Findings, Observations & Recommendations by the Commission

in Category Terms of Reference No. D


1.            The view points of PBC, PTV and APP with regard to TOR No. D were provided in writing to the Commission and are placed at Annexure-8,  Annexure-9 and Annexure-10. The Chief Executives of these three State media entities also met with the Commission and conveyed their opinions, and responded to questions in person.

2.            Taking the past five years as a sample period in the history of these entities as reflective of the level of financial support provided by the State and Government, placed below are the relevant figures:-

3.            PAKISTAN TELEVISION CORPORATION LIMITED

A: LAST FIVE YEARS GOP BUDGET  OUTLAY AND EXPENDITURE

(Rs in million)

Sr. No.  Year       Budget Outlay   Expenditure

1.            2007-08                –              –

2.            2008-09                –              –

3.            2009-10                1,034.000             1,034.000

4.            2010-11                –              –

5.            2011-12                764.800 764.800

 

B: LAST FIVE YEARS PSDP ALLOCATIONS AND ACTUAL EXPENDITURE

(Rs in million)

Sr No.    Year       PSDP  Allocation               Actual  Expenditure        Unspent/ Surrenders

1              2007-08                973.945 325.709                 648.236

2.            2008-09                166.262 32.682                                   133.580

3.            2009-10                411.671 84.251                                   327.420

4.            2010-11                358.713 132.205                 226.508

5.            2011-12                358.000 109.538                 248.462

C: LAST FIVE YEARS GOP’s THE POWER BILL LEVY TRANSFERRED TO PTV

(Rs in million)

 

Sr. No.  Year                       Power Bill Levy

I               2007-08                2,892.986

2              2008-09                3,090.501

3              2009-10                3,724.539

4              2010-11                4,637.516

5              2011-12                4,908.562

 

PAKISTAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION

HEADQUARTERS ISLAMABAD

INCOME AND EXPENDITURE FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS

FOR THE YEARS FROM 2008 TO 2012

 

INCOME                                                                                                                               (Rs in million)

 

Particulars          2007-2008            2008-2009            ‘ 2009-2010         2010-2011            2011-2012

Subsidy from     1,576.000             1,720.744             1,771.939             2,155.694             2,401.000

Government

Advertisement 163.408 132.632 148.991 147.281 196.065

income

Other income    27.905                   38.320                   28.223                   34.530                   35.157

Total income      1,767.313             1,891.696             1,949.153             2,337.505             1,632.222

4.            With reference to the data about PTV: For unspecified reasons, whether it was in the year 2007-08, when two-thirds (Rs 648.236 million) of the PSDP allocation (Rs973.945 million) remained unspent, or whether it was the year 2011-12 when once again two-thirds (Rs.248.462 million) of the allocated amount (Rs.358.000 million) remained unspent and was also surrendered, PTV nevertheless is the singular and monopolist beneficiary of income from the TV license fee. From the year 2007-08, when PTV received an amount of Rs.2.8 billion from this source, to the year 2011-12 when the amount increased by about 80% to become a sum of over Rs.4.9 billion. With income from commercial advertising estimated to be over Rs.2 billion per year, PTV certainly benefits substantially by being the sole recipient of the TV license fees and also spending an additional Rs.109 million in 2011-12 from its sanctioned allocation under PSDP. PTV certainly is a “recipient of public funding of billions of Rupees”.

With regard to the data on PBC : the dependence of PBC on the subsidy from the Government is presently over Rs.2.4 billion per year out of a total income of Rs.2.6 billion per year. Unlike PTV which benefits from the income from TV license fee, PBC does not receive the same benefits from the non-existent/abolished radio license fee, Income from advertising represents less than 10% of its total income. Thus, PBC also qualifies as : “a recipient of public funding of billions of rupees”.

5.            Where TOR No. D asks for ascertainment of whether these recipients of public funding have independent in-house management, an immediate and categorical response is possible. This response is “No”. For the basic and simple reason that the Boards of Directors of all these three State media entities are appointed by the Government-of-the-day and are chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Where the Government of the day is directly represented by the individual who is also the administrative Head of the Ministry to which all three State entities report, removes any credible scope for true independence. Even after allowances are made for the fact that the position of the Chairman is a non-executive position and that the presence of the Secretary of the Ministry as Chairman can be construed as being only symbolic and ceremonial, both the reality and the perception of how Governments ensure that their preferred decisions are implemented without obstruction mean that, in actual practice, a non-executive Chairman also becomes decisively influential in enforcing Government control of these State media entities. The Secretary of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting is also the Principal Accounting Officer for all the organizations under the purview of the ministry e.g. PTV, PBC, APP. The Secretary also writes the Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) of the Chief Executives of such organizations, thus reinforcing Government influence on the policies and practices of these Corporations.

6.            In rare instances, Chief Executives of one or more of these entities have been able to disregard the preferences for decisions conveyed by their Chairmen. But these are the exceptions that prove the rule. The overwhelming trend in all three State media entities is that the will-and-the-whim of the Government of-the-day determines the policies and actions of the Boards, and of the media entities.

7.            With regard to whether there are transparent policies in place in these three State media entities to advance the objectives of fairness and evenhandedness: The Commission is of the opinion that there is a mixed record, with the factor of favoring the Government-of-the-day being the pre-dominant constituent element which shapes such claimed transparent policies.

8. PBC, PTV and APP were heavily lop-sided in favor of the Government.

9.            However, in the past twelve years, particularly with the advent of private electronic media and the strengthening of democratic values and practices, in the current affairs programs of PBC and PTV and in the commentaries and features produced by APP, there is a notable attempt to present a more balanced range of opinions and analysis, thus making the record mixed, rather than one-sided.

10.          In one major respect, State media entities demonstrate restraint, responsibility, maturity and even-handedness by abstaining from the production and transmission of “infotainment” programs which are a common and daily feature of private electronic media. In such infotainment programs, the vital distinction between news and comments, between facts and opinions is violated. Using wit and satire, caricatures and music, even regular news bulletins of private electronic media present some news and events as farcical sources of mirth. To the credit of State media entities, such tactics and techniques are never normally used.

11.          Further, with regard to the reporting of violent or tragic incidents such as suicide bombings, terrorism and individual crimes, PBC, PTV and APP exercise far greater care and restraint from sensationalism, than do private electronic media which, for the sake of the ratings game, often abandon norms of maturity and balance.

12.          In terms of whether PBC, PTV and APP have adequate in-house management processes and systems to apply checks and balances in order to ensure accuracy, the finding is that such professional requirements are fulfilled by these State media entities.

13.         However, despite the existence of these otherwise professional in-house arrangements, the intrinsic bias to favor the Government-of-the-day in respect of news bulletins does remain an abiding feature of the content produced by these entities.

14.          When the Executive pillar of the State through the Government-of-the-day exercises complete  and not even partial control of such State-owned media, there is no possibility whatsoever of such control enabling the existence of true public service broadcasting.

15.          A basic, broad definition of public service broadcasting is that institutions such as TV and Radio broadcasting organizations should be independent of both exclusive control by Government and independent of influence by the considerations of income and profit from commercial advertising revenue.

16.          This definition obviously immediately raises the question of how such organizations can be financed . There are diverse models available in countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Australia. These models are closest to fulfilling the spirit and letter of public service broadcasting. Even where such models receive State funding, the potentially partisan role of the Government-of-the-day is prevented by the presence of different kinds of checks and balances reflecting principles and practices of accountability, transparency, legislative oversight, recourse to judicial measures, etc. In the USA, channels such as the C-span system, National Public Radio, and related networks even use support from commercial corporations to fund their operations but do so in a manner which enables their editorial policies to remain independent of influence from funding sources. In the BBC model, with the BBC being the sole recipient of the TV license fee, there is no income from advertising as BBC within the UK does not broadcast commercial advertisements. The BBC World TV Service does depend on revenue from advertising because it does not receive income from license fees from its overseas viewers.

17.          In Pakistan, PTV enjoys the unusual dual advantage of being the sole recipient of income from TV licenses (the charges being automatically added to every household electricity bill for onward transfer to PTV) as well as revenue from commercial advertising. In addition, for the provision of special services to particular parts of the country or to fulfill directives by the Federal Government, PTV is also the recipient of development grants. Thus, even though PTV does render useful functions as a public service broadcaster by offering programs that are not normally transmitted by private commercial media, PTV is not an authentic public service broadcaster as it practices commercialism in some respects as vigorously as do private media. Further, due to its being completely subject to Government control as well, PTV does not qualify by international standards as a genuine public service broadcaster.

18.          In the case of PBC, due to a variety of historical factors and due to a gross mismatch between income and expenditure, between staff strength and productivity and other factors, PBC can only continue to function with 90% of its financial requirements being provided as grant-in-aid by the Federal Government. Thus, both from the institutional control perspective, and from a financial perspective, PBC also does not qualify as a genuine public service broadcaster. Notwithstanding some interesting and innovative steps taken between 2009 and 2013 to integrate PBC with the interne and the digital age, the organization remains heavily dependent on Government.

19.          Unlike the Boards of PBC and PTV, the Board of Directors of APP includes representatives of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors, two prominent media personalities from the private sector and two senior media academics from the Universities of Karachi and Punjab. To a considerable extent, this kind of composition reduces the imbalance in favor of the Government represented by the fact that the Chairman of the Board is the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. APP’s performance record in recent years shows that there is a concerted attempt being made to reduce the historical tendency to unduly project the Government-of-the-day. For example, in January 2013, APP released 167 reports regarding the Federal Government-of- the-day and 130 reports relating to the Opposition.

Whereas in previous decades, the number of reports about the Opposition in terms of comparison with the Government-related reports was far less.

20.          However, for various reasons, APP, like PBC, remains heavily dependent on State funding through the Government-of-the-day and thereby does not qualify as a genuine public service news entity.

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