Saturday, September 08, 2012

Radio Pakistan closing SW transmitters "with immediate effect" - press report

ISLAMABAD: The PPP government is under pressure to sell at throwaway prices the 370 acres of state-owned land, worth Rs50 billion, on the main GT Road in Rawalpindi to some of its favourites.

Owned by the Radio Pakistan, the land is in a prime location and there are reports of some influential persons pressing the top rulers to get the land for their commercial purposes but at throwaway prices.

Director General Radio Pakistan, Murtaza Solangi, when approached confirmed that some influential people had their eyes on this land but he assured saying, "I will not let this happen during my tenure.

"I will not allow this to happen during my incumbency, and if anything is done to achieve this objective, I will quickly resign,"� Murtaza Solangi said, adding, "I will work out on policies and projects so that this land remains in the ownership of Radio Pakistan and powerful persons could not even snatch it in future, after my departure."

The background of the story is that the Radio Pakistan management has decided to shut down 5 shortwave (SW) transmitters installed at HTP Rawat with immediate effect. These transmitters installed over a vast area of about 370 acres of land to transmit Radio Pakistan signals to the outside world including South East Asia, Gulf, Middle East, Europe and some other parts. The Radio Pakistan "Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC)" management is doing so to shift external services on internet and subsequently on satellite.

The staff members of PBC are of the view that short wave receivers are common across the world while everybody especially the rural and some of the urban population do not have internet or satellite receivers in their radio sets. They view that Radio Pakistan's SW installations are a strategic asset, which send Pakistan's message to the whole world and complete elimination of this infrastructure will be a great loss for Pakistan.

The PBC staff members said that the SW installation was not maintained on regular basis and thus there were some problems which could be removed by properly updating and overhauling the installed equipment and at a very low cost. These staff members also say that installed equipment is worth billions of rupees and will be sold for peanuts now.

However, on the other side, DG PBC, Murtaza Solangi is of the view that SW analogue technology is becoming redundant now and installed SW equipment has almost become outdated. He said this system consumed very big amount of electricity and yielded almost no results in return and thus remained unfeasible in a country which is already facing power shortages.

"We have to move to the advanced technology and our engineering department has worked out and researched before moving this proposal,"� Solangi said."According to our estimates, after removing SW technology, even if we will lose some overseas listeners we will also get more on internet and satellite technology,"� Solangi said and added that one out of these five transmitters will be retained as it was installed in near past and has the capacity to radiate signals in digital mode when we switch digital broadcasts.

He said that there would be problems in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as there were listeners who would not have satellite receivers. "For India, we have strong medium-wave transmitters and can transmit our signals throughout India,"� Solangi said, adding: "For Bangladesh and Sri Lanka we are planning programme adjustment with broadcasters operating there."

The staff of Radio Pakistan showed this correspondent some communications of persons from Western Europe complaining about the frequency of SW transmitters of Radio Pakistan and, according to these members of PBC, these complaints had been resolved. According to them this shows interest of people from other countries in broadcasts of PBC and seeking information from Pakistan. However, DG Solangi was of the view that even such complaints from foreigners had diminished now.

Solangi said that during his four-year tenure as DG PBC, he had not sold even a single inch of Radio Pakistan land and same would be the case in the remaining part of his tenure. He said he would take every possible measure to ensure that even in future no one could dare to dole out this land to any influential person so that it could be retained as a national asset.
(The International News By Ahmad Noorani, 7 September 2012, Via BDXC)