FCO Performance and Finances

Supplementary evidence from BBC World Service

Further information on BBC Urdu distribution problems in Pakistan

From May 2009 BBC Urdu was providing five minute news bulletins throughout the day to 34 FM stations around the country, and latterly it also provided the well known and influential BBC Urdu programme, Sairbeen, which went out for half hour in the evening.  Not long after the addition of Sairbeen to some of our partners' airwaves, they were asked to remove all BBC programming, as they were running it "without permission".

Apart from the necessity of gaining such permission being questionable in itself, these radio stations had been running BBC news without interference for several months after the verdict of the Sindh High Court and the public verbal endorsement of the then Minister of Information (Sherry Rehman), which enabled BBC Urdu to go back on air following earlier disruption to the service in 2008.

Various BBC journalists and executives then sought and had innumerable conversations with PEMRA (the regulator), the Ministry of Information, including the Minister himself, and other influential figures in Pakistan, who each professed to have no problem with the BBC.  However, for some months no "permission" was issued by PEMRA for stations to run BBC. So whilst permission was not denied, it was witheld.  Finally all partners were given permission by PEMRA to run only three bulletins (as opposed to bulletins throughout the day).  Again the BBC has questioned the basis for allowing only three bulletins, but no answer has been forthcoming.  Currently the BBC is providing 3 x 10 min news programmes to 37 stations with about six more in the pipeline.

22 November 2010