Broadcaster can participate in auction of DTH licences: LHC

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Broadcaster can participate in auction of DTH licences: LHC

LAHORE, Dec 28 (APP): A three-member bench of the Lahore High Court on Wednesday declared that a broadcaster could participate in the auction of Direct-to-Home (DTH) licences.
The bench set aside the ban imposed on broadcasters to participate in the auction of DTH licences under Rule 13(3) and (4) of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Rules along with Regulation 2.11 and 3.23 of the DTH Regulation of the PEMRA after declaring them illegal.
The bench held that the rules and regulation had gone beyond the mandate of Section 23(2) of the PEMRA Ordinance and were inconsistent with the intent of the ordinance.
The bench comprising Justice Ayesha A Malik, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh and Justice Shahid Karim passed the orders while allowing a petition filed by Independent NewsPapers Corporation (Geo Network) challenging the ban on participation of media houses in auction of DTH licences. The bench had reserved the verdict after hearing arguments of the parties and it was announced today in open court.
Earlier, petitioner’s counsel Asma Jehnagir submitted that PEMRA rules and DTH Regulations had prohibited broadcast media licence holders from operating distribution service licences which includes the DTH licence.
She said that the rules and the DTH Regulations being subordinate legislation had gone beyond the mandate granted to PEMRA under the ordinance.
She contended that the PEMRA ordinance did not impose any restriction on vertical integration between media enterprises.
She submitted that petitioner would suffer loss as it could not distribute its own content and was denied the ability to expand its business. She argued that the DTH Regulations impose an unreasonable restriction on the right of the Petitioner to enter into lawful business to apply for the DTH licence and to enter into fair competition as provided for under the ordinance.
She further argued that the Rules and the DTH Regulations prohibit broadcast media licence holders from obtaining a DTH licence for which there was no reasonable or rational explanation and it offended the fundamental rights of the Petitioner.
She said that the ban imposed under Rule 13(3)and(4) of the Rules and Regulation 2.11 and 3.23 of the DTH Regulations was unreasonable, discriminatory and beyond the scope of Section 23 of the Pemra Ordinance, 2002.
However, PEMRA’s counsel Salman Akram Raja argued that PEMRA was empowered to restrict broadcast media licence holders from operating distribution services which includes the DTH licence in order to avoid undue concentration of media ownership.
He said that the restriction had been imposed in accordance with the ordinance which specifically requires PEMRA to prevent concentration of market power within the electronic media.
It is pertinent to mention here that the LHC restrained the PEMRA from holding the DTH bidding, in November this year but the authority approached the Supreme Court which conditionally allowed the authority to initiate the bidding process of DTH licences but linked the (DTH) licence subject with LHC final verdict in the matter.
The regulator proceeded with the auction process, which fetched the national exchequer around Rs 14.7 billion.
The successful bidders for the three licences were MAG Entertainment Pvt Ltd, Lahore, with the bid of Rs4.91 billion, Star Times Pakistan Communications Pvt Ltd, Islamabad, with Rs4.90bn, and Shahzad Sky Pvt Ltd, Islamabad, which bid Rs4.89bn.