In a significant development, Khalid Arain, the chairman of the Cable Operators Association of Pakistan, made an announcement on Wednesday regarding an upcoming crackdown by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) against Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms, including Netflix, following the Eid-ul-Azha celebrations.
The decision, which stems from discussions between PEMRA and cable operators, has been prompted by concerns over the disparity in broadcasting restrictions. Arain emphasized that while cable operators face limitations in airing certain channels, OTT platforms enjoy complete freedom to showcase popular channels.
Arain described OTT platforms as technological platforms that deliver content over the internet and highlighted the demand made to PEMRA for the regulation of cable operators providing both internet and cable services.
To address the demands of cable operators, PEMRA has committed to forming a panel that will decide on the issuance of licenses to cable operators and initiate measures to address the OTT platform issue. Arain advocated for zero taxation in the cable sector, drawing a parallel with the solar power industry and stressing the need to relieve cable operators of such tax burdens without providing further justification for this request.
Arain further noted an inequity in the collection of the National Loop License Fee by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) from cable operators, which is charged in US dollars but paid by users in Pakistani currency. This discrepancy poses a challenge as the daily fluctuation of dollar prices renders it burdensome for Pakistanis to afford such substantial amounts.
PEMRA holds the crucial responsibility of regulating broadcast media in Pakistan, improving information, education, and entertainment standards, and facilitating devolution of power and responsibility by ensuring widespread access to mass media at local and international levels. Additionally, PEMRA aims to establish transparent governance and enable the unhindered flow of information. Consequently, people rely on PEMRA for accurate and transparent broadcasting, and the authority assumes accountability for any dissemination of irrelevant content.
In line with these objectives, PEMRA recently announced the formation of committees to oversee the inclusion of web TVs and OTT services within the purview of broadcast media services, as reported by APP. This move reflects PEMRA’s commitment to adapting to the evolving media landscape.