels who were not finding adequate place on traditional analogue cable TV networks.
This technology will facilitate viewers to watch a large variety of uninterrupted programming in their homes. The initiation of this digital medium will also inject investment of billions of rupees in the country’s economy.
Officials believe that as a result of the DTH, more local and foreign TV channels could also apply for licences.