Why is the concept of royalties lost in the Pakistani entertainment industry?

For many international celebrities, starring in blockbuster TV shows is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to receiving handsome paychecks. Every time one of their TV shows is redistributed or purchased by a streaming platform, the actors get paid again in the form of residual checks, known as royalties. Unfortunately, the concept of royalties is alien to the current Pakistani drama industry. Our artists are only paid by the channels once; when the channels rope in the actors to play their respective roles in their dramas. After that, regardless of how many times their dramas go on-air again or are sold to international channels, the actors receive nothing.

How do royalties work in Pakistan?

The concept of royalties wasn’t always lost in the Pakistani drama industry. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, when PTV was the only channel that aired dramas, artists used to get paid for reruns. However, they worked differently than how royalties work internationally. Internationally, channels have set a fixed percentage that the actors receive every time they re-aired one of the actors’ TV shows. The percentage decreases with each rerun. But in Pakistan’s context, back in the olden days, if an actor was financially unstable, he had the option to ask a channel for a higher paycheck than what he would have received normally. Actors who opted for this option, however, lost the right to ask the channel to pay them again if the channel ever decided to rerun one of the actors’ dramas. Since then, the same concept has been followed, which is precisely why actors aren’t paid for reruns anymore. 

Actors Collective Trust (ACT)

Back in 2016, theatre actor Omair Rana formed a trust called Actors’ Collective Trust (ACT) and is the general secretary of the trust as well. Talking about ACT, Omair said that he established the trust to provide support to the Pakistani acting fraternity. The trust consists of notable Pakistani personalities like Faisal Rahman, Samina Ahmad, Mohammad Qavi Khan, Hina Bayat, Laila Zuberi, and Arjumand Rahim, apart from Omair Rana himself. Since the trust’s formation, there have been discussions regarding payment and even reruns and multiple efforts have been made to help artists receive their fair dues.

Omair Rana

When Galaxy Lollywood reached out to Omair for a comment, he said that if actors are given royalties, they won’t have to be dependent on the government or anyone else. But the producers have an entirely different attitude regarding dramas. They sell their products (dramas) to international channels and upload them on YouTube and earn money with each like and view. But not a penny is shared with the rest of the cast and the crew of the drama who play an integral role in the success of the project.

Omair also added that producers and broadcasters do not have long-term plans regarding reruns; they want the cast and the crew to accept whatever is being given to them at that specific moment. Upon asking why no one has been so openly vocal about reruns and royalties, Omair replied that actors know they are going to be returned empty-handed. Actors can’t sit idle just because their needs are not being met. Omair also revealed that these days, some actors have added a clause in their contracts that states that whenever actors are appointed as the ‘face’ of a specific brand, they will get paid each time the brand runs the advertisement starring the actor. The time duration is usually decided at the time of signing the contract and as long as an actor is the face of one brand, he cannot form another contract with a different brand of the same nature.

Talking about broadcasters, Omair said it feels that they think that they have bought the talent of the actors who cannot afford to say no to the broadcasters. When asked whether he sees a change in the industry regarding royalties, Omair said that he is an optimist. If everyone collectively raises their voice against it and remains persistent, then something will be done. It might not happen right now or in the near future, but it will be done.  

Celebrities weigh in

A few days ago, model turned actor Mikaal Zulfiqar shared scenes of one of his dramas ‘Diyar e Dil’ being re-aired on HUM TV with the captions “HUM TV re-airing Diyar e Dil for the umpteenth time” and “If only we got paid for reruns. Would never have to work another day in life”. He even left a comment under one of Galaxy Lollywood’s Instagram posts, encouraging people to start a movement so actors can start getting paid for reruns. Considering the disappointment Mikaal expressed on this matter, we reached out to him and he was quite passionate and vocal about the issue. 

Mikaal Zulfiqar's post on reruns

Mikaal reiterated many of the points Omair raised. He said that it’s really unfair how not just the actors, but everyone who works hard behind the camera does not get paid for reruns. He added that when channels make a drama, they don’t only make money by airing the drama on their own channel but also by selling it to international channels and platforms. They upload it on their respective YouTube channels and earn money from it through advertising. But the cast and crew of the drama aren’t paid a rupee from there despite being the reason behind the success of the drama.

Talking about why no one has been publicly vocal about the issue, Mikaal said that the entertainment industry is still considered an emerging one. He added that it does seem a little hypocritical raising his voice on the issue, yet taking up dramas without the promise of royalties, but just because there is a problem with not getting paid for reruns doesn’t mean actors won’t sign a new project at all. He said that it is highly unfair that artists are paid just once for playing their role in creating the final product but get no benefit when the product does well. Mikaal hopes that by raising his voice about this issue, he can give back to the industry that made him who he is today and pave the way for future artists of Pakistan. 

Sanam and Mikael in Diyar e Dil

Galaxy Lollywood also reached out to Sanam Saeed, who was Mikaal’s co-star in ‘Diyar e Dil’. Sanam shared her opinion on the matter and said that royalties are a no-go area and an age-old debate when it comes to signing contracts. When asked whether a collaborative effort by actors could actually bring this much-needed change, Sanam replied that actors would have to unite against this and form a mutually agreed decision so they are not exploited like this. Sanam further added that she would appreciate if actors were provided even a token amount every time one of their dramas generated money whenever a drama is re-aired, sold to other channels, or streamed on OTT platforms. 

It seems only fair that if someone adds value to a project, they must be included in the success and benefits of the project. The success of a drama is because of a collective effort of the producer, director, actor, cameramen, and other vital cogs that lent their skill, their craft to the drama. And it definitely is each contributing party’s right to receive a share of the profit the drama makes each time the drama makes money. The entertainment industry seems united on the front that artists should be paid for reruns of dramas they were part of and hope for a better and just future for the industry.


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