ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan Thursday directed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to file comprehensive reply regarding issuance of more TV channel licenses.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Mushir Alam conducted hearing of application of Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) against the issuance of licenses by PEMRA for more TV channels.

During the hearing, Faisal Siddiqui Advocate representing PBA contended that PEMRA has not followed the law on the application of PBA. He added that under Section 8(5) of PEMRA Act every member is bound to express his/her opinion. He contended that the PEMRA had dismissed their application without following the law.

Justice Yahya Afridi inquired from the PEMRA’s lawyer that whether opinion of each member was sought. PEMRA’s counsel Khalid Abbasi cited the relevant laws. 

Dissatisfying with his explanation, Justice Yahya said to him not to refer the law but prove it through record that each member had expressed his opinion.

Then Khalid Abbasi sought time from the bench to get instruction from the chairman and to submit comprehensive report on the next date of hearing. The bench accepting his request adjourned the hearing for two weeks in this matter.

In July last year, the Islamabad High Court had permitted the PEMRA to issue licenses to 58 new satellite TV channels including eight news and current affairs channels while protecting the rights of the existing television operators.

According to the PBA, there was a space for only 80 channels in the system, while PEMRA had already issued licenses for 119 channels. He said that an application of PBA seeking moratorium on issuance of new licenses had already been dismissed by PEMRA.

According to the PEMRA report filed before the IHC, the authority stated that PBA filed the petition without realizing that process of grant of license and its operation was entirely controlled on the principle of free market forces and fair competition. It said issuance of license depended upon the market potential, which was being substantiated by the fact that more than 180 entities had applied for satellite television channels’ licenses.