Introduction

Pakistan’s media landscape, dynamic and evolving, operates under a structured regulatory framework primarily governed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). This framework ensures that broadcast media and distribution services conform to the standards set by the authority, maintaining a balance between free expression and regulatory control.

The Role of PEMRA

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, established under the PEMRA Ordinance, shoulders the responsibility of regulating the establishment and operation of all broadcast media and distribution services. PEMRA’s jurisdiction covers both foreign and local TV and radio channels, ensuring that the content disseminated adheres to the norms and regulations outlined in the PEMRA Laws.

Licensing and Regulation

A critical function of PEMRA is the issuance of licenses for the establishment and operation of broadcast media and distribution services. This process is exclusive to PEMRA and is executed with a commitment to fairness and equity. All potential applicants are evaluated based on criteria that are notified in advance. In situations where the number of applications surpasses the number of available licenses, PEMRA adopts an open and transparent bidding process. This process particularly applies to radio, television, and multichannel multipoint distribution service (MMDS) broadcast station licenses.

Scope of Broadcast Media

Under PEMRA’s regulatory framework, ‘broadcast media’ is a term encompassing media channels that originate and propagate broadcast and prerecorded signals. This can be through terrestrial means or satellite for radio or television. It includes teleporting, providing access to broadcast signals by channel providers, and other forms of broadcast media as permitted by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) with federal government approval.

Distribution Services Defined

‘Distribution services’ in the context of PEMRA’s regulations refer to services that receive broadcast and prerecorded signals from various channels and distribute them to subscribers. These services can be cable, wireless, or satellite-based and include cable TV, Local Multipoint Distribution Service, MMDS, direct-to-home (DTH), and other similar technologies.

Ensuring Compliance and Fairness

PEMRA operates with the principle that no individual or entity can engage in broadcasting or Cable TV operation without a valid license. This regulation ensures a level playing field in the media industry, promoting healthy competition and quality content. Moreover, it safeguards the public interest by monitoring content and ensuring it aligns with national and societal values.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Pakistan’s media law and regulation, spearheaded by PEMRA, play a pivotal role in shaping the country’s media landscape. By regulating licenses, overseeing content distribution, and ensuring compliance with set standards, PEMRA fosters a responsible, fair, and competitive media environment. This regulatory framework is crucial in upholding the integrity of Pakistan’s broadcast media, ensuring that it serves the public interest while embracing technological advancements and evolving media trends.

Telecommunications Services and Media Ownership in Pakistan – A Regulatory Perspective

In Pakistan, the telecommunications sector, a vital component of the nation’s rapidly advancing digital landscape, is governed by the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, National History, and Literary Heritage. Within this framework, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) plays a crucial role in issuing licenses for broadcast media and distribution services, ensuring compliance with national policies and regulations.

PEMRA’s Licensing Categories

PEMRA’s authority extends across various categories of media licenses, which include:

  • International- and National-Scale Stations: Licenses for media entities that operate on a wide scale, encompassing national and international audiences.
  • Provincial-Scale Broadcasts: Licenses for media services that cater to provincial audiences, reflecting local cultures and languages.
  • Local Area or Community-Based Radio and TV Broadcasts: Licenses for community-based media services that cater to specific local areas, promoting regional content and voices.
  • Specific and Specialised Subjects: Licenses for media that focus on particular niches or specialized subject areas.
  • Distribution Services: Licenses for entities that distribute broadcast and prerecorded signals to subscribers.
  • Uplinking Facilities: Licenses for technical services such as teleporting and digital satellite news gathering, which are essential for modern broadcasting.

Ownership Restrictions in Pakistani Media

Pakistan maintains specific regulations regarding the ownership of media services, primarily to safeguard national interests and maintain cultural integrity:

  • Citizenship Requirement: Licenses are generally not granted to non-Pakistani citizens or those not residing in Pakistan.
  • Restrictions on Foreign Companies: Foreign companies, especially those primarily controlled or owned by foreign nationals or entities, face restrictions in obtaining media licenses.
  • Prohibition on Foreign-Funded Entities: Any person or entity funded or sponsored by a foreign government or organization is ineligible for a media license.

These ownership restrictions ensure that the control and influence over Pakistani media remain within the country, thus preserving national sovereignty over broadcasting content.

Cross-Ownership Regulations

Pakistan also has regulations regarding the cross-ownership of media companies, including radio, television, and newspapers. These are designed to prevent monopolies and undue concentration of media power in the hands of a few, thereby promoting diversity in opinions and perspectives in the media landscape.

Ensuring a Balanced Media Environment

These regulations and restrictions by PEMRA and the relevant government ministry are vital for maintaining a balanced media environment. They ensure that the media reflects the diverse culture and values of Pakistan while keeping the interests of the nation at the forefront. By regulating ownership and licensing, the government seeks to promote a media landscape that is both diverse and responsible.In summary, Pakistan’s approach to regulating telecommunications and media services underscores the importance of national control and diversity in the broadcasting sector. Through PEMRA and the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, National History, and Literary Heritage, Pakistan ensures that its media environment aligns with national interests and upholds cultural values while adapting to the evolving dynamics of global telecommunications.

Licensing Landscape for Broadcasting in Pakistan

The broadcast industry in Pakistan operates under the vigilant eye of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), which enforces stringent regulations to maintain the country’s broadcasting standards. Acquiring a broadcasting license under PEMRA involves adherence to specific requirements and compliance with the nation’s socio-cultural values. This blog outlines the key licensing requirements, fees, and authorisation timescales for broadcasting in Pakistan.

Key Licensing Requirements by PEMRA

  • Upholding National Sovereignty: Licensees must preserve the sovereignty, security, and integrity of Pakistan, reflecting the values enshrined in the nation’s constitution.
  • Content Regulations: Broadcast content must avoid promoting violence, terrorism, racial or religious discrimination, extremism, or any obscene and vulgar material. The content should align with commonly accepted standards of decency.
  • Adherence to PEMRA Rules: Compliance with the rules and regulations formulated under the PEMRA Ordinance is mandatory.
  • Broadcasting Public Interest Programmes: Stations are required to broadcast programmes in the public interest as specified by the federal government or PEMRA, which should not exceed 10% of the total broadcast time over 24 hours unless voluntarily extended by the station.
  • In-house Monitoring and Code Compliance: Stations must have an in-house monitoring committee to ensure adherence to the codes of programmes and advertisements approved by PEMRA.
  • Intellectual Property Rights: Licensees must respect copyright laws and other property rights in their broadcasts and advertisements.
  • Transmitting Apparatus NOC: A No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from PEMRA is essential before importing any broadcasting, distribution, or teleporting apparatus.
  • Restrictions on Transfer of Rights: Rights conferred by the licence cannot be sold, transferred, or assigned without PEMRA’s prior written permission.

Licensing Fees and Timescale

The fees for broadcasting licenses vary depending on the type and scale of the broadcast operation. These fees are detailed in PEMRA’s tariff structure and are subject to periodic revisions. Applicants should consult PEMRA’s latest tariff schedule for precise figures.

The timescale for obtaining the necessary authorisations depends on the completeness of the application and adherence to PEMRA’s requirements. The process typically involves the following stages:

  • Submission of Application: Complete applications must be submitted along with the prescribed fee.
  • Evaluation Process: PEMRA evaluates the application, ensuring compliance with all regulatory requirements.
  • Issuance of License: Once the application is deemed satisfactory, PEMRA issues the broadcasting license.

This process can take several weeks to months, depending on the complexity of the application and PEMRA’s evaluation process.

Broadcasting in Pakistan requires navigating a regulatory landscape that emphasizes national integrity, cultural values, and public policy. The licensing process, while stringent, is designed to maintain a responsible and ethical broadcasting environment in the country. Aspiring broadcasters must ensure complete compliance with PEMRA’s regulations, from content standards to legal formalities, to successfully acquire and maintain a broadcasting license in Pakistan.

Understanding the Licensing Process for Broadcast Media and Distribution Services in Pakistan

Introduction

In Pakistan, the establishment and operation of broadcast media and distribution services are meticulously regulated by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). This blog aims to elucidate the licensing process as outlined in the PEMRA Ordinance, highlighting key aspects such as application procedures, public hearings, fee structures, and the duration and renewal of licences.

Application Process and Criteria

  • Filing the Application: Anyone seeking to establish and operate broadcast media or distribution services must apply to PEMRA in the prescribed manner and form. This process ensures that applicants meet the specific criteria set by the regulatory authority.
  • Public Hearings for Transparency: PEMRA conducts public hearings in provincial capitals and Islamabad as part of the application process. This step ensures transparency and public participation, allowing stakeholders to voice their opinions or concerns regarding the potential licensee.
  • Application Fee: Each application must be accompanied by a fee as determined by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). This fee varies based on the type of licence and scale of operation.

Licence Validity and Renewal

  • Duration of Licence: Licences issued by PEMRA are valid for a term of 5, 10, or 15 years. This duration provides stability and a long-term operational framework for licensees.
  • Annual Fee and Renewal: Licensees are required to pay an annual fee, which may be revised from time to time. The renewal of a licence is subject to PEMRA’s prescribed terms and conditions, ensuring continued compliance with regulatory standards. In case of refusal to renew a licence, PEMRA is obliged to provide written reasons for its decision.

Special Permissions and Regulations

  • In-House Distribution Channels: PEMRA may grant permission to distribution service licensees to run in-house distribution channels. These channels are subject to specific terms, including the payment of fees and other charges as prescribed by the PTA. A notable condition is that only Pakistani content is to be distributed on these channels, promoting national content and culture.
  • Regulation of Internet-Based Platforms: While PEMRA regulates traditional distribution platforms, the regulation of internet-based platforms is a joint responsibility with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority. This collaboration ensures comprehensive oversight of both conventional and digital media landscapes.

The licensing process for broadcast media and distribution services in Pakistan, governed by PEMRA, is a well-structured system designed to maintain the integrity and quality of media content. The inclusion of public hearings and the requirement for Pakistani content on in-house channels reflect PEMRA’s commitment to transparency and cultural preservation. As the media landscape continues to evolve with the advent of internet-based platforms, the role of PEMRA, in collaboration with the PTA, becomes increasingly pivotal in shaping a responsible and diverse media environment in Pakistan.

Navigating the PEMRA Licensing Process for Broadcast Media in Pakistan

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) plays a pivotal role in shaping the broadcast media landscape of Pakistan. Prospective broadcasters and media service providers must navigate a detailed application and licensing process, as outlined in the PEMRA Rules 2009. This blog aims to demystify the process, highlighting key steps, criteria, and timelines.

The Application Process and Criteria

  • Application Fee: Each application must be accompanied by a non-refundable processing fee, as specified in Schedule-B of the PEMRA Rules. This fee is part of the regulatory framework to ensure only serious applicants proceed.
  • Criteria for Shortlisting: Applications are rigorously assessed based on a set of criteria, including financial viability, technical feasibility, financial strength, credibility, track record, and commitment to social and economic development objectives. A significant emphasis is placed on Pakistani nationals having majority shareholding and management control.
  • Open and Transparent Bidding: In scenarios where the number of applicants exceeds the available licences, PEMRA prescribes procedures for open and transparent bidding. This approach ensures fairness and equal opportunity for all potential licensees.

Decision-Making Timeline

  • 100-Day Decision Window: PEMRA commits to making a decision on each application within 100 days from its receipt. This period includes obtaining clearances from the Ministry of Interior and, where necessary, frequency allocations from the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB).

Post-Application Steps

  • Licence Grant: Upon meeting the criteria and paying the prescribed fees and charges, the applicant is granted a licence by PEMRA. It is crucial that each licensee adheres to the general terms and conditions outlined in Schedule-C of the PEMRA Rules.
  • Licence Fee and Security Deposit: Successful applicants are required to deposit the applicable licence fee and, if applicable, a security deposit as listed in Schedule-B. Notably, the security deposit is refundable after one year of satisfactory operation.

The licensing process governed by PEMRA is comprehensive, designed to ensure that broadcast media in Pakistan operates within a framework that supports technical innovation, market advancement, and contributes to universal service and broader social and economic goals. This well-defined process underlines PEMRA’s commitment to maintaining a balanced, fair, and responsible media environment in Pakistan, encouraging the growth of media services that are both technically sound and socially responsible. As the media landscape evolves, PEMRA’s role in regulating and fostering a dynamic media environment becomes increasingly significant, ensuring the media’s alignment with national interests and societal values.

Foreign Programmes and Local Content Requirements in Pakistani Broadcasting

In the evolving landscape of Pakistani media, the broadcasting of foreign-produced programmes and the inclusion of local content are subject to specific regulations. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) plays a crucial role in overseeing these aspects, ensuring a balance between international influences and the preservation of national cultural and social values.

Regulations on Foreign Content

PEMRA’s regulations mandate licensees to carry channels of the National Broadcaster along with licensed satellite TV and foreign satellite TV channels that have obtained landing rights permission. This ensures that foreign content entering Pakistani territory is regulated and aligned with national standards and interests. These licensees are obliged to provide ‘basic service’, a collection of satellite TV channels determined by PEMRA, featuring a diverse range of content including religious, educational, informational, news, and entertainment.

However, there is a restriction on relaying foreign satellite TV channels that haven’t obtained the necessary landing rights from PEMRA. This policy prevents unregulated foreign content from influencing the local media landscape and ensures that all broadcasted content aligns with Pakistan’s legal and cultural framework.

Local Content Requirements

Licensees are also required to offer at least one basic service package that includes must-carry channels. These channels consist of national broadcasters, non-commercial educational channels licensed by PEMRA, and other free-to-air television channels as determined by the authority. This package is distributed to subscribers for a fixed minimum monthly subscription fee, which is capped by PEMRA.

PEMRA’s focus on including must-carry channels in every basic service package underscores its commitment to promoting local content and ensuring its accessibility to the general public. This approach not only supports local creators and industries but also reinforces national identity and values through media.

Restrictions and Prohibitions

Recently, PEMRA issued a notification banning the airing of Indian content. Additionally, programmes produced by international entities require prior approval from PEMRA. This measure reflects the authority’s proactive stance in safeguarding national interests and cultural integrity.

Moreover, PEMRA prohibits the broadcasting, rebroadcasting, or distribution of any programme or advertisement that counters the ideology of Pakistan or is deemed harmful to law and order, public peace, national security, or commonly accepted standards of decency.

Web TV and OTT Distribution

It’s noteworthy that Web TV and Over-The-Top (OTT) distribution services fall outside the scope of PEMRA’s regulations. This segment of the media, growing rapidly in popularity and reach, operates without the content restrictions that traditional broadcast media face. This area represents a dynamic and less regulated frontier in the Pakistani media landscape, offering a diverse array of content to viewers. The regulatory framework established by PEMRA reflects a careful balancing act between embracing global media trends and protecting national interests and values. By regulating foreign content and promoting local programming, PEMRA plays a pivotal role in shaping a media environment that resonates with the cultural and social ethos of Pakistan.

Regulation of Broadcast Media Advertising in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the advertising landscape within broadcast media is meticulously regulated by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). This regulatory body ensures that all advertisements broadcast or distributed by media operators adhere strictly to the PEMRA Laws, alongside the Motion Pictures Ordinance 1979 and its associated rules and code of conduct. Additionally, these advertisements must align with the TV Code of Advertising Standards and Practices in Pakistan, as well as the Advertisement Code issued by PEMRA.

One of the key regulations involves the structuring of advertisement breaks within regular programming. An uninterrupted advertising segment cannot exceed three minutes, and there must be a minimum of fifteen minutes between two successive advertisement breaks. This regulation not only maintains program integrity but also ensures a balanced viewing experience for the audience.

For the content of the advertisements themselves, the regulations are stringent and multifaceted. Advertisements must respect the laws of Pakistan, upholding the country’s moral, decency, and religious norms. PEMRA has outlined a comprehensive list of prohibitions for advertisements, including but not limited to:

  • Promotion of sedition, anarchy, violence, or any content against the Constitution of Pakistan.
  • Content that incites crime, disorder, violence, or glorifies obscenity.
  • Glorification of adultery, lustful passions, alcoholic beverages, or non-Islamic values.
  • Distortion of historical facts or misrepresentation of national leaders.
  • Content that stirs racial, sectarian, or class hatred.
  • Anything that undermines human dignity, social equality, or the sanctity of home and family.
  • Advertisements with predominantly religious or political content.
  • Misleading or deceptive content, particularly those making unverifiable claims about products.
  • Indecent, vulgar, or offensive themes.

Furthermore, advertisers are prohibited from marketing defective products harmful to health or making misleading claims about their goods. Special care is taken to protect children from persuasive advertising that could unduly influence their purchasing decisions or pressure their parents.

It’s important to note that while broadcast media advertising falls under these strict regulations, online advertising operates in a somewhat different regulatory sphere. Online advertisements are not currently subject to the same level of oversight by PEMRA. This difference in regulatory frameworks presents a unique challenge, as the digital advertising space continues to grow and evolve in Pakistan.

Overall, the regulatory approach in Pakistan towards broadcast media advertising is comprehensive, aiming to safeguard societal values and ensure responsible advertising practices.

Understanding Must-Carry Obligations in Pakistan’s Broadcasting Networks

In Pakistan, the regulatory framework for broadcasting distribution networks is governed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), which stipulates specific must-carry obligations for licensees. These regulations are designed to ensure a balanced and diverse range of programming that caters to various public interests.

According to PEMRA’s licensing terms, all licensees are mandated to carry channels from the National Broadcaster and all licensed satellite TV and foreign satellite TV channels that have been granted landing rights by PEMRA. This policy ensures that a basic service, encompassing a wide array of content including religious, educational, informational, news, and entertainment, is consistently available across distribution networks.

The concept of a ‘basic service package’ is central to these must-carry obligations. Licensees are required to offer at least one such package, which includes free-to-air television channels of national broadcasters, non-commercial educational and health-related TV channels licensed by PEMRA, and other free-to-air television channels as determined by PEMRA. The charge for this basic service package to subscribers is capped at a maximum fee prescribed by PEMRA, promoting affordability and accessibility.

A significant aspect of PEMRA’s regulations is the restriction on carrying certain foreign content. For instance, the airing of Indian content has been expressly banned. Additionally, programs produced by international entities are subject to prior approval from PEMRA. This move is indicative of the authority’s intent to preserve and promote national and cultural values within the media landscape.

Moreover, PEMRA maintains strict control over the nature of the content distributed by licensees. Any program or advertisement deemed contrary to the ideology of Pakistan, or that could potentially incite hatred, disrupt public order, or threaten national security, is prohibited. This includes content that is pornographic, obscene, vulgar, or generally offensive to commonly accepted standards of decency.

The must-carry obligations and associated regulations underscore PEMRA’s role in shaping the broadcasting environment in Pakistan. By enforcing these rules, the authority seeks to balance the need for diverse and informative content with the preservation of national and cultural integrity. As the media landscape continues to evolve, these regulations play a crucial role in guiding the operation of broadcasting distribution networks in Pakistan.

Navigating the Regulation of New Media Content in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the evolving landscape of new media content, particularly Web TV and Over-the-Top TV (OTT) services, is being scrutinized and regulated differently compared to traditional broadcast media. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) plays a pivotal role in this process, as highlighted in its Consultation Paper No. Web&OTT/1-2020, available on its website.

The consultation paper underscores the rapid growth of the Web TV and OTT market and the significant impact these services have on traditional broadcast services. This shift has prompted regulators globally, including PEMRA, to adapt and extend their regulatory frameworks to encompass these new forms of media delivery.

Defining Web TV and OTT Services

Web TV is defined as the broadcast of content, either live or recorded, made available for public viewing through the internet. This content can be accessed either freely or through a subscription fee. The key characteristic of Web TV is that while the service mirrors linear TV, like satellite TV channels licensed by PEMRA, the content delivery medium is the internet. For a service to qualify as Web TV, the content must either be produced by the licensee or the licensee must own its copyright, and it must adhere to PEMRA’s Code of Conduct.

OTT TV, on the other hand, refers to content services accessible over the internet, allowing users to access varied content anytime and anywhere, using various devices. Similar to Web TV, OTT services can be free or subscription-based, and the content must either be produced by the licensee or be under their copyright ownership, conforming to PEMRA’s standards.

Regulatory Perspective on Web TV and OTT Services

PEMRA’s approach to regulating these services stems from the need to provide a level playing field for all players in the media sector. Since OTT and Web TV operators compete for the same advertising or subscription revenue as licensed operators, it’s crucial to regulate these services similarly to traditional media.

The regulation of Web TV and OTT services is based on the nature of the content they offer and how it’s accessed. If a service competes for the same viewers as linear TV and the content leads viewers to expect regulatory protection, it’s likely to fall under the categories of Web TV or OTT. This perspective ensures that as the media environment becomes more digital and internet-based, viewers can expect consistent standards and protections across all platforms.

Looking Ahead

As the media landscape continues to evolve with technological advancements, the regulatory framework established by PEMRA for new media content like Web TV and OTT services represents an essential step towards modernizing media regulation in Pakistan. This approach not only acknowledges the changing nature of content consumption but also ensures that new media platforms operate within a framework that protects viewer interests and maintains content standards. As these platforms grow in popularity and influence, such regulatory oversight will be critical in shaping a balanced and responsible media environment.

Understanding OTT and Web TV Services in the Digital Age

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, Over-the-Top (OTT) and Web TV services are reshaping how we consume media content. These services are distinct from traditional broadcast media, offering a range of content via the internet. Here are some examples that provide insights into what constitutes OTT and Web TV services:

  • Web TV Services:
    • Content Streaming: This includes news, entertainment, movies, dramas, sports, documentaries, and other content made available live or recorded via a website. Such services, competing with linear TV services, are classified as Web TV.
    • Pay Per View Content: A service where the provider charges viewers on a per-view basis for content accessed via a website, while maintaining editorial control over the content.
  • OTT Services:
    • Video-on-Demand: This service offers movies, music, dramas, etc., online through a website, with the provider exercising editorial control over the content.
    • Catch-Up Service: Programs made available through the broadcaster’s website, online media player services, or set-top boxes linked to televisions, using either broadcast technology or video-on-demand.
    • Television Program Archive: This service, provided by content aggregators, includes a range of less recent television programs from various broadcasters or production companies, accessible via websites, online media players, or television platforms.

Non-Commercial or Non-Economic Services:

Services that are primarily non-commercial or non-economic and do not compete with television broadcasting may not fall under the OTT or Web TV categories. This includes public service material and user-generated content posted by individuals for non-commercial sharing within interest communities.

Hybrid Services:

Part of a broader service offering by a provider could constitute an OTT or Web TV service. For instance, a movie and television program download service offered as part of a provider’s non-audio-visual online activities could be considered an OTT Content Service. Additionally, a single platform, such as a website, can host multiple services, each with distinct characteristics.

Navigating the New Media Landscape:

As consumers increasingly turn to digital platforms for their media consumption, understanding the nuances of OTT and Web TV services becomes crucial. These services offer a more diverse, flexible, and user-driven approach to content consumption, significantly differing from traditional broadcast methods. The distinction between these services and their traditional counterparts highlights the dynamic nature of the media industry in the digital era, presenting both challenges and opportunities for content providers and regulators alike.

This evolving landscape necessitates a comprehensive understanding of what constitutes OTT and Web TV services, ensuring that providers and consumers navigate this space effectively, keeping abreast of the latest trends and regulatory frameworks that govern these modern media formats.

The Digital Revolution in Broadcasting: Pakistan’s Transition from Analogue to Digital

The media landscape in Pakistan has been undergoing a significant transformation with the shift from analogue to digital broadcasting. This transition, driven by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), marks a pivotal change in how audiences access and engage with television content.

The Roadmap to Digital Switchover:

PEMRA initiated a directive for all cable operators in Pakistan to upgrade their analogue cable systems to digital ones. This nationwide transition was set to commence in 12 major cities, with an estimated cost of 90 billion rupees. The original plan was to digitalize these cities by September 2016 and then progressively cover the entire urban areas of the country. However, due to various challenges, including litigation against PEMRA regarding the auction of Direct-to-Home (DTH) licences, the deadline was extended to the end of May 2017 for major cities.

Implications of the Digital Switchover:

  • Enhanced Viewing Experience: Digital broadcasting offers superior picture and sound quality, providing a more immersive and satisfying viewing experience for the audience.
  • Increased Channel Capacity: Digital systems can accommodate more channels in the same bandwidth, offering viewers a broader range of content choices.
  • Interactive Services: The digital format allows for interactive services, such as on-demand content and enhanced information services, further enriching the viewer experience.
  • Efficient Use of Spectrum: Digital broadcasting is more spectrum-efficient, freeing up valuable frequency bands for other uses.

Reallocation of Frequencies:

The freed-up radio frequencies, a result of the switchover, are managed based on the Pakistan Table of Frequency Allocations. This comprehensive technical document aligns with the ITU Radio Regulations and outlines the allocation of bands to various types of services. The reallocation process is dynamic and regularly updated to reflect the evolving needs of the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors.

Challenges and Opportunities:

The transition to digital broadcasting in Pakistan, while challenging, presents significant opportunities. It paves the way for a more modern, efficient, and diverse broadcasting ecosystem. The digital switchover is not just a technical upgrade but a fundamental shift in the broadcasting paradigm, promising enhanced consumer choice and a new era of media consumption in Pakistan.

As the country continues to navigate this transition, the focus remains on overcoming the challenges and fully realizing the potential of digital broadcasting. This change is a crucial step towards keeping pace with global technological advancements and catering to the evolving demands of the Pakistani audience.

Navigating the Digital Landscape: Regulation and Spectrum Use in Pakistan’s Broadcasting Sector

The evolution of broadcasting in Pakistan has been deeply intertwined with how broadcasters use their allocated spectrum. This use is not just a technical detail but a crucial aspect of ensuring efficient and equitable access to broadcasting resources.

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Spectrum Usage and Regulation:

In Pakistan, broadcasters are granted specific spectrum frequencies for their operations by the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB). This allocation is precise, and broadcasters are obligated to use their assigned spectrum solely for the purposes defined in their licence. Deviating from these stipulated uses without appropriate permissions can result in regulatory consequences. This strict regulation ensures that the spectrum, a valuable and limited resource, is used efficiently and in the best interest of the public.

Media Plurality: The Uncharted Territory:

Media plurality, an essential component of a vibrant and democratic society, ensures diverse voices and perspectives in the media landscape. However, in Pakistan, there is no formal process in the public domain for assessing or regulating media plurality. This lack of a formal mechanism means that the responsibility of safeguarding media plurality often falls on non-government entities.

One such example is the Freedom Network, a private entity operating an independent media ownership monitor for Pakistan. This platform provides insights into who owns and controls various media outlets, offering a snapshot of the media ownership landscape in the country. However, it’s important to note that the accuracy and completeness of the data on such platforms are not officially verified by regulatory authorities.

The Way Forward:

The absence of a formal regulatory process for assessing media plurality highlights a gap in the media regulatory framework of Pakistan. In an age where media influence is immense, and consolidation of media ownership can lead to biases and a narrowing of perspectives, the establishment of a system to monitor and regulate media plurality could be a significant step forward. It would not only ensure a multiplicity of voices and opinions in the public sphere but also maintain the integrity and diversity of the media landscape.

As Pakistan continues to navigate the complexities of digital broadcasting and media regulation, the introduction of mechanisms to assess and regulate media plurality could enhance the robustness of its media sector. Such initiatives would contribute to a more informed, engaged, and diverse public discourse, vital for the health of any democratic society.

Emerging Trends and Transformations in Pakistan’s Media Regulation

The media landscape in Pakistan is undergoing significant transformations, shaped by emerging trends and regulatory changes. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has been instrumental in steering these changes, ensuring that the evolving media space aligns with national interests and public values.

Ban on Indian Content and Scrutiny of International Productions:

A notable shift in Pakistan’s media regulation is PEMRA’s recent decision to ban the airing of Indian content. This move reflects the country’s stance on content that may affect its national interests. Additionally, programmes produced by international entities now require prior approval from PEMRA. This regulatory measure aims to monitor content from abroad, ensuring it aligns with Pakistan’s ideological framework and societal norms.

Restrictions on Potentially Harmful Content:

PEMRA has taken a firm stance against any broadcast content that could potentially harm the social fabric of the country. This includes content that might incite hatred, disrupt public order, or threaten national security. The authority is particularly vigilant against any material deemed pornographic, obscene, or vulgar, ensuring that broadcast content adheres to commonly accepted standards of decency.

Regulating the Web TV and OTT Services:

In the digital arena, PEMRA has turned its attention to the rapidly growing sectors of Web TV and Over-the-Top (OTT) TV content services. With the Consultation Paper No. Web&OTT/1-2020, PEMRA acknowledges the disruption these digital services have caused to traditional broadcasting. The regulatory body emphasizes the need for a level playing field, ensuring that Web TV and OTT operators, competing for the same advertisement or subscription revenue as licensed operators, are regulated equivalently.

Defining Web TV and OTT Services:

PEMRA defines ‘Web TV’ as content broadcast live or recorded through the internet, available for public viewing either free of cost or through a subscription. This format is akin to linear TV but differs in its medium of delivery, which is via the internet. The content on Web TV must comply with PEMRA’s Code of Conduct. Similarly, ‘OTT’ TV refers to content services accessible over the internet on various devices, characterized by flexibility in access and payment models. Like Web TV, OTT content also needs to adhere to PEMRA’s regulatory standards.

Future Outlook:

As the lines between traditional and digital broadcasting continue to blur, PEMRA’s role in regulating these domains becomes increasingly critical. The authority’s proactive measures in defining and regulating new media formats like Web TV and OTT services indicate its commitment to adapting to technological advancements while safeguarding national interests and cultural values.

In conclusion, these emerging trends and regulatory changes in Pakistan’s media landscape signify the country’s efforts to balance the dynamism of the media sector with the need for responsible broadcasting that respects the nation’s values and security concerns. As the media environment continues to evolve, further regulatory adaptations can be expected to ensure a harmonious and progressive media ecosystem in Pakistan.

Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) was established in March 2002 through an Ordinance.

According to the PEMRA Ordinance, the objectives of PEMRA include:

  •  improving standards of information, education, and entertainment;
  • enlarging the choice of people for news, current affairs, and music;
  • improving access of people to mass media at the local and community level;
  • and ensuring accountability by optimizing the free flow of information;

Comprising of thirteen members including the chairman, PEMRA is mandated to issue licenses to the private sector for broadcast media and distribution stations at international, national, provincial, and local level.

PEMRA is authorized under this Ordinance to:

i) issue licenses for broadcast media – radio and television;

ii) issue licenses for distribution systems – Cable TV, MMDS/LMDS, and Direct to Home (DTH) and

iii) regulate the establishment and operation of the licensees.

Power of the Federal Government to issue directives:The Federal Government may, as and when it considers necessary, issue directives to the Authority on matters of policy, and such directives shall be binding on the Authority, and if a question arises whether any matter is a matter of policy or not, the decision of the Federal Government shall be final.

Members of Authority: The Authority shall consist of a Chairman and twelve members to be appointed by the President of Pakistan.The Chairman of the Authority shall be an eminent professional of known integrity and competence having substantial experience in media, business, management, finance, economics or law.

Members of Authority

Out of twelve members one shall be appointed by the Federal Government on full time basis and five shall be eminent citizens chosen to ensure representation of all provinces with expertise in media, law, human rights, and social service. Of the five members from the general public, two members shall be women. Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Secretary, Interior Division, Chairman, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and Chairman, Central Board of Revenue shall be the ex officio members.The remaining two members shall be appointed by the Federal Government on need basis on the recommendation of the Chairman.

Categories of licences

  • International and National scale stations;
  • Provincial scale broadcast;
  • Local Area or Community based Radio and TV Broadcast;
  • Specific and specialized subjects;
  •  Distribution services; and
  • Uplinking facilities including teleporting and DSNG.
  • Terms and conditions of licence
  • License is obtained through bidding.

In granting the licence PEMRA is under a duty to

  • ensure preservation of the sovereignty, security and integrity of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan;
  • ensure preservation of the national, cultural, social and religious values and the principles of public policy as enshrined in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan;
  • ensure that all programmes and advertisements do not contain or encourage violence, terrorism, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination, sectarianism, extremism, militancy, hatred, pornography, obscenity, vulgarity or other material offensive to commonly accepted standards of decency
  • comply with rules made under this Ordinance;
  • Broadcast programmes in the public interest
  • specified by the Federal Government or the Authority in the manner indicated by the Government or, as the case may be, the Authority,
  • provided that the duration of such mandatory programmes do not exceed ten per cent of the total duration of broadcast or operation by a station in twenty-four hours except if a station chooses to broadcast such content for a longer duration;
  • comply with the codes of programmes and advertisements approved by the Authority and appoint an in-house monitoring committee, under intimation to the Authority, to ensure compliance of the Code
  • not broadcast or distribute any programme or advertisement in violation of copyright or other property right;
  • obtain NOC from Authority before import of any transmitting apparatus for broadcasting, distribution or teleporting operation
  • not sell, transfer or assign any of the rights conferred by the licence without prior written permission of the Authority.

Duration for consideration of the application for a licence

The Authority shall take decision on the application for a licence within one hundred days from the receipt of the application.

Exclusion of monopolies

No person shall be entitled to the benefit of any monopoly or exclusivity in the matter of broadcasting or the establishment and operation of broadcast media or distribution service .Undue concentration of media ownership is not created in any city, town or area and the country as a whole

Licence, application, issuance, refusal and validity.

1-Authority shall hold public hearings in the respective provincial capitals of each Province

2-Each application shall be accompanied by such fee as the Authority may prescribe.

3-A licence shall be valid for a period of five, ten or fifteen years subject to payment of the annual fee prescribed from time to time.

4-The Authority may renew a licence on such terms and conditions

Certain persons/companies who may not to be granted licence by PEMRA

1-a person who is not a citizen of Pakistan or resident in Pakistan;

2-a foreign company organized under the laws of any foreign government

3-a company the majority of whose shares are owned or controlled by foreign nationals or companies whose management or control is vested in foreign nationals or companies

4-any person funded or sponsored by a foreign government or organization

Council of Complaints

The Councils of Complaints at Islamabad, the Provincial capitals and also at such other places as the Federal Government may determine, receive and review complaints against any aspects of programmes broadcast or distributed by a station.The Councils shall have the powers to summon a licensee against whom a complaint has been made and call for his explanation regarding any matter relating to its operation.The Councils may recommend to the Authority appropriate action of censure, fine against a broadcast or CTV station or licensee for violation of the codes of programme content and advertisements

Prohibition of broadcast media or distribution service operation

The Authority shall by order in writing, giving reasons therefore, prohibit any broadcast media or distribution service operator from broadcasting or re-broadcasting or distributing any programme or advertisement if :

(a)it is against the ideology of Pakistan or

(b)is likely to create hatred among the people

Prohibition of broadcast media or distribution service operation

1-is prejudicial to the maintenance of law or order

2-is likely to disturb public peace and tranquility

3-endangers national security

4-Is pornographic, obscene or vulgar or is offensive to the commonly accepted standards of decency

5-engaging in any practice which amounts to abuse of media power by harming the legitimate interests of another licensee or other person.

Power to authorize inspection

A broadcast media station or distribution service premisesshall, at all reasonable times, be open to inspection by an authorized officer under sub-section (1) and the licensee shall provide such officer with every assistance and facility in performing his dutiesThe authorized officer shall, within forty-eight hours of the inspection, submit his inspection report to the Authority.

Power to vary conditions, suspend or revoke the licence

PEMRA can suspend, revoke or vary a licene if the licensee has failed to pay any fee (Suspend), contravened any provision of this Ordinance or licensee has failed to comply with any condition of the licence (Revoke), or the licensee is a company, and its shareholders have transferred a majority of the shares.PEMRA Authority may vary any of the terms and conditions of the licence where it deems that such variation is in the public interest

Appeals

The aggrieved company or individual can, within thirty days of the receipt of such decision or order, refer an appeal to the High Court

Offences and penalties

Any broadcast media or distribution service operator or person who violates any of the provisions of the Ordinance shall be guilty of an offence punishable with a fine which may extend to ten million rupees.Repeating the violation or abetment, is an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.Where the violation is made by a person who does not hold a licence, such violation shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to four years, or with fine, or with both, in addition to the confiscation of the equipment used in the commission of the act.Whosoever damages, removes, tampers with or commits theft of any equipment of a broadcast media, will be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or both.

Media Law and Regulation in Pakistan – An Overview

Introduction

Pakistan’s media landscape, dynamic and evolving, operates under a structured regulatory framework primarily governed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). This framework ensures that broadcast media and distribution services conform to the standards set by the authority, maintaining a balance between free expression and regulatory control.

The Role of PEMRA

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, established under the PEMRA Ordinance, shoulders the responsibility of regulating the establishment and operation of all broadcast media and distribution services. PEMRA’s jurisdiction covers both foreign and local TV and radio channels, ensuring that the content disseminated adheres to the norms and regulations outlined in the PEMRA Laws.

Licensing and Regulation

A critical function of PEMRA is the issuance of licenses for the establishment and operation of broadcast media and distribution services. This process is exclusive to PEMRA and is executed with a commitment to fairness and equity. All potential applicants are evaluated based on criteria that are notified in advance. In situations where the number of applications surpasses the number of available licenses, PEMRA adopts an open and transparent bidding process. This process particularly applies to radio, television, and multichannel multipoint distribution service (MMDS) broadcast station licenses.

Scope of Broadcast Media

Under PEMRA’s regulatory framework, ‘broadcast media’ is a term encompassing media channels that originate and propagate broadcast and prerecorded signals. This can be through terrestrial means or satellite for radio or television. It includes teleporting, providing access to broadcast signals by channel providers, and other forms of broadcast media as permitted by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) with federal government approval.

Distribution Services Defined

‘Distribution services’ in the context of PEMRA’s regulations refer to services that receive broadcast and prerecorded signals from various channels and distribute them to subscribers. These services can be cable, wireless, or satellite-based and include cable TV, Local Multipoint Distribution Service, MMDS, direct-to-home (DTH), and other similar technologies.

Ensuring Compliance and Fairness

PEMRA operates with the principle that no individual or entity can engage in broadcasting or Cable TV operation without a valid license. This regulation ensures a level playing field in the media industry, promoting healthy competition and quality content. Moreover, it safeguards the public interest by monitoring content and ensuring it aligns with national and societal values.

Q&A on VoIP/Instant Messaging Regulations in Pakistan

What is the regulatory stance on VoIP and instant messaging in Pakistan?

In Pakistan, the regulation of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and instant messaging is stringent, primarily due to concerns around encrypted data transmission and the ability of law enforcement agencies to monitor communications.

Are encrypted communications allowed on the network?

Transmission of encrypted data as network traffic is generally not permitted under current Pakistani laws. Operators must adhere to standard communication protocols unless they have obtained specific approval from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

Is prior approval required for using non-standard communication modes?

Yes, operators are required to obtain prior approval from the PTA for using any non-standard mode of communication. This includes the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and encrypted messaging protocols.

 What constitutes a violation of communication regulations?

The use of communication methods that hide or modify communications to the extent that they cannot be monitored is considered a violation of applicable laws. This typically includes non-standard or encrypted communications without PTA’s approval.

Are service providers required to assist in decryption and interception?

Yes, service providers in Pakistan are mandated to provide local enforcement agencies with the capabilities to decrypt and intercept encrypted services. This is to enable monitoring and surveillance for security and law enforcement purposes.

 How is the regulation of messaging and VoIP viewed currently?

Regulation relating to messaging and VoIP is a highly topical and sensitive issue in Pakistan. It balances the need for secure communication channels against national security and law enforcement requirements. As technology evolves, these regulations are continually assessed and updated to address new challenges and concerns.

Q&A on Processing of Personal Data in the Cloud Context in Pakistan

Q1: What responsibilities do Regulated Entities (REs) have regarding data protection in cloud outsourcing?

A1: REs are responsible for safeguarding data confidentiality and integrity when outsourcing workloads to cloud service providers. They must ensure data protection even when the data is processed or stored by external cloud service providers.

Q2: What is the status of the personal data protection bill (PDP Bill) in Pakistan?

A2: The Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication is currently seeking comments on the PDP Bill draft. This bill has gone through several iterations, incorporating stakeholder feedback. It has not yet been enacted into law but is in the process of being tabled in Parliament.

Q3: What are the transfer restrictions for personal data under the PDP Bill?

A3: The PDP Bill mandates that personal data should not be transferred outside Pakistan or to systems not under direct control of the federal or provincial governments unless the recipient country offers equivalent personal data protection. The data must be processed in accordance with the PDP Bill and requires the consent of the data subject.

Q4: Under what conditions can personal data stored on a cloud be processed according to the PDP Bill?

A4: Personal data in the cloud can be processed with the data subject’s consent or if necessary for contractual performance, legal obligations, vital interests of the data subject, administration of justice, legitimate interests pursued by the data controller, or functions conferred by law.

Q5: What are the requirements for processing personal data under the PDP Bill?

A5: Personal data must be processed for a lawful purpose directly related to the data controller’s activity, be necessary and directly related to that purpose, and be adequate but not excessive in relation to that purpose.

Q6: How does the PDP Bill categorize and regulate critical personal data?

A6: Critical personal data under the PDP Bill is required to be processed in servers or data centers located in Pakistan. There will be a framework and conditions for transferring other personal data outside Pakistan, along with a mechanism to keep a copy of personal data within Pakistan.

Q7: What is the role of the National Commission for Personal Data Protection in relation to the PDP Bill?

A7: The National Commission for Personal Data Protection, which is to be established within six months of the PDP Bill becoming law, will devise frameworks for transferring personal data outside Pakistan and for maintaining a copy of personal data within the country.

Q&A on Compliance Requirements for Cloud Computing and Hosting Services in Pakistan

Q1: How do the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA) and RBUO Rules 2021 apply to cloud computing and hosting services?

A1: Providers of cloud computing and hosting services may be classified as “service providers,” “social media companies,” or “significant social media companies” under PECA and the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online (RBUO) Rules 2021. This classification subjects them to specific compliance obligations.

Q2: What is the definition of an “online information system” under these regulations?

A2: An “online information system” refers to any information system that is connected to other systems via the internet, including any cloud-based content distribution services.

Q3: What constitutes a “service provider” under PECA and RBUO Rules?

A3: A “service provider” includes any person who:

  • Manages electronic communication through information systems (sending, receiving, storing, processing, distributing).
  • Owns, operates, or controls a public switched network or telecommunication services.
  • Processes or stores data for electronic communication services or their users.

Q4: How is a “significant social media company” defined?

A4: A “significant social media company” is defined as a social media company with over half a million users in Pakistan or those specially notified by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

Q5: What is the definition of a “social media company”?

A5: A “social media company” is any entity that owns, provides, or manages online information systems for social media or social network services.

Q6: What are the compliance requirements for these entities under RBUO Rules?

A6: Under RBUO Rules, these entities must:

  • Provide clear community guidelines for using their online information systems, ensuring users do not violate local laws.
  • Supply any requested information, data, content, or sub-content in a readable and comprehensible format to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as per PECA’s provisions.
  • Implement mechanisms to promptly block live streaming of content related to terrorism, hate speech, pornography, incitement to violence, or national security threats upon notification from the PTA.

Q7: Are there any specific content-related restrictions these entities need to enforce?

A7: Yes, they are required to ensure that their platforms do not host or display content that violates local laws, including content related to terrorism, hate speech, pornography, incitement to violence, or anything detrimental to national security.

Q&A on Internet of Things (IoT), Machine-to-Machine Communications, and Data Protection in Pakistan

Q1: What is the regulatory stance on Internet of Things (IoT) projects and services in Pakistan?

A1: In Pakistan, IoT projects and services do not require special authorization and are not subject to specific requirements. However, telecommunications standards may become relevant depending on the devices used or services provided.

Q2: Who regulates the telecommunications sector in Pakistan?

A2: The telecommunications sector in Pakistan is regulated by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), established under the Pakistan Telecommunication (Reorganisation) Act 1996.

Q3: What are some common restrictions or obligations in telecommunications licenses granted by the PTA?

A3: Licenses granted by the PTA may include:

  • Restrictions on types of telecommunication systems/services, operational areas, and equipment used.
  • Obligations to connect only PTA-approved terminal equipment.
  • Requirements to maintain confidentiality of customer data.

Q4: Do devices used in IoT require any specific approval?

A4: Devices utilizing the radio-electric spectrum for transmitting/receiving information need “type approval” from the PTA before connection to public-switched networks.

Q5: Is there a specific legal framework for machine-to-machine communications in Pakistan?

A5: Pakistan does not have a specific legal framework regulating machine-to-machine communications. Sector-specific regulators enforce data protection as part of their laws and licensing terms.

Q6: What are the data protection concerns related to machine-to-machine communications?

A6: It’s important to ensure machine-to-machine communications do not lead to offences under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), which criminalizes:

  • Unauthorized access, copying, or transmission of data.
  • Interference with information systems.
  • Electronic forgery and fraud.
  • Unauthorized use of identity information, interception, and more.

Q7: Are there regulations to protect against spam and unsolicited communications?

A7: Yes, the Protection from Spam, Unsolicited, Fraudulent and Obnoxious Communication Regulations, 2009, under the PTA Act, apply to all PTA licensees. These regulations aim to protect telecom consumers from harassment, disturbance, and unsolicited communications.

Q&A on Communication Secrecy and Encryption in Pakistan

Q1: Is the transmission of encrypted data allowed on public-switched networks in Pakistan?

A1: No, the transmission of encrypted data as traffic on public-switched networks is not permitted under the applicable laws in Pakistan.

Q2: Can non-standard communication protocols, including encryption, be used without approval?

A2: No, the use of non-standard communication protocols, including encryption, requires prior approval from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA).

Q3: What types of communication methods require PTA approval?

A3: The use of a non-standard mode of communication, such as virtual private networks (VPNs) and encrypted messages, requires prior approval from the PTA.

Q4: Is there a legal consequence for using hidden or modified communications?

A4: Yes, using any mechanisms that result in communications becoming hidden or modified to an extent where they cannot be monitored is considered a violation of applicable laws in Pakistan.

Q&A on Audio-Visual Media Services in Pakistan

What is the role of PEMRA in Pakistan’s media landscape?

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) is responsible for regulating the establishment and operation of all broadcast media and distribution services in Pakistan. It was established under the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002.

 What types of broadcasting does PEMRA regulate?

PEMRA regulates a wide range of broadcasting types, including international, national, provincial, district, local, and special target audience broadcasting.

What are considered ‘broadcast media’ under PEMRA’s regulations?

Broadcast media’ includes media that originates and propagates broadcast and pre-recorded signals by terrestrial means or through satellite for radio or television. This also encompasses teleporting, provision of access to broadcast signals by channel providers, and other forms of broadcast media as specified by PEMRA with federal government approval.

What are ‘distribution services’ as per PEMRA’s definition?

‘Distribution services’ include services that receive broadcast and pre-recorded signals from different channels and distribute them to subscribers. This covers Cable TV, local multipoint distribution service (LMDS), multichannel multipoint distribution service (MMDS), direct-to-home (DTH), and other similar technologies.

Does PEMRA regulate both foreign and local TV and radio channels?

Yes, PEMRA regulates the distribution of both foreign and local TV and radio channels in Pakistan.

Q&A on Licensing Regime for Broadcast Media in Pakistan

 What is the necessity for obtaining a license from PEMRA?

Operating broadcast media or providing distribution services in Pakistan requires a license from PEMRA. This is essential to ensure compliance with national broadcasting standards and regulations.

 What types of licenses does PEMRA issue?

PEMRA issues various licenses including:

  • International and national scale stations
  • Provincial-scale broadcasts
  • Local area or community-based radio and TV broadcasts
  • Broadcasts for specific and specialised subjects
  • Distribution services
  • Uplinking facilities, including teleporting and digital satellite news gathering units (DSNG).

 Can a distribution service licensee run its own in-house channel?

Yes, PEMRA may grant permission to a distribution service licensee to run an in-house distribution channel. However, this is subject to PEMRA’s terms and conditions, and only Pakistani content is permitted on such channels.

What is the validity period of a license granted by PEMRA?

A license granted by PEMRA is valid for a period of five, ten, or fifteen years. This is subject to the payment of an annual fee as prescribed from time to time.

Can a licensee sell or transfer the rights conferred by the PEMRA license?

No, a licensee cannot sell, transfer, or assign any of the rights conferred by the license without prior written permission from PEMRA.

 How does PEMRA process applications for licenses?

PEMRA processes each application in accordance with prescribed criteria and conducts public hearings in the respective provincial capitals or Islamabad before granting or refusing a license.

 What factors are considered in shortlisting applications for a PEMRA license?

Applications are shortlisted based on:

  • Financial viability
  • Technical feasibility
  • Financial strength
  • Credibility and track record
  • Majority shareholding and management control vested in Pakistani nationals
  • Prospects of technical progress and introduction of new technology
  • Market advancement
  • Contribution to universal service objectives
  • Contribution to other social and economic development objectives.

Is there a fee associated with the application for a PEMRA license?

Yes, every application must be accompanied by a non-refundable application processing fee as outlined in Schedule-B of the PEMRA Rules.

Q&A on Ownership Restrictions and Content Requirements in Pakistan’s Broadcast Media

Who is ineligible to receive a license from PEMRA?

PEMRA will not grant a license to:

  • Non-citizens or non-residents of Pakistan
  • Foreign companies organized under foreign laws
  • Companies majorly owned or controlled by foreign nationals or entities
  • Persons funded or sponsored by foreign governments or organizations

 What are the requirements for carrying foreign programmes and local content for PEMRA licensees?

Licensees must:

  • Carry all channels of Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) and licensed satellite TV channels with landing rights permission from PEMRA
  • Provide a “basic service” package, which includes a variety of channels (religious, educational, informational, news, and entertainment)
  • Restrict carrying foreign satellite TV channels to those with PEMRA landing rights
  • Offer at least one basic service package with must-carry channels, at a subscription fee not higher than the maximum rate set by PEMRA
See also  Abortion Law in Pakistan

Are there any restrictions on airing foreign content?

Yes, PEMRA has banned the airing of Indian content. Additionally, airing programs produced by international entities requires prior approval from PEMRA.

What type of content is prohibited by PEMRA?

Content that is:

  • Against the ideology of Pakistan
  • Likely to create hatred among people
  • Prejudicial to law and order
  • Likely to disturb public peace or endanger national security
  • Pornographic, obscene, vulgar, or offensive to accepted standards of decency

 How does PEMRA regulate online content and internet-based platforms?

 While PEMRA regulates traditional distribution platforms, it jointly regulates internet-based platforms with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). However, specific legal frameworks for regulating web TV and over-the-top (OTT) TV content are still under consultation and development.

Can the PTA block online content?

Yes, under the Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online (RBUO) Rules, the PTA has the authority to block online content or entire online systems if the content violates legal standards and is not removed by the service provider or social media company.

 What is the status of regulation for web TV and OTT TV in Pakistan?

 PEMRA has released Consultation Paper No Web&OTT/1-2020 for regulating web TV and OTT TV. However, as of now, there is no specific legal framework in place for such content, except for the guidelines under the RBUO Rules.

Q&A on Telecommunications Regulation in Pakistan

What is the scope of the PTA Act and related regulations?

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Act and its subsequent rules and regulations provide a comprehensive framework to regulate the establishment, maintenance, and operation of telecommunication systems and services in Pakistan.

What are the definitions under the PTA Act?

  • Telecommunications System: This encompasses any system used for the emission, conveyance, switching, or reception of intelligence (signals, data, etc.) within, into, or from Pakistan. It includes various forms of systems like electrical, electromagnetic, electronic, optical, or optio-electronic systems.
  • Telecommunications Service: This refers to services that involve the emission, conveyance, switching, or reception of intelligence within, into, or from Pakistan, using the systems as defined above.

Who needs a licence under the PTA Act?

Any individual or entity wishing to establish, maintain, or operate a telecommunications system or provide telecommunications services in Pakistan must obtain a licence from the PTA.

How broad is the application of the PTA Act?

Given the expansive definitions of telecommunications systems and services, the PTA Act could potentially apply to a wide array of entities and services, covering a vast range of telecommunications activities.

What is the role of the PTA concerning the radio-electric spectrum?

The PTA, through its Frequency Allocation Board (FAB), is responsible for managing applications related to the use of the radio-frequency spectrum. The FAB has exclusive authority to allocate and assign radio frequency spectrum portions for various purposes, including government use, telecommunications services, broadcasting operations, and wireless operations.

What types of services and operations require frequency allocation by the FAB?

This includes, but is not limited to, providers of telecommunications services, telecommunication systems, radio and television broadcasting operations, and public and private wireless operators.

 Are there any specific obligations for network and service providers under the PTA Act?

Yes, providers are obligated to adhere to the terms and conditions set forth in their licences, including restrictions on types of systems or services, areas of operation, and types of equipment that may be included in their systems. They must also ensure the confidentiality of customer data and obtain approval for terminal equipment connected to their systems.

Q&A on Terminal Equipment/Type Approval in Pakistan

 What is terminal equipment in the context of telecommunications?

Terminal equipment refers to devices that can directly or indirectly be connected to a public switched network. This includes a wide range of telecommunication equipment used for communication or data transmission.

Does terminal equipment require approval from the PTA?

Yes, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) requires that terminal equipment receive a type approval before it can be connected to a public switched network. This ensures compliance with specified technical standards.

 

What are the PTA’s conditions for terminal equipment approval?

The PTA may impose conditions on the approval, including limitations on connecting the equipment to specific types of telecommunication systems. The approval process and technical standards are outlined in the Type Approval Technical Standards Regulations 2021 and its subsequent amendment in 2022.

What does a type approval from the PTA signify?

A type approval from the PTA indicates that the telecommunication equipment is suitable for general sale and can be connected to a specific public telecommunication network.

What categories of equipment require type approval from the PTA?

The PTA mandates type approval for several categories of equipment, including:

  • Tracking system devices with SIM/IMEI-based functionality.
  • Satellite terminal equipment.
  • Wireless radio trans/receiver sets with more than 2 MW output power.
  • Devices operating in ISM bands, GNSS, and as per FAB regulations.
  • Short range devices, IoT devices, RFID, Bluetooth, etc.
  • Internet protocol phones, VoIP systems, gateways, etc.
  • PABX or IP-PABX systems.
  • SIM/IMEI/Wi-Fi-based mobile devices like handsets, tablets, dongles.

Are there any exemptions from type approval?

Yes, certain types of equipment are exempted from type approval, including networking equipment, laptops, desktops, non-SIM based tablet PCs, and GPS-only devices.

What are the fees for type approval applications?

The PTA charges a non-refundable processing fee for type approval applications. For locally manufactured equipment, the fee is PKR 5,000 (PKR 2,500 for SRDs and UWBs). For internationally manufactured equipment, the fee is USD 100 (USD 50 for SRDs and UWBs). This fee applies to new applications, amendments to issued certificates, and issuance of duplicate certificates.

Q&A on Challenges with Technology Agreements in Pakistan

1. What is the legal framework for technology agreements in Pakistan?

In Pakistan, technology agreements are not subject to any specific regulations. Instead, they are governed by the Contract Act 1872, which allows the parties considerable flexibility to draft agreements according to their interests and needs.

2. How does the Contract Act 1872 influence technology agreements?

The Contract Act 1872 provides a general legal framework for all contracts, including technology agreements. It sets out the principles of contract formation, performance, and enforcement, allowing parties to structure their technology agreements based on these foundational rules.

3. Can parties freely determine the contents of their technology agreements?

Yes, parties have significant leeway to reflect their interests and intentions in their technology agreements. They can negotiate terms that best suit their business needs and sector-specific requirements, as long as these terms do not contravene existing laws.

4. Are there any legal restrictions on technology agreements?

While there is flexibility, a technology agreement must not be contrary to the law in force. This means that the agreement cannot violate any statutory provisions, regulatory guidelines, or public policy.

5. Do sector-specific regulations impact technology agreements?

Yes, in some cases, sector-specific regulations may impose additional obligations on the parties. For instance, agreements related to telecommunications, data protection, or financial services may need to adhere to regulations specific to those sectors.

6. What are the best practices for drafting technology agreements in Pakistan?

Best practices in the sector often guide the drafting of technology agreements. This includes clear definitions of technical terms, explicit articulation of rights and obligations, confidentiality clauses, data protection considerations, dispute resolution mechanisms, and compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

7. How are disputes in technology agreements typically resolved?

Disputes are usually resolved according to the dispute resolution mechanism specified in the agreement, which may include arbitration, mediation, or litigation. The choice of jurisdiction and applicable law are also key considerations in the agreement.

Q&A on Foreign Exchange Controls and Technology Agreements in Pakistan

1. What is the main challenge for local organizations in Pakistan when entering technology agreements with non-residents?

The primary challenge is seeking an exemption from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) due to restrictions on outward payments to non-residents under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act 1947 (FERA).

2. What does FERA stipulate regarding payments to non-residents?

FERA prohibits individuals or entities in Pakistan from making payments to non-residents, unless there is a general or special exemption granted by the SBP.

3. Has the SBP provided any exemptions to these restrictions?

Yes, the SBP has granted a general exemption allowing scheduled banks to release foreign exchange up to USD 100,000 per invoice for private sector companies and branches of foreign companies in Pakistan, subject to certain conditions.

4. What conditions must be met for this exemption?

The companies must be conducting permissible business activities, paying local taxes, and repatriating profits abroad in compliance with applicable laws.

5. What types of IT service charges are covered under this exemption?

The exemption covers charges for satellite transponder, international bandwidth, international internet service, international private line charges, software license/maintenance/support fees, and subscriptions/payments for foreign electronic media and databases.

6. Is there a higher exemption limit for certain payments?

Yes, for commercial payments related to digital services, banks can release foreign exchange up to USD 400,000 per year for each entity.

7. Are there procedural requirements to be fulfilled?

Yes, these permissions are subject to the fulfilment of procedural requirements outlined in the Foreign Exchange Manual.

8. What recent measures has the SBP introduced to support software and IT service exporters?

The SBP has allowed exporters to retain 35% of their foreign exchange earnings outside the country. This is aimed at encouraging the repatriation of export proceeds and boosting the IT sector’s export performance.

9. Is this measure temporary?

Yes, this measure is in place until 31 March 2023, after which it will be reviewed based on the export performance of the IT sector and the export proceeds during this period.

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Q&A on Trust Services and Digital Entities in Pakistan

1. What is the Electronic Transactions Ordinance, 2002 (ETO)?

ETO facilitates the recognition of electronic documents, records, information, communications, transactions, and signatures in electronic form, and allows their admissibility in court without the need for witnessing.

2. How is an electronic signature defined under the ETO?

An electronic signature is defined as letters, numbers, symbols, images, characters, or any combination thereof in electronic form, incorporated in an electronic document to authenticate or approve it.

3. What constitutes an advanced electronic signature under the ETO?

An advanced electronic signature is unique to the signer, capable of identifying them, created under their sole control, and attached to the document in a way that any changes are detectable. It can also be provided by an accredited certification service provider.

4. What is the role of the Electronic Certification Accreditation Council (ECAC)?

ECAC, established by the federal government, accredits certification providers, their cryptography services, and security procedures to establish trust through accredited digital signatures.

5. What are the Certification Service Providers’ Accreditation Regulations, 2008?

These regulations outline the mechanism for ECAC to issue accreditation to eligible applicants to become “Accredited Certification Service Providers,” who provide certification services to confirm the authenticity and/or integrity of electronic documents or signatures.

Q&A on Digital Identity in Pakistan

What developments have occurred in digital identity in Pakistan?

The National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) introduced computerized and chip-based national identity cards in 2012 and is working on transforming these into digital wallets, along with a mobile application.

 How has NADRA’s data been utilized recently?

Amendments in the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, via the Finance Act, 2022, allow NADRA to share its records and information with the Federal Board of Revenue to facilitate the objectives of the Income Tax Ordinance.

What role does the Electronic Certification Accreditation Council (ECAC) play in digital identity?

ECAC assists regulators and authorities like the SBP, NADRA, SECP, FBR, PTA, and Election Commission of Pakistan in using digital identity to ensure the integrity of electronic transactions as per guidelines in the ETO.

 What is the Pakistan Single Window Act, 2021?

This act was established to create a single submission and receipt point for trade data and information, standardize documents for regulatory control, remove barriers to electronic trade transactions, and facilitate coordination among trade regulatory agencies and stakeholders.

5. What are the Pakistan Single Window Evidence of Identity (EOI) Rules, 2022?

These rules apply to entities engaged in cross-border trade and require electronic verification for transactions via the PSW system. Upon verification, a unique user ID is issued electronically, integrated with the FBR, SECP, NADRA, PMD, and commercial banks.

 What challenges does Pakistan face in digitizing identity?

The absence of comprehensive personal data protection laws poses a significant risk of identity information misuse. NADRA’s database is accessed by various service providers without adequate data protection laws, leading to potential data breaches and privacy issues. The need for stringent data protection laws and their enforcement is critical.

Q&A on Regulatory and Institutional Structure of Telecommunications in Pakistan

 What is the regulatory framework for the communications sector in Pakistan?

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is the primary regulatory body overseeing the telecom sector in Pakistan, established under the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996. The PTA Act and accompanying laws govern the establishment, operation, and maintenance of telecommunication systems and services.

What constitutes a ‘telecommunication system’ and ‘service’ under the PTA Laws?

  • A ‘telecommunication system’ includes any system for the emission, conveyance, switching, or reception of intelligence within, into, or from Pakistan. This encompasses cable transmission systems, cable television systems, and terminal equipment.
  • A ‘telecommunication service’ involves services for the emission, conveyance, switching, or reception of intelligence, whether or not it undergoes rearrangement or computation in the course of the service.

 What is the role of the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB)?

The FAB, under the PTA, is responsible for allocating and assigning radio frequency spectrum for various purposes, including government, telecommunications, broadcasting, and private wireless operations.

 What are the primary functions of the PTA?

The PTA’s functions include regulating telecommunication systems and services, granting and renewing licenses, tariff regulation, prescribing equipment standards, interconnection arrangements, spectrum allocation, promoting user interests, and modernizing telecommunication systems.

What ministry oversees telecommunications services in Pakistan?

The Ministry of Information and Technology and Telecommunication (MOITT) is the relevant governmental body for telecommunications services.

Can foreign entities own telecommunications services in Pakistan?

Yes, there is no minimum domestic legal presence requirement. A local entity (Special Purpose Vehicle or SPV) can be established, which can be completely foreign-owned or controlled, to apply for a telecommunications service license.

What is the authorization or licensing regime for telecommunications?

Under the PTA Act, operating any telecommunication system or service requires a license from the PTA. This includes local loop licenses, long-distance and international licenses, and mobile cellular licenses.

What types of licenses are available under the PTA Rules?

The licenses include:

  • Local Loop (LL) License: For local exchange telecommunication service.
  • Long-Distance and International (LDI) License: For nationwide long-distance and international telephony service.
  • Mobile Cellular License: For wireless-based telecommunication systems.

What about Value Added Services?

Licenses for value-added services (other than core telecommunications services) and Registered Services are issued under the Class Value Added Services Licensing and Registration Regulation 2007.

Can licenses be transferred or assigned?

No, licenses granted under the PTA Act and Rules are personal to the licensee and cannot be assigned, sublicensed, or held on trust for another entity without prior written consent from the PTA.

How does one apply for a telecommunications license?

Applications for licenses must be submitted in the prescribed form, accompanied by the relevant fees. The application process and fees vary depending on the type of license applied for. Applications can be withdrawn before the grant of a license.

Q&A on Licensing Regime in Pakistan Telecommunications

Who can be granted a telecommunications license by the PTA?

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) may grant licenses to individuals, classes of persons, companies, or corporations. Licenses for basic telephone service are an exception, as they do not confer exclusive rights.

What are the factors considered by the PTA when granting a license?

The PTA assesses several factors:

  • Financial and economic viability of the applicant.
  • Applicant’s experience in telecommunications and relevant history.
  • Technical competence and experience of the applicant’s management and staff.
  • Nature of the proposed services and viability of the business plan.
  • Quality of the applicant’s telecommunications system or network.
  • Terms of bid made by the applicant in competitive processes.

Can the PTA reject an application based on national security?

Yes, the PTA may reject an application if it deems there are national security concerns.

What rights does a licensee have?

A licensee has the right to establish, maintain, and operate a telecommunications system within the territory and period stipulated by the PTA, according to the Act and Rules.

Are there restrictions on transferring a license or changing ownership?

Yes, a license cannot be transferred or its ownership changed without adhering to the restrictions in the PTA Rules.

What is the initial term for a telecommunications license?

Licenses are typically granted for a minimum of 25 years, with renewal terms consistent with federal government policy at the time of renewal.

How is substantial ownership interest and control defined?

  • ‘Control’ refers to the ability to direct more than 50% of voting rights at a shareholder meeting.
  • ‘Substantial ownership interest’ indicates ownership of more than 10% of the issued share capital.

Are there any restrictions on reselling telecom services?

Yes, telecom services cannot be resold without prior written consent from the PTA, irrespective of whether the company is foreign or local.

What does the CVAS Regulation entail for applicants?

Under the CVAS Regulations:

  • Licenses are granted for 15 years and are technology-neutral.
  • Renewal terms are consistent with federal government policy and regulations.
  • Applicants must pay an initial license fee and processing fee.
  • Licensees pay an annual fee based on a percentage of their gross annual revenue.

What criteria are used for granting licenses under CVAS Regulations?

The PTA uses transparent, non-discriminatory criteria that include financial viability, experience in telecommunications, technical competence, and the nature of the proposed services.

Are there any additional fees for licensees?

Licensees must pay fees for scarce resources like short codes and comply with all fee requirements under the PTA Act, Rules, and CVAS Regulations.

 When is a licensee’s tariff regulated?

A licensee’s tariff is not regulated until it attains the status of Significant Market Power (SMP), as defined in the PTA Rules.

Q&A on Telecommunication Infrastructure and Regulatory Obligations in Pakistan

What is the scope of telecommunication infrastructure provider licenses?

Telecommunication infrastructure provider licenses, issued under the PTA Act, are non-exclusive and permit the establishment, maintenance, leasing, renting, or selling of telecom passive infrastructure facilities in Pakistan. These licensees are prohibited from providing any telecommunication or broadcasting service.

What responsibilities do infrastructure or telecommunication tower providers have?

They are responsible for the safety of public and government property around their equipment. They must also formalize all transactions of lease, rent, etc., through formal agreements.

What is the role of the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB)?

The FAB, established under section 42 of the PTA Act, has exclusive authority to allocate and assign radio frequency spectrum for various purposes including government telecommunications, broadcasting, and private wireless operations.

How does the FAB process applications for spectrum allocation?

Applications for radio frequency spectrum are first made to the PTA and then referred to the FAB within 30 days. The FAB classifies telecommunications services and allocates specific frequencies. Applicants are notified of the application status within three months.

How is the spectrum price determined for mobile cellular licenses?

Spectrum price for national mobile cellular licenses is determined through auctions. The price from auctions also serves as a benchmark for existing operators. Licensees also pay an annual regulatory fee to cover the cost of regulation.

Can spectrum licenses specify permitted use? Are they tradable or assignable?

Spectrum licenses generally specify permitted use. Spectrum granted as part of a PTA license is personal to the licensee and cannot be assigned or sub-licensed without PTA’s prior written consent.

What markets are subject to ex-ante regulation? What remedies may be imposed?

Markets where operators have Significant Market Power (SMP) status are subject to ex-ante regulation to prevent anti-competitive practices. The PTA may issue orders to SMP licensees to promote competition.

How does the PTA regulate tariffs for non-SMP operators?

Non-SMP operators can set and revise their tariffs freely but must inform the PTA 30 days before implementing new tariffs. The PTA may amend tariffs of non-SMP operators if necessary.

What defines an SMP operator?

An operator is presumed to have SMP if it holds more than 25% of a particular telecommunication market. The PTA has discretion to assign or remove SMP status based on market analysis.

Are operators required to provide interconnection?

Yes, all operators are obliged to provide interconnection. SMP operators must submit a Reference Interconnect Offer (ROI) to the PTA and make it publicly available after approval.

Is there a legal basis for requiring separation between network and service activities?

Currently, there is no requirement for structural separation between network and service activities of an operator in Pakistan.

Q&A on Universal Service Obligations and Financing in Pakistan’s Telecommunications Sector

What are the universal service obligations in Pakistan’s telecommunications sector?

In Pakistan, telecommunications licensees are required to contribute to both the Research and Development Fund (R&D Fund) and the Universal Service Fund (USF). These obligations are typically included as conditions in the licenses granted under the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996.

How is the Universal Service Fund (USF) financed?

Licensees providing telecommunication services are obliged to contribute to the USF. This contribution is capped at 1.5% of the licensee’s gross revenue, after deducting inter-operator and related payments as mandated by the PTA and the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB). These funds are utilized to ensure the widespread availability of telecommunication services across all regions, including underserved areas.

What is the purpose of the Research and Development Fund?

The Research and Development Fund aims to promote innovation and technological advancement in the telecommunications sector. It supports various research and development activities that contribute to the growth and enhancement of telecommunications services in Pakistan.

What are the contribution requirements for the R&D Fund?

Telecommunications service providers are required to contribute 0.5% of their gross revenue, minus inter-operator and PTA/FAB-related payments, to the R&D Fund. This fund is managed by the federal government and is aimed at fostering research and development in the telecommunications industry.

 Are there any other financial obligations for telecommunication service licensees?

Yes, besides contributions to the USF and R&D Fund, licensees may have other financial obligations as stipulated in their specific license terms. These can include licensing fees, regulatory fees, and other charges related to the provision of telecommunications services.

 How do these funds contribute to the telecommunications sector in Pakistan?

The USF is primarily used to extend telecommunications services to rural and remote areas, ensuring universal service coverage. The R&D Fund, on the other hand, is allocated to support innovative projects and research initiatives that can lead to technological advancements in the sector.

Is the contribution to these funds mandatory for all licensees?

Yes, all licensees providing telecommunications services in Pakistan are mandated to contribute to these funds as part of their licensing conditions. Failure to comply with these obligations can result in penalties or other regulatory actions.

Q&A on Number Allocation and Number Portability in Pakistan’s Telecommunications Sector

 What is the number allocation scheme in Pakistan?

The Number Allocation and Administration Regulations 2005 govern the allocation of number capacity for licensees under the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). The national numbering plan, as mandated by the PTA Act, is developed to manage this finite resource efficiently, ensuring adequacy for existing services and capacity for new services.

How does the national numbering plan work?

The national numbering plan is structured to comply with ITU-T Recommendations E.164. It defines number ranges for various telecommunications services, including PSTN and Wireless Networks, international direct dialing, emergency services, and more. The leading digit of a number typically defines its service or network.

Are there specific number ranges for different services?

Yes, different services are assigned specific number ranges. For example, numbers starting with ‘0’ are for national and international services, ‘1’ for short codes and intelligent network-based services, ‘01’ and ‘03’ for cellular mobile operations, and so forth.

What are the obligations of licensees regarding number allocation?

Licensees can allocate numbers to customers from their allocated blocks and must maintain records of their number usage. The allocated numbers are considered a national resource, and the allocation doesn’t confer ownership but a right of use.

How is mobile number portability regulated?

Under the Mobile Number Portability Regulations 2005, operators must make mobile number portability available to their subscribers. Operators are required to maintain records of subscribers who request porting for at least six months.

Are local loop licensees required to offer number portability?

Local loop licensees are not required to offer number portability to their customers or other operators unless specifically required by the PTA.

What are the record-keeping requirements for operators regarding portability?

Operators must keep records of porting application forms and usage details, including called and calling numbers, date, duration, time, and the called number cell, on their central databases for a rolling 12 months. This is for security purposes or as directed by the PTA or law enforcement agencies.

What happens if a customer’s number needs to be changed?

If there is a need to withdraw or change allocated numbers, customers are typically given a three-month notice period, given the expectation of ongoing right of use.

What does the allocation of a number imply for the customer?

The allocation of a number to a customer conveys an ongoing right of use but does not imply ownership of the number. The customer can expect a certain stability and continuity in using the allocated number.

10. What are the implications for telecommunications operators with regard to number portability?

Operators are required to facilitate mobile number portability, allowing customers to retain their phone numbers when switching providers, thereby promoting consumer choice and competition in the telecommunications market.

Q&A on Customer Terms and Conditions, Net Neutrality, Platform Regulation, and NGA Networks in Pakistan’s Telecommunications Sector

Are customer terms and conditions in the communications sector subject to specific rules?

In Pakistan, customer terms and conditions in the communications sector are regulated under the PTA Rules. All licensees are required to provide their customers with a set of standard terms and conditions that will apply to their contractual relationships. These standard terms must be filed with the regulatory authority, the PTA, before entering into agreements with customers. However, licensees are allowed to negotiate and enter into agreements with customers on terms that are different from the standard terms and conditions.

Is there net neutrality regulation in Pakistan?

As of now, Pakistan does not have specific laws or regulations guaranteeing net neutrality. While the Broadband Quality of Service Regulations 2014 allows the PTA to monitor ISPs to maintain network availability and link speed, these regulations do not explicitly address net neutrality. There is no requirement for internet service to be uniform and non-discriminatory for all content.

What regulations apply to digital platforms in Pakistan?

Pakistan has introduced the Citizens Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules 2020, which are regulations aimed at governing social media content. However, the implementation of these rules faced criticism and suspension due to concerns raised by various stakeholders, including tech giants like Google and Facebook. Additionally, the PTA has the authority to block websites with objectionable material. The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA) also includes provisions related to unauthorized access to information systems and data.

Are there regulatory obligations for Next-Generation Access (NGA) networks in Pakistan?

Currently, there are no specific regulatory obligations targeted at Next-Generation Access (NGA) networks in Pakistan. However, the government has issued a policy directive for the introduction and trials of 5G wireless networks in the country. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) is in the process of finalizing a framework for 5G and will hold consultations with stakeholders in the near future. This indicates that regulatory strategies are evolving to address emerging digital priorities in Pakistan.

Q&A on Data Protection in Pakistan’s Communications Sector

Is there a specific data protection regime applicable to the communications sector in Pakistan?

Currently, there is no specific data protection regime in Pakistan for the communications sector. However, there is a personal data protection bill that has been uploaded by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MOITT) on its website for stakeholder comments. Once enacted, this law will widen the definition of “personal data” to include information related directly or indirectly to a data subject. Data controllers will be required to provide data subjects with written notice regarding the legal basis for processing personal data and the expected retention duration.

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In the absence of specific data protection laws, all licensees of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) are required to take reasonable steps to ensure that their employees who obtain customer information in the course of their employment adhere to a code of practice on the confidentiality of customer information (the Confidentiality Code). This code is prepared by the licensee in consultation with the PTA and specifies who can access customer information with or without prior consent.

Additionally, the PTA has established the Telecommunication Consumer Protection Regulations 2009, which serve as the principal consumer protection legislation for telecom service providers. These regulations include provisions related to consumer choice, uninterrupted service provision, notice requirements for service suspension or disconnection, protection against unfair commercial practices, disclosure of service terms and conditions, complaint handling mechanisms, and the confidentiality of consumer data or information.

It’s important to note that while there are existing regulations and a draft data protection bill, comprehensive data protection legislation has not yet been fully enacted in Pakistan.

Q&A on Cybersecurity and Network Security in Pakistan

Is there specific legislation or regulation in place concerning cybersecurity or network security in Pakistan?

In Pakistan, cybersecurity and network security are governed by the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA). The primary purpose of PECA is to address the increasing number of cybercrimes in Pakistan and control offenses related to information systems. PECA provides mechanisms for the investigation, prosecution, and trial of electronic crimes.

Under PECA, unauthorized access to, copying, or transmission of data or an information system with the intent to cause harm, wrongful gain, wrongful loss, or injury to any person is treated as a punishable offense. This legislation aims to combat cybercrimes and protect information systems from various threats.

Additionally, PECA imposes certain obligations on service providers in relation to data retention. Service providers are required to retain specified traffic data, which includes information about the origin, destination, route, time, size, duration, or type of service related to electronic communication. They must retain this data for a minimum period of one year or as notified by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Upon the issuance of a court warrant, service providers are obliged to provide this data to investigation agencies or authorized officers.

The term “service provider” encompasses entities that engage in sending, receiving, storing, processing, or distributing electronic communication or provide other services related to electronic communication through an information system. This includes those who own, possess, operate, manage, or control public switched networks or provide telecommunications services. Additionally, service providers responsible for processing or storing data on behalf of electronic communication services or users must adhere to data retention requirements as per PECA.

It’s important to note that PECA plays a crucial role in regulating and enforcing cybersecurity and network security measures in Pakistan.

Q&A on Legal Challenges Raised by Big Data and Data Localization in Pakistan

Is there specific legislation or regulation in place, and have there been any enforcement initiatives in Pakistan addressing the legal challenges raised by big data?

No, Pakistan does not have specific legislation or regulations addressing the legal challenges raised by big data. While the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA) criminalizes unlawful or unauthorized access to information or data, as well as the copying or transmission of critical infrastructure data, it does not specifically regulate or address the unique legal challenges posed by big data.

However, it’s worth noting that a personal data protection bill has been uploaded by the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MOITT) for stakeholder comments. Once this bill becomes law, it is expected to provide a legal framework for the protection of personal data, which would have implications for big data practices. The bill includes provisions related to the transfer of personal data, ensuring equivalent protection in foreign jurisdictions, and obtaining consent from data subjects.

 Are there any laws or regulations that require data to be stored locally in Pakistan?

As of now, there are no specific laws or regulations in Pakistan that require data to be stored locally within the jurisdiction. Pakistan does not have data localization requirements in place.

While data protection is not specifically regulated by law in Pakistan, licenses granted by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) generally include provisions related to confidentiality and the protection of subscriber information. Licensees are required to take reasonable measures to prevent the disclosure of subscriber information to third parties, except in cases where the subscriber has provided consent for such disclosure after being informed about the nature, recipients, and purpose of the disclosure.

It’s important to note that the legal landscape regarding data protection and data localization may evolve with the introduction of the pending personal data protection bill, which could address these aspects in the future. However, as of now, there are no specific data localization requirements in place in Pakistan.

Q&A on Emerging Trends in Communications Regulation and Media Regulatory Framework in Pakistan

Key emerging trends and hot topics in communications regulation in Pakistan:

The key emerging trends and hot topics in communications regulation in Pakistan include:

  • 5G Technology: There is a growing emphasis on the upcoming fifth generation of mobile technology (5G) in Pakistan. This technology is seen as a comprehensive wireless-access solution that can address the demands and requirements of mobile communication for IMT-2020 and beyond. It is expected to operate in a highly heterogeneous environment, providing ubiquitous connectivity for a wide range of devices, new applications, and use cases.

 The regulatory framework for the media sector in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the regulatory framework for the media sector is governed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA). Here is a summary of the regulatory framework:

  • Establishment of PEMRA: PEMRA was established under the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA Ordinance) and has the mandate to regulate the establishment and operation of all broadcast media and distribution services.
  • Regulation of Broadcast Media: PEMRA regulates the distribution of foreign and local TV and radio channels in Pakistan. It has the exclusive right to issue licenses for the establishment and operation of broadcast media and distribution services. The eligibility criteria for license applicants are based on prescribed criteria notified in advance.
  • Licensing Process: PEMRA issues licenses for various categories, including international- and national-scale stations, provincial-scale broadcasts, local area or community-based radio and TV broadcasts, specific and specialized subjects, distribution services, and uplinking facilities like teleporting and digital satellite news gathering.
  • Open Bidding Process: In cases where the number of applications exceeds the number of licenses to be issued, PEMRA conducts an open and transparent bidding process for radio, television, and multichannel multipoint distribution service (MMDS) broadcast station licenses.
  • Restrictions on Broadcasting: No person or entity can engage in broadcasting or cable television (CTV) operation without obtaining a license from PEMRA.
  • Government Ministry: The relevant government ministry responsible for telecommunications services and media regulation is the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, National History, and Literary Heritage of Pakistan.

PEMRA plays a central role in regulating the media sector in Pakistan, ensuring that broadcast media and distribution services operate within the framework of the PEMRA Ordinance and related regulations.

Q&A on Ownership Restrictions, Licensing Requirements, and Foreign Programmes in Media Regulation in Pakistan

Do any foreign ownership restrictions apply to media services? Is the ownership or control of broadcasters otherwise restricted? Are there any regulations in relation to the crossownership of media companies, including radio, television, and newspapers?

Foreign ownership restrictions apply to media services in Pakistan. A license shall not be granted to:

  • A person who is not a citizen of Pakistan or resident in Pakistan.
  • A foreign company organized under the laws of any foreign government.
  • A company the majority of whose shares are owned or controlled by foreign nationals or companies whose management or control is vested in foreign nationals or companies.
  • Any person funded or sponsored by a foreign government or organization.

What are the licensing requirements for broadcasting, including the fees payable and the timescale for the necessary authorizations?

The licensing requirements for broadcasting in Pakistan, under the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), include the following:

  • Preservation of sovereignty, security, and integrity of Pakistan.
  • Preservation of national, cultural, social, religious values, and principles of public policy.
  • Compliance with rules made under PEMRA Ordinance.
  • Adherence to content guidelines, avoiding violence, terrorism, discrimination, extremism, etc.
  • Compliance with approved codes of programmes and advertisements.
  • Not broadcasting or distributing copyrighted content without permission.
  • Obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC) from PEMRA for importing transmitting apparatus.
  • Not selling, transferring, or assigning rights conferred by the license without prior written permission from PEMRA.

The licensing process involves applying to PEMRA, processing the application, and holding public hearings. The license is typically valid for five, ten, or fifteen years, subject to annual fees. Renewal is possible, and reasons for refusal must be recorded in writing. Licensing fees are prescribed by PEMRA and may vary based on the license type.

PEMRA regulates traditional distribution platforms, while internet-based platforms are jointly regulated by PEMRA and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Application processing fees are non-refundable and prescribed in the PEMRA Rules.

Applicants are shortlisted based on criteria such as financial viability, technical feasibility, financial strength, credibility, majority shareholding by Pakistani nationals, technical progress prospects, market advancement, and contributions to universal service and development objectives.

PEMRA must make a decision on the application within 100 days, subject to clearance from the Ministry of Interior and frequency allocation by the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) where relevant. Open and transparent bidding procedures are prescribed for cases with an excess of applicants.

Successful applicants must deposit the applicable license fee and, if applicable, a security deposit before receiving the license. The security deposit is refundable after one year of operation to PEMRA’s satisfaction.

Q&A on Regulations Concerning Broadcasting of Foreign-Produced Programmes and Local Content Requirements in Pakistan

Are there any regulations concerning the broadcasting of foreign-produced programmes? Do the rules require a minimum amount of local content? What types of media fall outside this regime?

Regulations concerning the broadcasting of foreign-produced programmes in Pakistan are as follows:

  • Licensees of PEMRA must carry all channels of the National Broadcaster and all licensed satellite TV and foreign satellite TV channels with landing rights permission from PEMRA.
  • Licensees are required to provide a ‘basic service’ comprising channels with religious, educational, informational, news, and entertainment content.
  • Foreign satellite TV channels must obtain landing rights permission from PEMRA to be carried by licensees.
  • Licensees must not discriminate against any licensed TV channel or landing rights permission holder in offering their broadcast or distribution platform.

Additionally:

  • Licensees must offer at least one basic service package, including must-carry channels, for which they do not charge a subscription fee higher than the maximum fee prescribed by PEMRA.
  • PEMRA has issued a notification banning the airing of Indian content.
  • Airing programs produced by international entities requires prior approval from PEMRA.
  • PEMRA prohibits the broadcast or distribution of programs or advertisements that are against the ideology of Pakistan, likely to create hatred, prejudicial to law and order, likely to disturb public peace, endangers national security, or is pornographic, obscene, vulgar, or offensive to decency.

Web TV and OTT distribution are outside the scope of these regulations.

Q&A on Regulation of Broadcast Media Advertising in Pakistan

 How is broadcast media advertising regulated? Is online advertising subject to the same regulation?

Broadcast media advertising in Pakistan is regulated by PEMRA, and the same regulations apply to online advertising. Here are the key regulatory aspects:

  • Advertisements broadcast or distributed by broadcast media or distribution service operators must comply with PEMRA Laws, the Motion Pictures Ordinance 1979, related rules, and the code of conduct.
  • Advertisements must conform to the TV Code of Advertising Standards and Practices in Pakistan and the Advertisement Code issued by PEMRA.
  • During regular programs, continuous breaks for advertising must not exceed three minutes, with a minimum gap of 15 minutes between successive breaks.
  • Licensees are required to maintain records of the programs they broadcast or distribute for a period of at least 45 days.
  • Advertisements must comply with the laws of Pakistan and not offend morality, decency, or religious beliefs.
  • Prohibited advertisements include those promoting sedition, violence, or violating the Constitution or other laws. They must not incite crime, disorder, or glorify violence or obscenity.
  • Advertisements must not distort historical facts, promote hatred, social inequality, or go against the dignity of labor. They should not target the sanctity of home, family, or marriage.
  • Advertisements of religious or political nature are not allowed.
  • Advertisements making unverifiable claims about product properties or qualities are prohibited.
  • Indecent, vulgar, or offensive content is not permitted, nor is material contrary to Pakistan’s ideology or Islamic values.
  • Goods or services advertised must not be harmful to human health, and misleading claims are not allowed.
  • Advertisements targeting children should not urge them directly to purchase goods or ask their parents to do so.
  • Advertisements must be clearly distinguishable from programs and should not appear as news or documentaries.

Online advertising in Pakistan is subject to these regulations, ensuring consistency in advertising standards across different media platforms.

Q&A on Must-Carry Obligations in Pakistan’s Broadcasting Distribution Networks

Are there regulations specifying a basic package of programmes that must be carried by operators’ broadcasting distribution networks? Is there a mechanism for financing the costs of such obligations?

In Pakistan, operators’ broadcasting distribution networks are subject to regulations regarding must-carry obligations. Here are the details:

  • Licensees of PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) are obligated to carry all channels of the National Broadcaster and all licensed satellite TV and foreign satellite TV channels with landing rights permission from PEMRA.
  • These licensees must provide a ‘basic service,’ which includes a bouquet of satellite TV channels determined by PEMRA. These channels cover religious, educational, informational, news, and entertainment content.
  • Licensees are restricted to carrying or relaying foreign satellite TV channels that have obtained the necessary landing rights permission from PEMRA for distribution in Pakistani territory.
  • There should be no discrimination by licensees against any licensed TV channel or landing rights permission holder when offering their broadcast or distribution platform.
  • Licensees must offer at least one basic service package to subscribers. This package includes channels that fall under the must-carry category, such as national broadcasters, non-commercial educational channels licensed by PEMRA, and other free-to-air television channels designated by PEMRA.
  • Licensees are not allowed to charge a subscription fee for this basic service package at a rate higher than the maximum fee prescribed by PEMRA.

It’s important to note that PEMRA has recently issued a notification banning the airing of Indian content. Additionally, prior approval from PEMRA is required for broadcasting programs produced by international entities. PEMRA has also prohibited the broadcast media or distribution service operator from airing any program or advertisement that is against Pakistan’s ideology, likely to create hatred, prejudicial to maintaining law and order, likely to disturb public peace, endangers national security, or is pornographic, obscene, vulgar, or offensive to commonly accepted standards of decency.

These regulations ensure that broadcasting distribution networks in Pakistan adhere to specific content and service obligations while promoting fairness and adherence to national values and standards.

Q&A on Regulation of New Media Content in Pakistan

 Is new media content and its delivery regulated differently from traditional broadcast media? How?

In Pakistan, the regulation of new media content, including Web TV and Over-the-Top TV (OTT), differs from traditional broadcast media in certain aspects. Here’s an overview:

  • PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) has recognized the extensive growth of Web TV and OTT services, as well as their disruptive impact on traditional broadcast services. To address this, PEMRA has taken steps to regulate Web TV and OTT content services in consultation with stakeholders.
  • Web TV refers to the broadcasting of content, either live or recorded, made available for public viewing through the internet, either free of cost or for a subscription fee. The content can be produced by the licensee or owned by them, and it must comply with PEMRA’s Code of Conduct. Web TV is considered a broadcast service.
  • OTT TV refers to content services accessible over the internet, available to users on various devices, either for free or by subscription. Like Web TV, OTT content can be produced by the licensee or owned by them, and it must adhere to PEMRA’s Code of Conduct. OTT services compete with linear TV and broadcast services.
  • Services that compete with linear or non-linear TV, targeting the same viewers or audience, are categorized as either Web TV or OTT. Examples include content streaming services, video-on-demand, pay-per-view services, catch-up services, and television program archives offered online.
  • Services that are primarily non-commercial or non-economic and do not compete with television broadcasting may not be classified as OTT or Web TV. This may include public service material or user-generated content shared within communities of interest.
  • It’s possible for a single service provider to offer both traditional broadcasting services and OTT or Web TV services as part of its broader online activities. In such cases, the OTT or Web TV services are subject to regulation.

In summary, while traditional broadcast media in Pakistan is subject to specific regulations, new media content delivered through Web TV and OTT services is also regulated, with a focus on ensuring a level playing field, compliance with codes of conduct, and fair competition with traditional broadcasters. These regulations acknowledge the evolving landscape of media consumption in the digital age.

Q & A When is the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting required or when did it occur? How will radio frequencies freed up by the switchover be reallocated?

In Pakistan, the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting was mandated by PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority). Here’s what you need to know:

  • PEMRA issued a directive requiring all cable operators in Pakistan to replace analogue cable systems with digital cable TV systems. Initially, the switchover was set to take place by the end of September 2016, starting with 12 major cities across the country. The estimated cost of this transition was around 90 billion rupees.
  • However, PEMRA extended the deadline for local cable operators in major cities to switch from analogue to digital cable TV to the end of May 2017. The goal was to digitalize the entire urban area of the country by the end of September 2016.
  • The completion of the digital switchover has faced delays due to litigation initiated against PEMRA regarding the auction of DTH (Direct-to-Home) licenses. These legal challenges have affected the timeline for the full transition to digital broadcasting.

As for the reallocation of radio frequencies freed up by the switchover, the Pakistan Table of Frequency Allocations governs the allocation of bands to various types of services. This document is aligned with the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Radio Regulations and is periodically updated to reflect changes and reallocations. The specific reallocation of frequencies would depend on national regulations and international agreements, ensuring efficient and interference-free use of the spectrum for various communication services.

In summary, while the switchover to digital broadcasting was mandated by PEMRA in Pakistan, its completion has been delayed due to legal challenges. The reallocation of radio frequencies will be governed by regulatory authorities to optimize spectrum use for different services.

Q&A on Broadcast Spectrum Use and Media Plurality in Pakistan

Does regulation restrict how broadcasters can use their spectrum?

In Pakistan, regulation governs how broadcasters can use their allocated spectrum. Here are the key details:

  • Spectrum allocation to broadcasters is determined by the Frequency Allocation Board (FAB). Broadcasters are required to use their assigned spectrum for the specific purpose for which it has been allocated to them. Any deviation from this purpose would need to comply with the terms of their broadcasting license.
  • The use of spectrum by broadcasters is subject to regulatory oversight to ensure that it is used efficiently and in accordance with the defined purpose. Deviating from the assigned purpose without proper authorization would likely lead to regulatory action.

In summary, broadcasters in Pakistan are generally restricted to using their spectrum for the designated purpose unless otherwise specified in their broadcasting license.

Is there any process for assessing or regulating media plurality (or a similar concept) in your jurisdiction? May the authorities require companies to take any steps as a result of such an assessment?

In Pakistan, there is currently no publicly available process for assessing or regulating media plurality, nor is there an official regulatory framework for it. However, there is an independent private entity known as the Freedom Network that operates a media ownership monitor for Pakistan.

  • The Freedom Network’s media ownership monitor independently tracks and reports on media ownership in Pakistan. It is important to note that the accuracy and reliability of the data on their website may vary and cannot be independently verified.
  • As of now, there are no specific authorities or regulatory bodies that assess media plurality or have the power to require companies to take actions based on such assessments.

In summary, while there is no formal regulatory process for assessing media plurality in Pakistan, independent entities like the Freedom Network provide information on media ownership. Currently, there are no regulatory authorities with the mandate to enforce measures based on media plurality assessments.

Q&A on Key Trends in Media Regulation in Pakistan

 What are the key emerging trends and hot topics in media regulation in Pakistan?

In Pakistan, there are several key emerging trends and hot topics in media regulation:

Ban on Indian Content: PEMRA recently issued a notification banning the airing of Indian content in Pakistan. This move has significant implications for the availability of Indian movies, TV shows, and other content in the country.

Approval for International Content: Airing programmes produced by international entities now requires prior approval from PEMRA. This regulation aims to exert control over the content and ensure it aligns with local standards and regulations.

3. Content Standards and Censorship: PEMRA has the authority to prohibit broadcast media or distribution service operators from airing any program or advertisement that is deemed to be against the ideology of Pakistan, likely to incite hatred, prejudicial to law and order, disturbing public peace, endangering national security, or offensive to decency standards.

Regulation of Web TV and OTT Services: PEMRA is actively considering the regulation of Web TV and Over-the-Top (OTT) content services. The extensive growth of Web TV and OTT markets and their disruption to traditional broadcast services have prompted regulators to address this issue. The goal is to create a level playing field for all operators, including OTT and Web TV, which compete for advertisement and subscription revenue.

Definition and Classification of Web TV and OTT: There is an effort to define and classify Web TV and OTT services. Web TV refers to the broadcast of content over the internet, either for free or via subscription. It is considered a broadcast service and must adhere to the Code of Conduct of PEMRA. OTT TV, on the other hand, provides content accessible over the internet, often on a variety of devices and either free or for a subscription fee. Services that compete with traditional TV and require regulatory protection are classified as OTT or Web TV.

 Media Ownership Monitoring: While not a regulatory process, an independent entity called the Freedom Network operates a media ownership monitor for Pakistan. This initiative tracks and reports on media ownership in the country, providing transparency in media ownership trends.

In summary, the key trends in media regulation in Pakistan include content control and standards, the regulation of Web TV and OTT services, and the ban on Indian content. Additionally, the monitoring of media ownership is an emerging area of interest for transparency in the industry.

Q&A on Regulatory Agencies and Competition Law in Pakistan (in relation to media & broadcasting regulation 

Who regulates the communications and media sectors in Pakistan, and how is the regulation structured? Is there a specific mechanism to ensure consistent application of competition and sectoral regulation?

Regulatory Bodies: In Pakistan, the communications and media sectors are regulated by two distinct bodies:

  • Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA): PTA serves as the regulator for the telecom sector in Pakistan. It oversees telecommunications services and operations.
  • Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA): PEMRA is responsible for regulating the broadcast, distribution, and media sector in Pakistan, including television and radio broadcasting.

Competition Regulation: Anticompetitive practices in both sectors are generally addressed by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), an independent quasi-judicial body established under the Competition Act 2010. The CCP ensures healthy competition between undertakings for the benefit of the economy.

CCP’s Responsibilities: The CCP’s responsibilities include:

  • Prohibiting the abuse of dominant positions in the market.
  • Addressing certain types of anti-competitive agreements.
  • Addressing deceptive market practices.
  • Reviewing mergers of undertakings that could significantly lessen competition or artificially alter market conditions.

Avoiding Conflicting Jurisdiction: While the telecommunication and media regulators (PTA and PEMRA) are separate entities, there may be overlap in regulation, especially concerning competition issues. Both PTA and PEMRA have their own regulatory roles, but they also have to comply with competition regulations enforced by the CCP. This ensures that competition and sectoral regulations are consistent and avoid conflicting jurisdiction.

In summary, the communications and media sectors in Pakistan are regulated by PTA and PEMRA, with competition regulation falling under the purview of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP). These regulatory bodies work together to ensure fair competition and sector-specific regulations are consistently applied.

Q&A on Challenging Regulator Decisions and Competition Law Developments in Pakistan

How can decisions of the regulators be challenged, and on what bases?

Challenging PTA Decisions:

  • The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Act allows any person aggrieved by a decision or order of the PTA, which is contrary to the provisions of the PTA Act, to appeal within 30 days of receiving such decision or order.
  • The appeal can be made to the high court or any other tribunal established by the federal government for that purpose, following the procedures prescribed by the high court.
  • As of now, no tribunal has been established by the federal government for this purpose, so all appeals are made before the relevant high court.
  • The court or tribunal is required to decide such appeals within 90 days.

Challenging PEMRA Decisions:

  • The PEMRA Ordinance allows any person aggrieved by a decision or order of PEMRA to appeal within 30 days of receiving such decision or order.
  • The appeal is made to the high court.
  • PEMRA is required to make a copy of its decision or order of license revocation available to the licensee within 24 hours of the decision for the purpose of appealing to the high court.

Describe the main competition law trends and key merger and antitrust decisions in the communications and media sectors in Pakistan over the past year.

Competition Law Developments:

  • In the past year, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has approved several mergers in the communications and media sectors.

Key Merger Approvals:

  • Acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Warid Telecom (Pvt) Limited by Pakistan Mobile Communications Ltd and amalgamation of Pakistan Mobile Communications Ltd and Warid Telecom (Pvt) Limited.
  • Phase II Review of Amalgamation of Pakistan Mobile Communications Limited and Warid Telecom (Private) Limited.
  • Second Phase review of the acquisition of the Global Vaccines business (excluding influenza vaccines business except in China) from Novartis AG by Glaxosmithkline PLC.

These merger approvals demonstrate the evolving landscape of competition law in Pakistan’s communications and media sectors, with the CCP playing a vital role in reviewing and approving such transactions to ensure healthy competition in the industry.

Conclusions 

In conclusion, Pakistan’s media law and regulation, spearheaded by PEMRA, play a pivotal role in shaping the country’s media landscape. By regulating licenses, overseeing content distribution, and ensuring compliance with set standards, PEMRA fosters a responsible, fair, and competitive media environment. This regulatory framework is crucial in upholding the integrity of Pakistan’s broadcast media, ensuring that it serves the public interest while embracing technological advancements and evolving media trends.

By The Josh and Mak Team

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