‘A Sports’ channel illegally awarded by PTI govt incurring financial losses to PTV: Marriyum

'A Sports' channel illegally awarded by PTI govt incurring financial losses to PTV: Marriyum
ISLAMABAD, Jun 25 - Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb addressing a press conferrence. APP

ISLAMABAD, Jun 25 (APP): Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said on Saturday that the previous government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf financially ruined the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV) in the name of selling broadcast rights of cricket events to a private TV channel in exchange of projection of their anti-state narrative.

“Former minister for information and broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain played the role of a facilitator in the crime on the directives of former prime minister Imran Khan and those involved in this crime could not be pardoned, she said while addressing a press conference here.

“Those who had attacked the PTV building during the 2014 sit-in through a well thought out conspiracy committed the financial murder of the PTV and sold the broadcast rights illegally to a private channel, ‘A Sports’ which until then did not have even a broadcast license when the process of bidding started,” she said.

The minister vowed that there would be no compromise on the rights of PTV and its broadcast rights would be returned to it at all cost.

The minister said that the PTV as the national broadcaster was the voice of the state and the national identity of Pakistan.

Moreover, she credited the PTV for giving inspiration to other broadcasters which came up with their own channels by following the PTV model.

The information minister termed the media as the fourth pillar of the state as people get news and awareness through it.

The minister said that PTV Sports was the only screen from which the PTV collected revenue, whereas Rs 35 license fee to the PTV paid by the viewers being the other source of income.

During the sit-in of 2014, PTI activists attacked the PTV building but Imran, another PTI leaders instead of condemning congratulated each other over this “achievement”, she said.

The minister recalled that when the PTI government came to power in 2018, it claimed to transform the PTV and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) on the BBC model.

However, these claims just like false promises of 10 million jobs and 5 million houses turned out to be hollow slogans.

When in power, the PTI tried to auction off radio and PTV buildings to earn some money, the minister said.

Marriyum apprised that when the present government assumed the power in April, 2022, it was revealed that PTV Sports had signed an agreement with Group M and ARY for cricket broadcast rights.

The minister said it would have been easier for her to immediately talk to the press and make accusations against the previous government about this scam followed by their incarcerations, but she preferred first to hold a thorough inquiry .

“In April 2022, we set up a fact-finding committee to probe irregularities in the agreement signed between PTV and Group M of ARY.”

Under such an agreement, PTV as national broadcaster used to acquire sports including cricket telecast rights as by 16th September, 2021these rights were with the PTV Sports Channel which generated revenue and telecast live cricket for the public, said the minister.

The minister said that these rights of the PTV were compromised by signing an agreement on September 16, 2021 as PTV Sports was robbed of its cricket telecast rights.

Marriyum Aurangzeb said that a sinister plan had been drawn up to transfer PTV’s cricket rights to another channel.

To fulfil this plot, the PTV Sports management approached the PTV Board claiming that it had no money to acquire rights, so it wanted to go for expression of
interest.

This, she said, was the first time in the history of PTV that it had no money for this task.

PTV was the company whose 100% shares were owned by the government of
Pakistan as it had no need to make any advance payments for purchase of telecast rights, she remarked.

But the PTV Sports management told the PTV Board that they were in a financial crisis.

She said that an expression of interest was published in a newspaper on August 10, 2021, which included items related to public private partnership and bids were sought under this scheme.

The advertisement also sought expression of interest for conversion of PTV Sports from SD to HD.

Three days later an addendum was published with an amendment saying cable and satellite broadcasters were needed though this condition was not included in the pre-requisition notice for TEN Sports and ICC Rights when inviting bids.

Marriyum Aurangzeb said that terms of reference were later issued which were different from the expression of interest. The last date for filing bids was fixed on August 27, which opened the very next day i. e. August 28, 2021, she said.

Four companies including Group M. representing ARY, Blitz Advertisers, Tower Sports and Trade Chronicle had submitted their bids but the last firm was disqualified on technical grounds.

On August 28, 2021, she said that the review committee gave 182 marks to Blitz Advertisers bid out of 300, whereas Group M- ARY was awarded 167 points and Tower Sports 131 points.

The minister said that the review committee of the PTV signed the marks and issued a letter on August 28 which was signed by the Director Sports, Director Finance, Director Engineering, Chief Commercial Officer and Director Admin & Personnel.

The letter categorically stated that Blitz Advertisers had earned the most points and offered a better partnership deal, but some points will have to be discussed with it before inking the agreement with the company.

On the same day a note was sent to MD PTV stating that two of the three companies have been selected for further negotiations, though the committee had not asked for any such move, rather it had asked for further negotiation with Blitz Advertisers.

The committee had issued a letter to Blitz Advertisers with highest marks and it had previously partnered with PTV on a sports project.

She said that talks resumed on September 1, 2021 with the plan to make “the failed company a successful bidder ” in the process.

On this occasion marks were changed, terms of reference were changed and remarking was done in complete violation of rules and procedure,
Marriyum said.

In order to make the favorite firm successful, the PTV Board was informed that the PPRA rules did not apply to this agreement, which was not the case.

The committee had asked to negotiate with the already selected company Blitz Advertisers but after re-marking, the preferred company was selected.

The total marks in the re-marking had been increased to 350 and this was done to give fifty extra marks to the favourite company.

She said that after remarking, the Group M was given 250 marks out of
350 whereas the winning company was given 185.6 marks out of 350. She said that from additional 50 marks ARY backed firm was given 83 marks whereas Blitz was given only 3.6 marks out of 50.

Another illegally involved in this process was that the third bidder was ignored in this whole process.

On September 6, it was decided that Group M will be awarded a three
years contract, she disclosed.

Another interesting point, she said was that EOI was published on August 10 and agreement was signed on September 16, but PEMRA issued license to A Sports channel only two days before signing of the agreement.

Under EOI terms and conditions, it was mandatory for the bidder to have a satellite broadcaster channel with at least 2 months transmission record.

She said that the financial murder of PTV was committed by the previous regime to benefit another news channel in exchange of promoting and projecting PTI narrative.

Moreover she said that the ARY group was further rewarded for its loyalty to the PTI.

She said that when the Group M disclosed that it had no expertise in HD, the PTV gave a bid for provision of equipment in which three firms participated, but strangely a fourth firm Infinite Vendor was nominated by PTV for provision of equipment to Group M for inward provision to PTV Sports.

The PTV provided a list of 49 items needed for conversion to HD format, but the items provided by Infinite were obsolete and useless.

As per agreement, she said the first phase of upgradation of PTV Sports to HD was to be completed by January, 2022 and second by June 30.

However, she said so far only a few pirated cameras and other equipment was provided to the PTV Sports which did not match the list provided by the PTV Sports management.

She said that from 2021 to 2023 all rights of sports coverage had been given to A Sports which were not even part of EOI, and since then PTV had suffered Rs 520 million loss.

She said that PTV was expected to earn Rs 2 billion but it was deprived of its right by awarding a contract to a favourite channel in complete disregard of rules and
regulations.

She said that when the other bidders went to court against the PTV management’s illegal decision to award the contract to A Sports,

However, the former information minister deputed the PTV legal team to defend
this illegal deal.

She said that all records had been provided to FIA which has started its inquiry into the matter and the culprits involved in this daylight robbery would be held accountable

She said as the minister she had the right to cancel this illegal deal and she
would make no compromise on the rights of the national broadcaster.