Indian TV shows don’t just have a huge fan following in India. They are also popular across the world. Audiences in Pakistan, too, love watching Hindi daily soaps. But the number of Indian shows being aired in Pakistan may soon be reduced to a trickle. Reportedly, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has declared that Indian content is “sensitive in nature”. While local Pakistani channels can broadcast foreign content, they will be allowed to air only six percent of the Indian content that was previously being showcased. They are also cracking down on all the Indian content that is being aired through illegal Direct to Home (DTH) services in Pakistan, which apparently have over three million illegal subscribers.
Why must fans suffer?
Divyanka Tripathi, who stars in a popular show, says the decision to drastically reduce the amount of Indian television content in Pakistan will affect the business of Indian channels. She has a huge fan following in Pakistan as well. “This decision will definitely affect the cultural exchange between the two countries. I have grown fond of Pakistan due to the love I have got from my fans there. We connected over my show. Does the [Pakistani] government want to cut off the mutual ties that exist now?” she says.
Actor Hiten Tejwani is surprised with the decision. He finds it sudden and “unfathomable”. “The Pakistani government should allow more Indian shows to be aired. Why should all channels, actors and fans suffer because of this blanket order? People should understand that entertainment shouldn’t be targeted,” he says.
By any means
This move might also give rise to piracy. Actor Iqbal Khan feels people will watch their favourite shows one way or the other. “Nothing can stop entertainment. People who love Indian shows will find a way to watch them, be it online or through pirate means,” says the actor.
A still from Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat.
Industry sources add that while Pakistan is a big market, it isn’t the biggest market for Indian content. A source says, “The Middle East and regions in Africa have Indian channels, which are hugely popular there. Moreover, audiences in South-East Asian countries love Indian shows. These countries have bigger, newer markets for Indian channels. The Pakistani government’s decision might affect the channels, but only in a miniscule way. What will be interesting to see is how this decision affects the channels that air Pakistani shows in India.”