Pakistan was founded in 1947 after partition from India in the aftermath of the end of British colonial rule in the South Asian sub-continent. Independent Pakistan inherited a basic radio medium infrastructure comprising three radio stations in Lahore (established in 1928), Peshawar (1935) and in Dhaka (1938). The government continued to own and operate these three stations with AM operations while adding several more stations in the network that was called ‘Radio Pakistan’. In 1972 the government converted ‘Radio Pakistan’ into ‘Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC)’. The PBC currently operates several AM operations as well as a network of dozens of FM stations. In 1994, the deregulation of airwaves started with permission for the country’s first private radio station FM100, which began operations in 1995.
The entire state-owned radio sector is outside the purview of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Media (PEMRA), which only regulates the private broadcast sector including independent radio and television. The PEMRA, which was established in 2002, has since issued a total of 209 FM stations in the private broadcast sector, by the end of 2018, according to the PEMRA Annual Report 2018. This includes 154 commercial FM stations and 55 non-commercial (educational and other thematic) stations. Pakistan’s radio FM sector is a thriving and popular medium but is recognized more for its entertainment value than hard news or current affairs coverage whose quantum and quality varies from region to region.
The total media advertising market, according to Gallup Pakistan data for financial year 2017-18 cited by Aurora magazine, was PKR 81.6 billion (USD 680 million), which included TV, print, radio, digital and others. Of this, the advertising volume for the radio market was only 3% (compared to 46% for TV) at PKR 2.5 billion (USD 20.8 million).