1. The Commission recommends that consideration may be given by the Hon’ble Court and by the new Parliament to the following options towards attaining the objective of transforming PBC, PTV and APP into organizations that can credibly and consistently serve the public interest while retaining one, or more kinds of institutional linkages with the State.
2. Elements that could shape new legislation and policy in order to attain the ideals indicated in TOR No.D are possible from the following:-
(i) PBC: To introduce an entirely new system and process for the appointment of the Chairman, Chief Executive and the Board of Directors, on lines similar to the new system proposed for PEMRA in Para-1 the section of this Report dealing with TOR No. B. Due to PBC’s deep dependence on financial subsidies from the State, such State funding should continue but new checks and balances put in place to prevent such subsidies from becoming a partisan stranglehold.
(ii) In the year 2000, a Report was commissioned by a Task Force to propose alternative strategies to make PBC effectively autonomous and less dependent on financial subsidies from the State. There is a need to revisit that Report which was not implemented, as also to incorporate new elements relevant to the new realities and conditions that exist in 2013 and trends which are anticipated in the foreseeable future.
(iii) PTV: Unlike PBC which has its own legislative cover through the PBC Act, 1973, PTV is a joint-stock company wholly owned by the State, and registered under the Companies Ordinance, 1984.
The Commission recommends that due consideration be given to reducing the shareholding of the State in PTV by about 75% to reduce it to 25%, or less. That 75% shares be offered to the public at large through the Stock Exchanges of the country and through a special public offering with the conditionality that no single organization/investor/citizen can hold more than 2% (two percent) of the total shares. The aim of dispersing and diffusing ownership of shares so broadly is to prevent any single group from exercising undue control over the editorial policy and program content. Further, through a system of time-bound rotation, civil society organizations of repute such as those with long-established records of service in the fields of education, health, human rights, capacity-building, micro-credit, etc. professional associations, universities etc. could also be given minimal blocks of shares. Owners of TV channels should not be eligible to purchase or control any percentage of PTV shares to prevent conflict-of-interest.
While the State’s interests and linkages would be maintained through a continued shareholding by the State, the Government-of-the-day would no longer exercise partisan control of PTV. The public at large, represented by citizens as well as organizations, would gain the opportunity to redirect PTV to become a genuine public service broadcaster.
(iv) Due consideration would also need to be given towards placing PTV under the purview of the amended and reformed PEMRA law as suggested in the section of this Report dealing with TOR No. B.
(v) Further consideration would also need to be given to the need to end the unfair monopoly status of PTV being the sole recipient of the TV license fee and as to whether the license fee should be shared with other TV channels which are willing to devote a significant part of their programming content to public service subjects as also enable academia-based channels and community-based channels to also benefit from a share of the TV license fee.
(vi) To make PTV less dependent on the revenue from TV license fee, the staff strength and organization of PTV would unavoidably have to be rationalized and restructured. Models for such reorganization, using concepts such as golden handshakes, etc. are available for possible replication.
(vii) APP: Consideration needs to be given to the possibility of reducing the State ownership of APP from the present level of 100% to a level such as 25% or less with 75% shares being offered to:
(a) the present staff of APP in proportion to years of service, levels of performance with a proportionate reduction/surrender of shares, on retirement/removal from service, etc.
(b) on a pattern similar to the one proposed for a new structure for PTV, the offer of limited blocks of shares to the collective representative bodies of media which use the output of APP e.g. All Pakistan Newspapers Society, Pakistan Broadcasters’ Association etc.
3. The Commission is of the opinion that, given all, or even some of the above proposed changes, the three State media entities of PBC, PTV and APP would become capable of playing a progressive and purposeful role in the information landscape of Pakistan.