The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is ready to launch the HD PTV soon.

A meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting was convened under the Chairmanship of Senator Faisal Javed at the Parliament House on Monday.

A compliance report on the recommendations made by the committee in its previous meeting on 8 July at PTV’s headquarters in Islamabad and that of the last three years (2018-2021) was scrutinized in the meeting.

The Chairman of the committee initiated the meeting with welcoming remarks and introduced the members of the committee.

At the outset of the meeting, he and the members showed their displeasure with the provision of the working papers at the eleventh hour, and he questioned the officials of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting about it.

The officials failed to give a definite answer, and the Chairman remarked that delays in the provision of the working papers have become a routine of the ministry. “It is high time that this issue should be resolved,” he retorted.

The committee members endorsed his recommendation and added that such inefficient working results in the wastage of their time and energies.

The Chairman then warned the concerned officials to ensure the timely dispatch of the working papers the next time, otherwise serious action would be taken against them.

The recommendations of the committee that had been given on 8 July were discussed in detail, and the officials of the ministry briefed the committee about the details of the Land and Buildings under the administration of the PTV.

Chairman Javed stressed for the briefing of the committee about the utilization plan of the usage of such a vast public property. He observed that such buildings run through the money of the taxpayer and it is their moral duty to monitor the accurate utilization of such buildings in the national interest of Pakistan. He also emphasized the justification of the land requisition in order to prevent the exploitation of taxpayers’ money.

He recommended that if it is not doable, an office should be rented or purchased in Blue Area, Islamabad, as office space for PTV. He added that the existing property could be used for any other public interest, such as for the utilization of a state-of-the-art university.

The ministry officials informed the committee that the government is working on an Assets Management Authority through which the usage of national assets will be evaluated.

The cabinet has also approved this initiative, and Chairman Javed sought a report on a definite plan for the utilization of the buildings of PTV and Radio for further deliberation and recommendations.

A detailed discussion on the appointment details of the PTVC employees also took place, and Senator Irfan Siddiqui raised the question of overstaffing in the PTVC. He expressed his disappointment with the concealed names of the employees in the submitted report.

The ministry officials ensured the submission of an updated report on the recruitment of employees, and Senator Siddiqui asked why 14 new producers had been appointed when PTV already has 81 producers.

The officials failed to justify the overhiring, and informed the committee that unlike the practice in the private sector, 50 percent of PTV’s staff is clerical, which is against the general practice in which only three percent of the staff in the transmission department is clerical.

They apprised the committee that a restructuring of the HR by an international company will take place soon, and it will improve the issue of overstaffing in PTV.

The Chairman inquired about the new board of the PTVC, and was told by the Ministry that a new seven-member board has been constituted with no private members in it.

He also asked about what the law is on the composition of the board without members from the private sector. The ministry replied that one-third of its members from the private sector is required to complete it but the appointment of the seven members makes it operational.

A lengthy discussion on the Senate’s recommendations for the live airing of Senate proceedings on PTV Parliament was held, and Chairman Javed asked about the telecasting of the Senate session in case simultaneous sessions of both the Houses take place. The ministry responded that in the case of simultaneous sessions, the proceedings of the National Assembly are aired live while the Senate session is broadcast live on the PTV Parliament channel on YouTube.

The Chairman inquired about the quality of the proceedings that are telecast on the YouTube channel and asked whether the quality is fine enough to be picked by any private channel for airing. He also got a demonstration of the proceedings of the Senate on YouTube by the ministry to evaluate the quality, and suggested the revision of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the airing of simultaneous proceedings.

PTV’s officials informed the committee that a PC-1 for an exclusive new channel for the coverage of the Parliament has been approved on a budget of more than one billion.

The ministry officials informed the committee that the launching of the HD PTV is imminent. Senator Javed commented that the committee should also be invited to the inauguration of HD PTV as it has played a proactive role in making the HD project possible.

He emphasized that the content of the drama industry that is being aired these days is causing depression, mental illness, and obsessions among the youth, which is, in turn, resulting in increased domestic violence and intolerance in society.

The Chairman and the committee members held the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as well as the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) responsible for the content of the entertainment channels to be monitored thoroughly in order to spread positivity and inspiration among the youth.

The role of PTV in broadcasting various public service messages was also debated, and Senator Siddiqui emphasized the production of interactive communicative messages to catch the attention of the viewers. Chairman Javed directed the transmission of public service messages during prime time and stressed the transmission of public service messages about child abuse.

He also directed the ministry to take the Senate Standing Committee on board while making policies on advertisements and films. The ministry informed the committee that the policies on advertising and film are approved by the Cabinet. The Chairman then directed the ministry to provide draft copies of the policies.

The meeting was attended by Senators Syed Ali Zafar, Muhammad Tahir Bizinjo, Aon Abbas, Anwar Lal Dean, Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokar, Umer Farooq, and Irfan Ul Haque Siddique. Officials from the Ministry of Information And Broadcasting, PTV, the PEMRA, and all the related departments were also in attendance.