The End of Late Night Mobile Packages

//CGCS Media Wire takes a look at recent restrictions on late night phone packages in Pakistan put in place by officials to crack down on changes in social norms and values. Arzak Khan explains the cultural, technological and generational divide stirred up by this recent situation. Edited by Media Wire Fellow Corey Abramson.

In another blow to the Pakistani telecom industry, the regulatory authority (Pakistan Telecommunication Authority) has directed all mobile phone operators to immediately discontinue their late night cellular phone packages. Citing the increasing levels of “immorality,” the regulatory authority sees a clear divide between engaging in late night communication and “the social norms and values” of the country.

“We have received a number of complaints from the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Standing Committee of the Parliament, Senators, MNAs and subscribers regarding the promotion of vulgarity through such advertisements [and] packages and have therefore asked CMOs (chief marketing officers) to immediately discontinue such packages and to present compliance reports,” said PTA Chairman Farooq Awan.

“The PTA claims to have arrogated the power crackdown on these packages under the Reorganization Act of 1996, which mandates it to regulate competition in the telecommunication sector, protect consumer rights and ensure that the interests of users are safeguarded and protected,” writes Mewish Khan for propakistani.pr.

Mobile phones have become an essential part of people’s lives in Pakistan. From the times of fixed landlines to mobile beeping or flashing, the industry has certainly come a long way including the recent introduction of special packages during peak and off-peak hours. The success of late night offers during the off-peak hours has become very popular in Pakistan – especially among the youth. At the same time, however, these late night packages have received criticism from some parts of Pakistani society which believe that the trend of the late night phone call is promoting western culture and moving away from traditional Pakistani social norms and values.

Reactions to the ban vary along generational split

The disapproval of late night packages has been heavily highlighted both in print and electronic media. Pakistani media have also discussed the negative effects of using mobile phone technology, something that seems to shed light on a generational conflict between older citizens and the adopters and users of mobile phones. Younger Pakistanis see the technology as liberating and cutting edge, while older generations fear youths being indulged in conversations on mobile phones all night long, leading to and promoting “immorality”.

In Pakistan, the younger generation is more influenced by western culture – thanks in great part to accessing Cable television, both Hollywood and Bollywood movies, and the growing use of the internet. Mobile phones have started to help this younger demographic create their own technologically oriented subcultures.

Given recent shifts in cultural norms and values, young Pakistanis are modifying and re-purposing technology for their own, modern needs. Cellular phone technology has become a tool which helps them insulate their private interactions from the traditional culture around them. All that is set to change, however, with this ban on the use of late night packages.

The policy approach for cultural protectionism in this age of modern technologies and globalization seems difficult to realize but the government in Pakistan is bent on protecting social norms and values. Who knows what will be banned next – what with current restrictive policy on Mobile phone services, YouTube, Mobile number portability (MNP), the selling of SIM cards, and now mobile phone packages being banned and/or blocked.

//Arzak Khan is a communication expert who researches on the marketing of Human rights, New Media, and Social Movements in the South. One part of his research focuses on understanding the role played by Information Communication Technologies in Mediatization of society and other focuses on the development of ICT infrastructure, broadband strategies and regulation of the Internet.

Arzak blogs on http://telecologist.blogspot.com/ and can be found on twitter as well @ArzakKhan

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11/21 Pakistan ends cheap late-night mobile phone deals to protect young from “vulgarity”  (via The Telegraph)

11/21 PTA orders termination of late night mobile packages: Report (via The Express Tribune)

11/21 PTA Bans Nights Packages, Suddenly Realizes they are Immoral (via ProPakistani.pr)

9/27 Flash Me – on the mobile phenomenon of flashing or beeping (via Somewhere in Africa)

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