ISLAMABAD: As the government this week deferred its decision to increase the monthly subscription fee for state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) amid a national outcry, members of the public said the impending hike was ‘unjustified’ and would hurt the poorest most.
All electricity consumers in Pakistan pay a monthly fee of Rs35 for PTV, which adds up to billions in revenue for the broadcaster. But the government has recently said it planned to hike the fee to Rs100.
On Tuesday, information minister Shibli Faraz said the decision to increase the fee was before the cabinet but deferred until next week.
“An increase in fees from Rs35 to Rs100 will affect those living below the poverty line and majority of the public, not those living in metropolitan cities,” Dr. Shafaq Hashmi, a psychologist in Islamabad, said, adding that she was “forced” to pay a subscription fee even though she did not watch PTV.
“I am paying cable operators to watch [private] TV channels and mostly watch content on the Internet, so this fee is unjustified,” Hashmi said.
PTV was founded in 1964 with the cooperation of the Nippon Electric Company of Japan and Thomas Television International of the United Kingdom. It was nationalized by government in 1970. The channel had television monopoly until the early 2000s when private TV channels were allowed.
Faced with competition, PTV has slowly upgraded, using news tickler, and offering live updates every few hours. But it cannot compete with private networks who have hundreds of stringers and cameras in many of the country’s remote corners. Recently, PTV officials have said the broadcaster has had trouble paying bills and pensions, and would increase its monthly fee to make up the difference.
“This is not merely a matter of increasing the channel’s monthly fee from 35 rupees to 100 rupees,” said Asif Muhammad Khan, an electrician who works at a TV production house in Islamabad. “If you collectively see this, we are burdened with taxes and fees but in return we get no public services.”