Senate body launches probe into lingering FM radios’ renewal issue

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Staff Report

ISLAMABAD

Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting has summoned PEMRA to submit report on its engagement with private radios and appraise it of its future plans to make this dwindling sector competitive enough to not only retain the present investors but also attract the new too.

The Senate Committee has put briefing by the PEMRA on the subject on top of its agenda in the meeting to be held today (Tuesday).

At least 200 private radios need renewal of their licenses and the matter remains pending with the PEMRA due to a row  on question how much the existing FM operators are charged for the renewal of their licenses.

The issue has been taken up by Senate body after the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) threatened to go off air due to PEMRA’s persistent demand that the radio owners should pay license renewal fee as per the last bidding in the concerned districts, which the FM owners insist is arbitrary and illogical.

The matter of FMs renewal is pending since last half a decade as private radios turned to litigation pointing out manipulations in license biddings, presence  of around 70 illegal radio stations and their adversities arising out of economic slowdown.

A recent Supreme Court ruling favouring PEMRA prompted PBA to announce shutting down their businesses if they are not heard on license renewal formula.

Around 200 private radio stations are operating across Pakistan disseminating information of public concern and advertising businesses but owners complain that they are being exhorted money from the regulator without auditing their returns and ensuring a competitive environment.

Sources say that the Senate body, led by Senator Faisal Javed, will concentrate on the question as to how the broadcasting sector can be made sustainable and competitive enough to not only retain the existing operators but also attract new investors as well.