Pakistan Telecommunication Authority [PTA] & Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority
What is PTA?
PTA is an agency responsible for all telecommunication operations, including establishment, operation and maintenance.
How and when was it formed?
Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996 [2006 Amendments]
What is PTA’s mandate?
o Establish and create an equitable regulatory regime
o Promote investment
o Encourage competition
o Protect consumer interest
o Provide and ensure high quality information and communications technology (ICT) services
What are PTA’s functions?
o Provide telecommunication services and regulate the systems used by these services
o Protect the rights of the consumers as well as the licensees; it also makes sure that the services provided are of high quality and affordable, as well as provide competitive pricing to consumers by discouraging monopolies and encouraging competition
o Helps modernize the systems used by the companies
o Body is responsible for investigating any complaints lodged against the companies
o Acts as advisors to the Federal Governments on future policies that relate to ICT
o To carry out other functions, when assigned by the Federal Government
Important powers the PTA possesses?
o Grant, renew, monitor, enforce, reject or revoke licenses for telecommunication services and systems
o Prescribe terms and conditions of license, or modify licenses
o Regulate tariffs for telecommunication services, and transfers of licenses
o Prescribe standards of all equipment, and ensure that said equipment falls under the standards, approve the equipment and installers.
o Inspect equipment and premise owned or rented by licensees
o May summon and investigate licensees or any relevant person, upon enquiry
o Appoint an Administrator when a licensee violates any provision of the Act
o Develop national telecommunication numbering plans
o Gather information, local, national and international, on telecommunication, and analysis the impact on Pakistan
o Issue regulations of powers and performance of own functions
o Charge a fee on licenses as well as any other fees, as long as within the maximum set by a Committee of the Cabinet
– Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act 1996 (Amended 2006) [http://www.pta.gov.pk/media/telecom_act_170510.pdf]
What is PEMRA?
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, established under PEMRA Ordinance 2002, is a regulatory body aimed to facilitate and regulate private electronic media.
What is PEMRA’s mandate?
o Enhance the quality and standards of information, education and entertainment.
o Increase variety of media available to the people of Pakistan, especially within the news, current affairs, religious knowledge, art, culture, science, technology, economic development, social sector concerns, music, sports, drama and other subjects of public and national interest
o Allows accessibility of media, to local communities.
o By providing free flow of information, PEMRA establishes transparency and good governance of its functions, which allows for PEMRA to be held accountable as well.
* PEMRA’s ordinance does has an indemnity clause which excludes liability of employees, therefore, the accountability mandate is unclear.
What are PEMRA’s functions?
o Facilitation, regulation, establishment, operation and distribution of all broadcast media that are created for local, domestic and international target audiences.
What powers does PEMRA have?
o Power to make regulations and decisions that relate to the purposes of the Ordinance
o Issue licenses for broadcast media and distribution services; have the power to reject/revoke licenses, if they fail to meet requirements or comply with the standards of the Ordinance
o Prescribe the forms of the licenses, including the working, installing, operating or dealing in transmission broadcast of distribution apparatus and the manner in which applications for the licenses shall be granted
o Prescribe terms and conditions of license, including license fee, as well as the distribution or broadcast operators who own or control more than one enterprise
o Set standards and measures of all areas of broadcasting, including the establishment of media station, installation, distribution or teleporting equipment and so on, as well as maintains and controls standards of decency in terms of content, as established by the Authority.
o Define the circumstances constituting undue concentration of media ownership and abuse of powers and anti-competitive practices by media companies; they also have the capability of quashing monopolies.
– Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance 2002, as amended by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Amendment) Act 2007 [Act No. II of 2007)
What policies has PEMRA formulated to date?
o Deregulation policy: http://www.pta.gov.pk/media/telecom25092003.pdf
o Mobile cellular policy: http://www.pta.gov.pk/media/Mobile_Cellular_Policy_Jan_28_2004.pdf
o Broadband Policy: http://www.pta.gov.pk/media/bbp.pdf
o Global Mobile Personal Communications by Satellite: http://www.pta.gov.pk/media/gmpcs.pdf
What rules & regulations has PEMRA formulated to date?
o Pemra Rules 2009
– Distribution Service Operations 2011
– RADIO BROADCAST STATION OPERATIONS 2012
– TELEVISION BROADCAST STATION OPERATIONS 2012
o COUNCILS OF COMPLAINTS RULES 2010
o CODE OF CONDUCT
What is the media commission? When and how was it formed?
On 15th January, through deliberations on a number of petitions pertaining to media accountability, rendered an order for the appointment of a Commission to oversee the activities of the media and to ensure transparency within the system and to enforce a code of conduct.
What is its mandate?
To enquire into allegations of media related corruption and to suggest steps to ensure impartial and independent media for the upcoming elections
What is its role and responsibilities?
To ensure accountability within the media, both electronic and print and to bring to trial any person or persons accused of accepting any form of monetary or non monetary bribe to guarantee the publishment of any material.
What recommendations have been made by the Media Commission so far to the Supreme Court ?
There have been no recommendations made by the Media Commission but observations. A number of journalists and bodies have been listed as having accepted bribes to air advertisements of certain political entities.
Can PTA and PEMRA be merged? How?
Legally, PTA and PEMRA can be merged; however the merger will include the repealing of the PTA and PEMRA legislation and enacting a new legislation under one Act. A Bill must be proposed by either of the Houses [The National Assembly, which is the Lower House, or the Senate, which is the Upper House]. Majority vote is required to forward the Bill, and if there is majority, the Bill is passed on to the other House for review. If the other House passes it without amendment, it is presented to the President for assent; otherwise the House has 90 days to either accept or reject it; if 90 days pass and there is no decision, then there is a joint sitting with the President of both the the Houses. [The procedure of a Money Bill is slightly different but irrelevant to the situation]. In the joint sitting, a majority vote is required to pass the Bill.
Evidently, the prime issues of enacting a new legislation after repealing a new one is time. Drafting and enacting a new law is a lengthy process; the issue of PTA and PEMRA is not one many would consider crucial or necessary given the current situation and state of Pakistan. Thus the question arises: is there a need for new legislation or body when there are existing ones already? Is the issue one of necessity to utilize Parliament’s time? Upon discussion with the former High Court Judge it was ascertained that in order for, the PTA and PEMRA to be merged, the old legislation which authorized the establishment of these bodies would have to be repealed, effectively abolishing the two bodies and then reconstituting them with new legislation.
How does it work in other common law countries? Are media and telecommunication bodies separate or housed under one authority?
United Kingdom: The Office of Communications (Ofcom) regulates TV and radio sectors, mobiles postal services and airwaves. OFCOM came into existence with the passing of the Communications Act 2003. The new body, which would replace several existing authorities, was conceived as a “super-regulator” to oversee media channels that were rapidly converging through digital transmission.
Ofcom launched on 29 December 2003, formally inheriting the duties that had previously been the responsibility of five different regulators.
- the Broadcasting Standards Commission,
- the Independent Television Commission,
- the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel),
- the Radio Authority, and
- the Radiocommunications Agency.
The Communications Act 2003 gave powers to the Office of Communications to operate. Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code sets rules for TV and radio stations. The Code sets standards for television and radio shows which broadcasters have to follow. It includes rules designed to protect viewers and listeners from harm and offence – such as what can be screened on TV before the 9pm watershed. Other areas of the Broadcasting Code address issues such as impartiality and accuracy, sponsorship and commercial references as well as fairness and privacy.
Every time Ofcom receives a complaint from a viewer or listener, we assess it under the Broadcasting Code to see if it needs further investigation. If Ofom finds a programme has broken these rules, then it will be found in breach of the Code and Ofcom will publish this decision.
The UK Government has is intent on limiting the powers of OFCOM, link to which can be found at:http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/oct/14/ofcom-scms-jeremy-hunt
Lessons on the Merger of these Public Regulatory Authorities: http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2006/07/05061175.pdf
Creation of OFCOM could be disastrous: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/2737640/Ofcom-creation-could-be-disaster.html
Bangladesh: The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission is an independent commission responsible for regulating all matters related to telecommunications (wire, cellular, satellite and cable) The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission was formed under the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act 2001. BTRC initiated a massive surveillance movement, details of which can be found on: http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2007/10/05/internet-user-profiling-and-surveillance-process-initiated-in-bangladesh/ and https://www.privacyinternational.org/reports/bangladesh/iii-surveillance-policies
Australia: The Australian Communications and Media Authority is responsible for the regulation of broadcasting, the internet, radiocommunications and telecommunications. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is an Australian government statutory authority within the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (Australia) (DBCDE) portfolio.
India: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is responsible for both the telecom and broadcasting sectors in India. In regard to privacy and safeguards, The Center for Internet and Security published the following article by Elonnai Hickock which can be accessed at: http://cis-india.org/internet-governance/blog/privacy/privacy-telecommunications
Is Internet content regulated in Pakistan?
According to Abid Hussain Imam, Assistant Professor of Law and Policy, at Lahore University of Management and Sciences (LUMS), PTA has been involved in regulating internet content in Pakistan. There is no law that gives the PTA the authority to do so. Despite that, PTA has been blocking internet content and website that, under the Pakistan Penal Code, can be classified as obscene, blasphemous or could incite violence. (Imam) (Source: http://lums.edu.pk/uploads/others/free_speech_iis.pdf)
Is there a distinction between media content and Internet content?
Main distinction is that media content is regulated by a governmental body, which controls the type of information released to the user; whereas, internet content is unregulated, chosen by the informer, and voluntarily accessed by the users, at different times. People choose what the upload on the internet, while media content is predetermined by the regulatory body.