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Consolidation in the Name of Regulation: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and the Concentration of Media Ownership in Pakistan

Abstract

Pakistani government circles consider policies of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to be responsible for the unprecedented progression of the media industry in the country, which paved the way for the concentration of ownership and the unbridled political influence enjoyed by the owners of media organizations. In fact, successive Pakistani governments have endeavored to revisit their previous policy vis-à-vis media regulation and licensing of electronic media in the country, and an erstwhile inefficient PEMRA has recently been instructed by the government to reconsider a few policy initiatives related to the cross-media ownership and licensing of new television channels. In this article, we explore the relationship between media regulation and concentration of ownership in Pakistan through the lens of the political economy of communication and conclude that owner-friendly policies of PEMRA and its inefficiency in implementing its mandate have resulted in the concentration of ownership, which facilitated diagonal growth of a handful of companies that control the airwaves in the Pakistani media industry.

Azmat Rasul, Stephen D. McDowell

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