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Television network claims sports channel targeted by media regulatory authority

(PPF/IFEX) - 7 April 2011 - Pakistan's largest media group, Jang Newspapers and Geo Television Network, has alleged that on 4 April its sport channel "Geo Super" was ordered to stop transmitting in Pakistan by the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA).

The Geo Television Network accused the government of trying to blackmail "Geo Super" and termed it a vengeful action. The network said it had purchased exclusive rights to telecast the cricket World Cup, and the Supreme Court of Pakistan had asked PEMRA to ensure that "Geo Super"'s transmission would not be impeded. These orders were not only violated but right after the World Cup was over, PEMRA refused to grant "Geo Super" permission to air from Pakistan. The government has not issued the uplink license to "Geo Super" to telecast from Pakistan.

When "Geo Super" contacted PEMRA for a new permission on 1 April, PEMRA requested further information in a 4 April letter and reportedly barred "Geo Super" from telecasting from Pakistan. PEMRA also warned "Geo Super" of action under the PEMRA Ordinance in case the orders were violated.

In a 7 April press conference, Acting Chairman of PEMRA Dr Abdul Jabbar strongly refuted the allegations of the Jang Group regarding the blocking of "Geo Super". Jabbar said that Geo TV was levelling baseless allegations against the government and the PEMRA regarding the blocking of its "Geo Super" channel.

Jabbar said that "Geo Super" is a Dubai-based channel and is required to uplink from Dubai. However, the channel wants to uplink from Pakistan illegally, he alleged. In order to legalise this illegal uplink, an application was submitted to PEMRA on 4 April, seeking permission to uplink temporarily. When PEMRA received the application, it asked for certain information including details of the program or event that is intended to be transmitted, technical details and satellite parameters for the uplink, exact location and details of the equipment to be used for the uplinking. Jabbar said that neither PEMRA nor the government played any role in blocking the channel's transmission. PEMRA has no technology to block the channel from satellites. "Geo Super" has landing rights for five years till 2012 and PEMRA has not blocked their transmission, Jabbar explained, terming it all "malicious and baseless propaganda" to malign the PEMRA and to "deceive the honourable apex court."

A spokesman for the government also said in a press release that the government had nothing to do with this matter as it essentially seems to be a technical issue on the part of "Geo Super". The spokesman further said that the government is not able to block or stop any foreign channel that has legal rights for transmission in Pakistan. The spokesman said that the cable operators were not receiving the signal of "Geo Super", which apparently has been blocked by the management of the said TV channel itself.

The government has urged the Pakistan Broadcasting Association (PBA) to constitute a committee and investigate the matter threadbare. It has also urged the PBA to make its findings public.

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