A legislative body of the Upper House of Parliament was informed on Thursday that the federal government was carrying out an exercise to map all the heritage sites in the country.“The availability of such information at one place will help us attract foreign tourists. This will boost economic development in the country,” Federal Minister for National History and Literary Heritage Shafqat Mehmood told the Senate’s Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage. The committee had met at the Parliament House with Senator Faisal Javed in the chair. The committee discussed the steps taken by the government to preserve the national heritage in the country. The minister informed the committee that not all of the heritage sites in the country were under the care of the federal government. “The government is carrying out an overarching exercise to map all the heritage sites in the country belonging to all religions. Soon an inventory will be produced with information about all the sites,” he said. The committee expressed serious concern over the dilapidated conditions of many heritage sites and the sale of valuable artefacts in the open market.Regarding the payment of advertisement money to media houses, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information, Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the pending advertisement revenue to electronic and print media belonging to the previous government had been reconciled. “The arrears will be paid in tranches in consultation with the Finance Division,” she said. The committee appreciated the government’s decision to pay outstanding amounts to the media houses. It expressed the hope that there would be a permanent solution to the issue. “Journalists should have job security,” the members said. The committee recommended that the government should first pay media houses that were facing financial problems. “Those media houses should be identified that are not paying salaries to their employees. A long term solution to the problem should be found through legislation,” the members said.Firdous Ashiq Awan told the meeting that Rs 1.9 billion of advertisements from the Ministry of Information had been paid. “There is no pendency of payments of advertisements issued by the current government. However, the backlog relates to the previous government’s tenure. The amount was huge and needed to be reconciled. The amount of advertisements by the previous Punjab government has now been reconciled at Rs 570 million. The previous federal government had to pay Rs 1.1 billion to various media houses. The government knows that the employees are being affected as they are not being paid,” she said. Committee Chairman Senator Faisal Javed said that the issue needed to be seen holistically so that the real causes of delay in salary payments was found. The special assistant said that 85 percent of advertisement revenue in the country came from the private sector and only 15 percent came from the government sector. “Consequently, the government should not be blamed for the non-payment of salaries to the journalists,” she said.Representatives of Parliamentary Reporters’ Association expressed the hope that employees would be given same importance as media houses’ owners. “A permanent solution should emerge through service rules. We hope that the employees are paid before Eid,” they said. The committee also discussed the issue of payments to retired PTV employees. Members were informed that Rs 439 million had been paid to PTV pensioners since May, 2018.“Out of the remaining Rs 1.9 billion, Rs 600 million will come from various investments and will be paid to pensioners as soon as the board of directors approves this decision,” the officials said. The committee was assured that PTV administration would do its best to pay the Rs 600 million to pensioners by May 30. The committee said that the issue would remain on its agenda until all pensioners had been provided relief.The special assistant told the meeting that a process for appointment of the new PTV managing director had been initiated. The committee observed that special care needed to be taken while making such appointments.During a briefing on working and performance of Lok Virsa, the committee was informed that the post of executive director was lying vacant for the last one year and against the sanctioned strength of 106 employees, only 52 were currently employed.Senators Sajjad Turi, Mushtaq Ahmed, Khushbakht Shujaat, Maula Bakhsh Chandio, Pervaiz Rasheed, Anwar ul Haq Kakar, Information, Broadcasting Secretary Shafqat Jalil, the PEMRA chairman and NLPD Chairman Iftikhar Arif attended the meeting.