KARACHI: In 2004, the government of Pakistan set a television license fee to be collected from every television-watching household and commercial venue in the country.
The government of Pakistan implemented the television license fee on August 1, 2004 in a dual attempt to steer state-run television channel Pakistan Television (PTV) out of a financial crisis and promote the channel. The fee was supposed to be collected through electricity bills at a rate of Rs25 per month for houses and Rs40 per month for commercial centres. It has been reported that the government has increased the tax to Rs35 for houses and Rs60 for commercial locations since January 1, 2010. The fee can also be paid as an annual sum of Rs420 for residential users and Rs720 for commercial users.
A PTV official stated, “The government imposed the tax to help PTV as our marketing section is weak.” The official believes that PTV has the most viewership in Pakistan.
Amir Abbasi, a spokesperson for the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) said, “This is just one license fee that is levied by the government on the electricity bill. We (KESC) on our part charge no commission on that.”
It is said that PTV generates revenue worth Rs3.5 billion through this license fee. But where does all this money go? Despite generating so much revenue, the state-run channel is facing huge losses to such an extent that gone are the days when its halls would be filled with numerous stars and artists.
Today, PTV bears a forlorn and empty look.
Top officials and the management have failed to outperform other privately run TV stations and have been unable to match their managerial skills. However at the end of the month they are reportedly still getting paid a handsome salary and though the institution may be suffering, the management is not.
The license fee was put into effect in 2004, whereas private channels sprung after 2002. Once cable operators and private channels mushroomed it became essential for the government to promote the state run channel and hence the tax was implemented.
Shanaz Ramzi, the GM Public Relations for Eye Television Network asserts, “This license fee only generates revenue and was essentially an ideal way of promoting PTV but [I believe] it should be abolished.”
Published in the Express Tribune, May 29th, 2010.
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