KARACHI: A 90’s Pakistani screen sweetheart, Shaan Shahid, who is often in the political spotlight due to his opinions on Twitter, said on Friday that the government could not control the content of private television channels, but that programmers at state-owned Pakistan Television (PTV) should ‘wake up and do their jobs.’
The veteran actor and director known simply as ‘Shaan’, whose spy thriller Zarrar is slated for release next year, is a vocal supporter of the Imran Khan led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government.
But his comments come amid a push by the federal media regulatory authority, and the Prime Minister himself, to censor the content of privately owned channels and social media apps.
“These are private channels. You can’t control the content of private channels. They will make what they think is right,” Shaan told Arab News at his home in Lahore.
“But... you’ve got a channel that’s beyond satellite and that’s PTV,” he said, referring to the state television channel.
“If PTV was producing what the Prime Minister thinks should be produced... I want to see that content,” he said, and added:
“I don’t know who’s doing the programming in PTV, but whoever it is needs to wake up and do his job.”
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA)-- an independent federal institution-- has of late directed private television channels to air content in line with Pakistan’s religious and cultural ‘values.’
Last month, the Prime Minister’s information minister said Khan, a former star cricketer, was increasingly concerned about the ‘vulgarity and obscenity’ influencing Pakistani society and spread through mainstream and social media.
Earlier this month, the country’s telecom regulator blocked TikTok, a hugely popular video sharing app, for failing to filter out “immoral and indecent” content. The ban was later conditionally lifted.
“Nobody can define what vulgarity is... but there should be a line that none should cross,” the Waar actor said.
“I am not from PTI or any other political party,” he said, but added that the people of Pakistan needed to give the PTI government, which came to power in 2018, more time to govern.
His comments come amid nationwide opposition protests to oust Khan’s government and a call for early elections.
“The race is not yet finished,” Shaan said. “Give him (Imran Khan) enough time to prove himself.”
“As a Pakistani I feel that this (PTI government) is the last hope for democracy in the country.”
The actor, who is openly critical of the influence of neighboring India’s massive film industry on Pakistani cinema, said he was passionate about producing Pakistani content for Pakistanis, and that entertainment being imported into the country should be filtered ‘in a way.’
“Right now a lot of media is being used for various reasons... it’s not just entertainment anymore,” Shaan said.
“There’s hybrid warfare going on and content has a huge part to play in it. So I feel it should be filtered in a way.”
Shaan said he was open to working in collaborative projects with other countries, including Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, as long as there was a clear vision to shape a narrative at the government level.
“I think for showbiz, you have to have vision,” Shaan said. “They (Middle Eastern countries) have to decide and come forward to invest into areas where it is easier to build a narrative.”