This is what Pemra does when you swear on TV
On Tuesday night scriptwriter Khalil-ur-Rehman Qamar swore at journalist Marvi Sirmed on a talk show on NEO NEWS that was broadcast live across Pakistan and beyond.
Rehman used publicly unacceptable language for Sirmed, who had interrupted him at one point. In response she kept chanting the Aurat March slogan, Mera Jism, Meri Marzi.
The exchange took place on Rabia Ehtesham’s show to which Sirmed and Rehman had been invited along with JUI-F Senator Maulana Faiz Mohammad.
Such content runs up against the rules set by television regulatory authority, PEMRA, which can legally fine a licencee and suspend a show after what took place on Neo. The talk show host and guests are not, however, liable.
Every news channel is supposed to have a seven- to ten-second time lag which enables the producer to beep out any unwanted or offensive outbursts. If it goes on for more than a minute, which in this case it did, the producer should have instructed the anchor to take a break.
SAMAA Digital spoke to an official at the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to understand how this will be handled. “The first step is to send the licencee a show-cause notice,” the official said. “Once this is done, we will call them in for a personal hearing then make recommendations.” The process can take around 15 days.
Under Section 27 of the Pemra ordinance, the media regulatory body can suspend a programme, under Section 29, they can impose a fine up to a million rupees and under Section 30, the TV channel’s licence can be suspended.
“Many programmes have been suspended because of poor editorial judgement,” the official said. “All TV channels are supposed to have a time delay mechanism as this gives them a cushion to edit out/omit objectionable material.”
The Pemra official said that a lot also depended on the TV show’s host.
“If the show is not under his/her control, they can go on a break to stop the guest. These are editorial lapses and these are binding in our code of conduct and ordinances,” he said. “TV channels need editorial committees but they ignore them or are not used effectively which is why we have these problems.”
This year, Pemra fined a private TV channel one million rupees for airing defamatory content against Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari.
In January, Pemra banned the ARY News show Off The Record for 60 days for allowing Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda to appear on the show with a boot.
Last year, it fined NewsOne the same amount for airing “malicious” content against National Accountability Bureau chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal.
In 2016, the authority fined satellite TV channel Royal TV Rs100,000 for a live telecast in which abusive language was used against anchorperson Mubasher Lucman and no time delay mechanism was used.