On its knees...: Radio Pakistan defends proposed bailout

Published: March 4, 2012

Managing director of Pakistan Radio addressing a press conference in Hyderabad on Saturday. PHOTO: SHAHID ALI/EXPRESS

HYDERABAD: 

The managing director of cash-strapped Radio Pakistan has defended proposed bailout in the form of radio tax, saying the public broadcaster is a nursery for novice and a sole source of information for people of backward areas.

“There have been calls demanding closure of the organisation if it is persistently making losses. But they need to consider passionately the significance of public broadcasting, which is not commercially viable even in India, China, Japan and European countries,” said Murtaza Solangi at a press conference at Radio Pakistan here on Saturday.

A National Assembly standing committee has approved recommendations of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) for a 2% tax on cellphone recharge and a one-off Rs4,000 tax on purchase of all types of vehicles. If the taxes are imposed, the PBC will collect around Rs4 billion annually.

According to Solangi, the PBC has been allocated hardly half the budget it had sought from the government in recent years. “In fiscal year 2011-12, we got Rs2.10 billion against demand of Rs4.22 billion. The deficit was Rs2.20 billion in 2010-11, Rs1 billion in 2009-10 and Rs656 million in 2008-09.” The shortage of funds began in 2006, he added.

Solangi said PBC’s salary component alone consumed Rs2.5 billion with share of pensioners at Rs700 million.

He drew comparison with other public-service organisations, which although did not generate revenues but secured a significant amount from the country’s annual budget.

“Police, army and many other organisations are well supported but are never asked to be commercially viable. Our stations work round the clock in situations like natural calamities as a key source of information to the affected people,” he said.

Discussing PBC’s earnings, Solangi said the broadcaster earned Rs300 million out of more than Rs1 billion revenues from advertisements on all modes including short wave, medium wave and FM, which is mostly run by the private sector.

However, he pointed out that advertisers were reluctant to give commercials for medium-wave broadcasts, but did not elaborate. “The irony is that maintaining the medium-wave station is far too costly than FM stations.”

He contended that FM technology was limited to big cities and if the PBC crumbled under financial woes, the underdeveloped areas would totally lose the radio facility.

“I don’t personally favour putting financial burden on ordinary people, but at the same time the exigencies of public service broadcasting should be considered,” Solangi said.

Highlighting the broadcaster’s financial condition, Radio Pakistan Regional Director Naseer Mirza, who was also present at the press conference, said employees had not been paid for three months, besides delay in payment of honorarium to the artists for their shows.

The corporation is also in the process of regularising 661 employees working on contract. A government committee, headed by Federal Minister Khursheed Ahmed Shah, is reviewing the case.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2012. 

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Reader Comments (7)

  • A. Khan
    Mar 4, 2012 - 4:56AM

    When I read your statement that people in remote areas listed to Radio Pakistan for news, I felt I had to set the record straight. Coming from a remote area myself, I can state that people there wait for BBC Urdu service rather than Radio Pakistan. In other places I have visited, they listen to BBC service in their own language, otherwise its BBC Urdu service. This also shows just how out of touch you are with facts on the ground.

    When requesting the bail out, I would have liked to see Pakistan Radio Managing Director outline plans for reducing the expenditure as well. And one of the biggest expenses is staff salaries and benefits.

    Why doesn’t the management set an example by giving up their perks like official cars etc ? That should be a very good start and could apply to all government departments. How about cutting down on electricity usage by eliminating air conditioners ? As over 90% of the population can live without them through the summer months, I don’t see why officialdom needs to use these at taxpayers expense ?

    Also how about getting up off your backside and making your own tea ? That should eliminate hundreds of jobs. If the chief executives of multi-billion dollar profitable Western corporations can do this, I don’t see why a two-bit bureaucrat sponging off the tax payer should not. And its not only the poor paen who might be let go. There are hundreds of middle “management” who contribute zilch in terms of productivity who can share the same fate. Lets not get into unemployment issues here. It is not government job to provide employment but to provide the conditions for employment to be created. But I digress.

    So you see, before you ask for bail out, you need to put your house in order. And then and only then, should you come out publicly asking for a bail out. Otherwise, I would say that Pakistan Radio should sign off sooner rather than later. Recommend

  • Mar 4, 2012 - 6:35AM

    “Police, army and many other organisations are well supported but are never asked to be commercially viable.

    Radio Pakistan doesn’t protect us from anything, but so doesn’t the Police or the Army :p

    Radio Pakistan is already being funded by our tax money, then why a new tax?

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  • wahab
    Mar 4, 2012 - 9:35AM

    they cannot kick out employees because of legal issues. I think this tax is a good idea as many car users listen to radio and so do people with cellphones, especially in remote areas.Meanwhile radio pak should find ways to earn more revenues. PTV earned most of its revenues through world cup held last year, why cant radio pak do that? 20 20 cup is on its way!

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  • Mar 4, 2012 - 11:28AM

    Govt. always finds simple way to tax masses for bailout of any organization even then they didn’t get any plan to deal with it in long term. Please entail some plan to lay off this tax in future.

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  • OperatorConvention
    Mar 4, 2012 - 6:14PM

    Radio is a technology from the 1950s. We should make the budget rs1Bn at most per year and have one station. We should redeploy the savings to deploy high speed 4G technology across the rural areas of Pakistan – the only place where Radio Pakistan has any significance. Then rural users can use rural broadband to stream a variety of radio channels not only radio pakistan but also others.

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  • Mar 4, 2012 - 6:58PM

    OperatorConvention: Ever heard of Internet radio? If radio is so backward why is it being recreated on the Internet? Radio is not a dead medium. It is very much alive.

    It’s only Radio Pakistan that has been mismanaged. Radio Pakistan needs to be privatized. No more wasting money on a poorly managed public enterprise. The government has no business doing business.

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  • pro bono publico
    Mar 5, 2012 - 1:11PM

    First we need Radio Pakistan to be accountable for current taxes, work ot vaiable business plan to include shedding of its extra baggage, gaining people confidence so they prefer listinig to BBC.V O A more over it stop being preacher of morality as this is entertainment channel

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