MINISTER for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, turned to Twitter to announce that the process of reforms started in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MoIB) in 2018 was being resumed.
In a series of tweets, he said that the PTV News had been given a deadline of June 1 to complete the HD project pending since 2019; a new English channel would be launched; PTV studios in Karachi and Lahore would be modernized; APP would be made digital news agency; Press Information Department (PID) and its advertising section would be made paperless and housing, health and insurance facilities would be made available for journalists of print and electronic media.
The Minister, who was instrumental in launching a number of highly beneficial projects during his tenure in the Ministry of Science and Technology, indeed, has an ambitious agenda for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as well and it is hoped he would ensure its expeditious implementation as well because the present Government has limited time at its disposal till next general elections.
The Ministry and its attached departments remain the focus of attention of both the top leadership of the Government as well as people of Pakistan because of understandable reasons.
The Government legitimately expects them to help project its policies and programmes in the right perspective while people of Pakistan want them to maintain the highest levels of credibility in a highly competitive environment.
It is, however, a matter of record that while pinning great hopes on delivery by the Ministry and its attached departments, the successive governments miserably failed to invest in men and material and as a consequence they find themselves handicapped in meeting expectations in an era of digital revolution and daunting standards of professionalism.
The conditions of media institutions under the Ministry of Information are so critical that not to speak of implementing plans for modernization, they are even unable to pay timely salaries to their employees and pension dues to superannuating personnel.
The situation would not change until and unless the authorities concerned change their mindset and treat these institutions as public services and not a burden on national exchequer.
In this backdrop, we appreciate plans of the Minister to modernize and upgrade facilities in PTV and official news agency APP and hope that elaborate plans would also be drawn for capacity building of manpower to equip the staff with modern skills to discharge their responsibilities promptly and effectively.
For reasons best known to him, the Minister skipped mentioning a vital institution working under his Ministry – Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (popularly known Radio Pakistan), which is the premier media entity of the country.
Radio had and is still playing an important role in socio-economic advancement of the masses as it is the best and cheapest mode of communication and education in rural areas and this role was highlighted during Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite all this, Radio Pakistan remained seriously neglected in terms of availability of required resources, modernization and capacity building.
One wonders whether the Government has any plan for this national institution as well, which is rightly considered as the voice of the nation and an effective instrument in countering adverse propaganda of the enemy especially in far-flung and border areas.
The need to strengthen Radio Pakistan network becomes all the more relevant in view of the rapidly growing number of privately-run FM Radio channels that have their own agenda.
The Government ought to shun the wrong and ill-conceived notion of making PTV, Radio Pakistan and APP as financially self-sustainable while keeping full control on their contents.
There is a limit to revenue generation by the three organizations and remaining requirements should be met by the state in a timely and liberal manner.
As for journalists of print and electronic media, they are facing numerous problems, therefore, are unable to concentrate on their professional pursuits.
It is heartening to hear from the Information Minister that under the Prime Minister’s Housing Project, houses and Sehat Insaf Cards would be provided to journalists associated with print and electronic media besides provision of necessary facilities to press clubs.
He also revealed that legislation was being made for mandatory payment of salaries, which might help resolve the chronic problem of delayed salaries to media workers.
Digitization of PID and its advertising system should lead to transparency in distribution of advertisements.