The caretaker federal government pledged before senators on Wednesday that they will ensure 'fair distribution' of advertisements among various media.
This was promised on Wednesday during a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting. Senator Fawzia Arshad chaired the meeting.
During the meeting, the committee was presented details about the federal government's advertising expenditures, covering electronic, print, digital, and outdoor media spending from March 1, 2022, to August 31, 2023 -- covering the entirety of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government and the tail end of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
The Information Ministry told the committee that the government spent around Rs9.616 billion in advertising during this period. Of this, the federal information ministry spent around Rs6.133 billion, while other government departments spent the rest in advertising tenders, etc.
Of the total, print media received ads worth Rs3.552 billion, electronic media Rs4.796 billion, and digital media received ads worth Rs1.234 billion.
The government also spent some Rs73.775 million on outdoor advertising (such as billboards and banners).
Committee Chairperson Senator Fawzia Arshad asked the ministry to present a detailed breakdown of the ads allocated to each media organisation and the respective medium, along with the ad rates charged and the distribution mechanism.
She emphasised the need for advertising using public funds to be distributed impartially, without discrimination.
Caretaker Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi echoed this sentiment, pledging to ensure fair distribution during his tenure.
Radio Pakistan land
During the meeting, Senator Syed Waqar Mehdi presented a report prepared by the Senate Sub-committee, which had been specially constituted to investigate the utilisation of land and other assets of Radio Pakistan and its proposed privatisation.
The report, adopted by the standing committee, encompasses comprehensive recommendations and government responses.
Radio Pakistan's director general and Information and Broadcasting secretary briefed the committee about ongoing discussions on leasing Radio Pakistan's land across the country.
In this regard, the committee was briefed about ongoing talks with the State Bank of Pakistan and that rates are yet to be finalised.
The committee stressed the importance of sharing the terms and conditions of the forthcoming agreement, location details of the land to be leased, and rates in an upcoming meeting.
It was emphasised that this would be a government-to-government agreement. The officials also outlined various avenues they are exploring to meet Radio Pakistan's financial requirements.
During the meeting, the Pakistan Broadcaster Association's (PBC) director general provided a compliance report on the pensions and commutation for retired PBC employees.
The committee was informed that pensions for April, May, June, and July have been disbursed, but a substantial sum of Rs 1.25 billion for commutation remains pending.
A comprehensive briefing was presented to the committee on the operations, functions, and performance of the Information Services Academy (ISA) in Islamabad. Officials highlighted that ISA is a public sector entity offering training to public entities and private media professionals across various beats, equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and studios. The academy was told to hire facilitators from top private and public organisations, including serving and retired officials who are qualified and experienced enough.
The meeting was attended by notable Senators, including Syed Waqar Mehdi, Anwar Lal Dean, and Tahir Bizenjo. Caretaker federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Murtaza Solangi, Secretary of Information and Broadcasting, DG Radio, and other stakeholders were also present.