As originally published in Synergyzer Issue 2 – Annual 2017 – ‘Abracadabra’

Synergyzer takes opinions from news channel heads about PEMRA’s restriction on Indian content, content production in the current scenario and cutting down on sensational content.

SEEMA TAHER KHAN

CEO
Airwaves Media (TVOne, NewsOne & Waseb)

PEMRA recently introduced restrictions on speech against certain national institutions, but some shows continue to broadcast and violate the restrictions. Have you modified your own programs to meet the rules?

PEMRA issues warnings in advance, but when channels violate the warning then PEMRA imposes fines. When a channel receives a show-cause notice it can appeal its case and present a defense — either on its own or with PBA as a representing body — with proof, evidence and rationale which may or may not be accepted.

We have always been mindful of PEMRA’s laws. Our policy is not to air anything without relevant references, evidence, or proof. There are some anchors who see themselves as larger than life, they take the responsibility for what they say. We have a disclaimer that the views of the anchor do not reflect the views of the channel. Plus, one tries to give a broad guideline to the anchor, but until the guidelines come from a code of conduct from PEMRA, an anchor may feel free to do what they want.

Is there any written agreement between PEMRA & news channels to not broadcast sensationalized content?

It is the responsibility of every channel to ensure that what it is broadcasting is in the interest of the society, community and nation. There is no such thing as no-holds-barred, or say or do anything. You are in a public domain, you cannot be irresponsible. Your channel must have its own code of conduct.

It is very difficult to define what is sensationalism and what is not, so when a channel says that it is merely broadcasting news of, for example, a bomb blast, then PEMRA’s guidelines are: Do not show the post-blast carnage, dismembered limbs and dead bodies.

Also, to go on air and make derogatory remarks about any person, organization, or institution and call it journalism? It’s a personal opinion and should not be allowed.

PEMRA initiated training programs and workshops, particularly for news channels, to streamline them. What has been the outcome of that?

PEMRA has held workshops with particular focus on show producers as well as content. They have focused on a number of things. For example, shows which include reenactments; the trainers shared studies which detail how much crime can rise because of them. So if my channel has six reenactment shows a week and I know the effect they have on society, then I will reduce the frequency, or take them off air or strictly control the content so as not to violate a self-imposed code of conduct.

TAJAMMUL SHAIFTAH

Chief Marketing Officer
ATV & A-Plus

PEMRA recently introduced restrictions on speech against certain national institutions, but some shows continue to broadcast and violate the restrictions. Have you modified your own programs to meet the rules?

Our network has always followed the law of the land, and rules and regulations of the governing and regulatory bodies. We have kept ourselves away from controversies and yellow journalism, keeping our audience informed in the most responsible and credible way possible. Broadcasters have a responsibility to speak out against corruption and uplift society and culture. The aim is to be a responsible, credible and reliable source of information.

Is there any written agreement between PEMRA and the news channels to not broadcast sensationalized content?

The broadcasters agree to clauses related to showing sensationalism; in the License’s annexure provided by PEMRA.

PEMRA initiated training programs and workshops, particularly for news channels, to streamline them. What has been the outcome of that?

As far as I know, the process has started. This is definitely a step in the right direction. PEMRA has started conducting these workshops at the grass root level, providing a clear code of conduct for real journalism. This will definitely help the fraternity overall and make us step forward in the right direction.

SYED ABBAS ALI SHAH

Director Sales & Marketing
APNA GROUP (Abbtakk News, Apna TV, 8XM, Jalwa)

PEMRA recently introduced restrictions on speech against certain national institutions, but some shows continue to broadcast and violate the restrictions. Have you modified your own programs to meet the rules?

Our programs are tailored according to regulations set by the governing institutions and we never breach our code of conduct set henceforth.

Is there any written agreement between PEMRA and news channels to not broadcast sensationalized content?

Yes, PEMRA has provided a set of terms and conditions which news channels have to follow.

PEMRA initiated training programs and workshops, particularly for news channels, to streamline them. What has been the outcome of that?

The decision taken by PEMRA to educate news channels on the outcome of showing sensationalized content and how it can be cut down is the need of the hour. Also, news channels need to learn from highly trained professionals who are aware of universal standards of news broadcasting ethics. The outcome is yet to be obvious, but the trainings are going on. These things take time to bring results.