ISLAMABAD - Federal Secretary Information and Broadcasting Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera Wednesday informed the Public Accounts Committee that neither there was a clear policy nor rules and regulations for electronic media.

He told this during the meeting of PAC held here Wednesday while responding to a question raised by MNA Shafqat Mehmood stating whether any government policy or rules and regulations were kept in front while giving billions of rupees’ advertisements to PPP leader Sharjeel Memon and an advertising agency.

Shafqat Mehmood further said that if there was any clear policy or rules and regulations then this situation had not been emerged. Neither this case was instituted nor the government had to follow the courts, he said, adding a policy and rules and regulations were vital in this respect.

The PAC was told the federal government is granting advertisement worth Rs6 billion to TV channels and newspapers without any policy.

Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah presided over the meeting. Other members included Syed Naveed Qamar, Dr Azra Pacheeho, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Shafqat Mehmood, Syed Mustafa Shah, Shahida Akhtar Ali, Dr Arif Alvi and Sardar Ashiq Gopang attended it.

The PAC was told that every year government pays Rs6 billion to TV channels and newspapers for advertisements. It said the government gags freedom of media through advertisements, which is an illegal step. It was further told that the government used to give advertisements to favourite advertising agencies to get published favourite news while news of the rivals are paused to publish.

Federal Secretary Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera unveiled before the PAC that secret fund has been abolished in the budget of the ministry. He said there was no specific policy to run advertisements in the electronic media. He informed that the PIO gives advertisements to TV channels by his own. He stressed the need for formulating a clear policy in this regard.

The PAC directed the secretary to provide details of advertisements and rates being given to different TV channels. It also instructed to review policy about receiving services of the advertisement companies. It noted that billions of rupees benefits are being given on the basis of favouritism while the parliament will take all possible measures to halt this illegal step.

It also instructed the secretary to maintain transparency about the affairs of the advertising agencies while it must be ensured that there was no violation of the PEPRA rules in granting contracts. It also sought policy on awarding contracts to advertising companies.

The PAC also directed to investigate the issue of giving advertisements to Channel 7 and Interlink worth Rs245 million. It said that all TV channels must run public service advertisements according to the law while secretary information has been given instructions in this regard.

It also directed to constitute a five members committee to review complaints of corruption, mismanagement and violation of merit in PTV. The committee would be headed by MNA Shafqat Mehmood, which would present its report within fifteen days. Secretary Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera welcomed the decision of renewing parliamentary committee and said this institution has been collapsed completely. He said restructuring of the institution was underway.

He told the PAC that media cell working under Mariyam Nawaz in the Prime Minister Secretariat had no connection with Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. He made it clear that budget of the cell has no links with Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The PAC also directed to investigate advertisement campaign of Nawaz Sharif government worth Rs2 billion run in 2016 while this directive was issued in the light of audit objections. It sought details of the advertisements run during last ten years from national exchequer while also sought details about rates of TV channels.

Secretary information told that secret fund was abolished in 2013 from the ministry following directives of the court.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said that audit of the secret fund was conducted during his era. He said that the government imposed curbs on media in the guise of advertisements. Syed Khurshid Ahmed Shah instructed the secretary to present record of last ten years’ advertisements given to newspapers.

Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera told that ex-chairman PEMRA was receiving Rs1.5 million salary exclusive of other allowances. He said that appointment of Absar Alam was made by former secretary information while he (Absar) has been disqualified on the basis of eligibility.

He further told that it has been decided to make parliamentary channels for live coverage of the National Assembly, Senate and Standing Committees while these channels would start telecast during the next few months.

The PAC members appreciated step of the government and said it would be the first step towards eradication of corruption and strengthening of democracy.  Sukhera disclosed that PTV would soon be shifted on digital system, which would help improve quality of the PTV programmes.

The PAC also directed to probe corruption scandal worth Rs76.1 million in the Radio Pakistan. In this scandal, DG Radio Pakistan had signed a contract with private company L& C FM 101, which inflicted a loss of Rs76 million to national exchequer. The PAC declared the entire agreement as fraud and issued directive to probe it.

Secretary information was directed to investigate the issue to determine the responsible while cancel the agreement and processed the matter in line with the law. The PAC also decided to review the woman harassment case in PTV while also issued directives to restore services of the terminated female employee. It was revealed in the meeting the applicant’s services were also terminated along with the accused.