Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Thursday said the official media, including Pakistan Television (PTV), Radio Pakistan and Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), was being transformed on modern lines. Briefing the Senate’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting, which met here with Senator Faisal Javed Khan in the chair, he said new projects based on modern technologies were being launched to uplift the official media, which would enable it to meet the requirements of modern days. For the first time in the country’s history, a digital advertising policy was being formulated, he added. Fawad said an English television (TV) channel would be launched within the next six months, while the PTV would be converted into HD. A dedicated TV channel for kids was also in the offing, he added. The minister told the committee that the cable network had also been digitized as a policy in that regard was approved by the Federal Cabinet. He added that the digitization policy would not only improve the quality of the channels and increase the numbers of viewers, but also ensure transparency in their rating process. He said the digitization of cable networks would help improve picture quality of the content being aired on channels as about 2.4 million households watched the TV channels on a daily basis. As of now, 54 percent people in the country watched sports channels, followed by entertainment channels, and 10-15 percent only news channels, he added. The minister informed the panel that landing charges on educational channels had been waived off, aimed at augmenting their number. He said the “Digital Box” would provide opportunities to consumers to watch about 190 to 200 channels operating in the country at the present. He said the number of channels in Pakistan should be over 700 as about 1,100 channels were operating in India. He said it was the first time that the cable operators had been allowed to buy content. As regards up-gradation of APP, he said the ministry’s Digital Media Wing would be merged into the premier news agency’s. The government was committed to bring APP on par with Reuters and Agence- France Presse (AFP), he added. He said APP had a vast network, which could be used for disseminating positive local stories, besides promoting tourism at the local and international levels. Radio Pakistan, he said, would also be digitized on modern lines. At the present Radio Pakistan had about Rs one billion liabilities, he said, adding it owned properties worth billions of rupees, which could be unitized for its uplift. The minister said it was being considered to include the employees of Radio Pakistan in the Prime Minister’s housing initiative. He said it was unfortunate that the government land was illegally occupied by the land grabbers, and steps were being taken to rectify the situation. The minister said the Federal Cabinet had recently approved the Public Properties (Removal of Encroachment) Bill, 2021 to pave the way for reclaiming government land encroached by certain elements. Under the law, he said, an officer would be appointed by the Federal Government, who would be empowered to issue show cause notices to encroachers and, in case of an unsatisfactory answer, he could take necessary action which included punishment and imposition of fine. He apprised the committee that a comprehensive film policy had been prepared, which would be helpful in collaborating with different countries, including China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The committee members recommended opening of the cinema houses, closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the anti-COVID-19 SOPs (standard operating procedures). The minister asked the committee chairman to convene the forum’s meeting in Karachi to get a briefing on the film industry and meet with representatives of the film association. The committee chairman told the meeting that the forum had approved a bill for the welfare of the journalist community, which was opposed by the opposition. The members appreciated the initiatives taken for the welfare of the media. Meanwhile, Fawad called upon the national media channels to pay more attention to international issues and politics. He regretted that the national channels did not discuss the All Parties Conference, summoned by the Indian government on Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). Earlier, Information and Broadcasting Secretary Shahera Shahid briefed the committee about the functioning of the ministry and its attached departments.