Media watchdog slams Pakistan curbs on TV broadcasters

Three TV channels were removed from the country’s airwaves, prompting backlash. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 July 2019
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Media watchdog slams Pakistan curbs on TV broadcasters

  • AbbTakk TV, 24 News, and Capital TV all had their broadcasts cut, after screening a press conference with the opposition leader
  • Pakistani authorities say the channels were unavailable due to “technical issues”

ISLAMABAD: A global media watchdog has slammed Pakistani authorities over the removal of three television channels from the country’s airwaves, saying the move was “indicative of disturbing dictatorial tendencies” as pressure mounts on journalists in the South Asian nation.
The statement from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) comes days after AbbTakk TV, 24 News, and Capital TV all had their broadcasts cut, after screening a press conference with opposition leader Maryam Nawaz.
Pakistani authorities say the channels were unavailable due to “technical issues,” but RSF described the outage as an act of “brazen censorship.”
“Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled to learn that three Pakistani TV news channels have been suspended from cable networks at the behest of the authorities in reprisal for broadcasting an opposition leader’s news conference,” the watchdog said late Tuesday.
It went on to pin the removal of the channels on the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, saying “the all-powerful broadcast media regulator” takes its lead from the country’s “military establishment.”
A senior official with knowledge of the case confirmed the move against the channels, saying the broadcasters had violated Pakistan’s “code of conduct” and been warned against airing the press conference with Maryam Nawaz.
Nawaz is the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — who is currently behind bars for corruption — and her press conference featured a judge claiming he had been blackmailed into convicting the former premier.
The move came as Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration vowed to block any media coverage and interviews of politicians “who are convicts and under trial,” according to leading English-language daily Dawn.
Just last week, Pakistan’s largest private broadcaster Geo News TV abruptly took an interview with former president Asif Ali Zardari off air shortly after it began.
There have been accusations in recent years of the country’s powerful military putting pressure on the media to stop coverage critical of its policies — allegations it denies.
Pakistan routinely ranks among the world’s most dangerous countries for media workers and reporters have frequently been detained, beaten and even killed for being critical of the government or powerful military.


Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

Updated 18 July 2019
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Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

  • India is among the last big growth markets for the company
  • Netflix faces competition from Amazon’s Prime Video and Walt Disney Co’s Hotstar
Netflix said on Wednesday it would roll out a lower-priced mobile-only plan in India within the next three months to tap into a price-sensitive market at a time the streaming company is losing customers in its home turf.
India is among the last big growth markets for the company, where it faces competition from Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video and Hotstar, a video streaming platform owned by Walt Disney Co’s India unit.
Netflix lost US streaming customers for the first time in eight years on Wednesday, when it posted quarterly results. It also missed targets for new subscribers overseas.
“India is a mobile-first nation, where many first-time users are experiencing the Internet on their phones. In such a scenario, a mobile-only package makes sense to target new users,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research.
The creator of “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” said in March that it was testing a 250-rupee ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, where data plans are among the cheapest in the world.
The country figures prominently in Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings’ global expansion plans.
“We believe this plan, which will launch in the third quarter, will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and to further expand our business,” the company said in a letter to investors released late on Wednesday.
Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, priced between 500 rupees ($7.27) and 800 rupees $11.63).
It has created a niche following in the country by launching local original shows like the thriller “Sacred Games” and dystopian tale “Leila,” which feature popular Bollywood actors.
The second season of “Sacred Games” is set to release in August.
In contrast, Hotstar, which also offers content from AT&T Inc’s HBO and also streams live sports, charges 299 rupees ($4.35) per month. Amazon bundles its video and music streaming services with its Prime membership.
“We’ve been seeing nice steady increases in engagement with our Indian viewers that we think we can keep building on. Growth in that country is a marathon, so we’re in it for the long haul,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said.