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Twenty-four FM radio stations prevented from broadcasting BBC news

(PPF/IFEX) - On 27 April 2010, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) directed 24 FM radio stations to stop broadcasting the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Urdu five-minute news bulletin on the grounds that they violated the terms of their licenses.

According to press reports, PEMRA Chairman Malik Mushtaq said under the PEMRA Act, a local broadcaster must seek prior permission from the Authority before airing foreign content. He further said out of 34 local broadcasters airing BBC news bulletins only 10 had acquired No Objection Certificates (NOC) from PEMRA. Under PEMRA rules, they can broadcast foreign content for only 10 percent of their total air-time and they should also inform PEMRA about the nature of content. Ten stations had been given permission to broadcast BBC content but the other 24 had not applied.

In a press release, the BBC said it believes that its 24 partner FM stations had completed all the required paperwork for PEMRA in October 2009 and called on PEMRA to allow the stations to resume BBC Urdu Service's news bulletins so that audiences in Pakistan could have access to the BBC's impartial and editorially independent news.

BBC Urdu reported on its website that Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has not given written permission to BBC's 24 partner FM stations to air five-minute bulletins. The press release said the BBC will monitor the situation closely and continue to support their partner stations in getting BBC programmes back on air.

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