Summary by the Commission if arguments supporting Perspective Two
in Category Terms of Reference No. A
Summary by the Commission of arguments for Perspective Two i.e. that certain parts of the Federal Ministry of Information and the Provincial Departments of Information should be dismantled/abolished or reformed, and subsequently the Federal Ministry and the Provincial Departments of Information should continue to exist.
1. That the present status of the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) which certifies the number of copies sold by newspapers and magazines, thereby providing the basis for the allocation of Government-controlled advertising to such print media, should be changed from being an attached Department of the Federal Ministry of Information into the following alternative structure:
On the lines of a public-private partnership, the composition, powers, functions, authority for certification etc. should be conducted under the control of a re-vamped ABC in which the representative body of the newspaper publishers i.e. All Pakistan Newspapers Society, plus one or more forums of private, independent, professionally reputed Accountants and Auditors, and representatives of the Government render the same duties as being presently provided by an entirely Government-staffed and controlled ABC.
That with such a newly re-constituted structure for ABC, irregularities in the certification of the number of copies actually printed, malpractices like corruption-related imbalances in the allocation of Government-controlled advertising to print media, etc. would be removed because of the checks-and-balances present in the proposed alternative structure for ABC and that, therefore, there would be far more credibility given to figures of circulation of actual sale of newspapers and magazines.
It is learnt that discussions have recently been initiated between APNS and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to examine options for a joint public-private approach to the subject of circulation audit, and to certification. We urge that this process be accelerated.
2. That the existing centralized advertising control policy operated through the Press Information Department be abolished and that each Government Ministry, Department, organization etc. be authorized to select print and electronic media most suited to their own communication objectives and that while doing so, due care be taken by each such Government entity to provide a reasonable percentage of their advertising budget to small-scale, regional print media and that this minimal allocation to regional media be part of a declared policy.
3. That consequently, the Press Information Department should continue to function as the single focal point for gathering information about the State, Government and society which it is meant to serve and that it should disseminate such information to the media and the public at large. As per this view, a reformed PID could help project news and views without bias or distortion but simply reflecting the position of the Governments-of-the-day, at the Federal and Provincial levels.
4. That the powers of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to control the appointment of Chairpersons, Boards of Directors and the Chief Executives of PBC, PTV, APP and PEMRA be replaced by an alternative system through which partisanship in favour of the Government-of-the-day be entirely removed. In its place, there be introduced a fair, merit-based appointment process which has bipartisan political support in Parliament and enjoys endorsement by the media sector and civil society. That consequently, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the Departments of Information inter-act with these State media organizations as above, to provide an over-all public interest and public service direction, and provide guidance to these entities in a supportive, facilitative manner, including serving as the functional linkage between these autonomous entities and the Government.
Options for alternative processes to appoint the Boards, Chairperson and Chief Executive of State media entities and their restructuring are provided elsewhere in this Report.
5. That once such reforms are made, and related changes also made at the Provincial level, the respective Ministries and Departments should continue to function and facilitate information flow on behalf of the State and the Governments-of-the-day but ensuring that they serve all citizens fairly and equitably and not only the interests of political parties and leaders holding elected public office.