This is apropos the stories published in Daily Dawn, The News & Daily Jang on Draft Consultation on Regulating the Web TV & Over the Top TV (OTT) Content Services in Pakistan, PEMRA. In the news report it has been alleged that through the Draft Consultation on Regulating the Web TV & Over the Top TV (OTT) Content Services in Pakistan, PEMRA intends to curtail the freedom of speech and to gag voices. The allegation is totally denied. The objective for the consultation on regulating Web TV & Over the Top TV Content Services is elaborated in Section 1.2 of the Consultation Paper wherein it has been elaborated that the extensive growth of the web TV & OTT market and the excessive disruption of these services to traditional broadcast services have made regulators vigilant all over the world. Moreover, the broadcasters /TV operators and other traditional service providers are losing their market share to online web TV and content providers.
Notwithstanding, there are other regulatory issues also which necessitate it to bring under regulations the Web TV & OTT services. For example all PEMRA licensed broadcasters are subject to compliance with Code of Conduct-2015 which require the operators to have in-house time delaying mechanism & editorial control to filter out content which is not in compliance with the Code etc. However, the web TV and OTT players are not subject to any code of conduct & other PEMRA laws. Moreover, as a regulator, it is the responsibility of PEMRA to provide a level playing field to all stakeholders. Since OTT & Web TV operators are competing for the same advertisement or subscription revenue as the licensed operators, therefore, it is imperative that the services be regulated at par with other services. Furthermore, by regulating the Web TV & OTT Content Services, the service providers will be liable to pay taxes as per the applicable laws just as other licensees of PEMRA are required to do so.
The scope of regulation is elaborated in Section 2 of the Consultation Paper. It has been clearly mentioned in the said section that services that are primarily non-commercial or non-economic, and which are not in competition with television broadcasting (linear or non-linear TV) may not be classified as OTT or Web TV. This may include public service material, user-generated video content posted by private individuals for non-commercial purposes of sharing and exchange within communities of interest/ groups etc. The scope also does not include regulating the social media platforms. No draconian regulations are being formulated which is clear from the fact that PEMRA is engaging in a meaningful consultation with the industry and public in transparent and open manner.
PEMRA has received tremendous response from some stakeholders including international players on the consultation process. As a result of public feedback received through this consultation process, recommendations for regulating the web TV & Over the Top TV content will be finalized. It is unfortunate that instead of giving feedback in a professional way and sharing concerns if any with the regulator, some individuals and organizations have adopted a highly objectionable way of simply rejecting the consultation process and have initiated a smear campaign against PEMRA. More the news that PEMRA has circulated another version of the draft regulation with the federal cabinet is totally false and devoid of any facts.