Five years ago, if Nepalis living outside the country wanted to tune into to their favourite radio programs from back home they would have to scour the internet for hours. Many Nepali radio channels didn't have an online presence and even if the listeners had access, streaming audio was problematic.
Today not only are local radio stations improving their websites and extending their reach through the internet, but those studying or working abroad are establishing Nepal's presence on the global airwaves by providing news, information, and entertainment to the diaspora community in their mother tongue. There are now six stations in the US and Australia, and a couple in South Korea.
Gurkha Radio on British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) was the first Nepali language radio channel outside the country. Started in 1952 in Singapore to serve the Gurkha police and their families, the channel broadcasts on different FM and AM stations across 38 countries as well as on the internet. Currently there are 15 BFBS correspondents based in Nepal and the British radio recently opened a sister station in Kathmandu.
On the other side of the Pacific, Nepali language broadcasters are taking over the airwaves. Sanjeev Parajuli from Texas turns on the Radio Yuva app on his iPhone every morning at 6am and is a devoted listener of host Badri Sapkota's Dharma Sandes (religious messages). "Every time I tune in, I feel like I am at home in Nepal," says the 24-year-old student.
"Shows like NepMasti and Good Morning America provide recent news and gossip from Nepal and also the latest movie and pop songs, so our listeners don't have to go searching on YouTube or other sites," says Keshabh, "celebrity interviews are very popular with our audience."
Down under in Australia, Hamro Internet Radio and Himalayan Radio have been filling Nepali homes with familiar sounds. With four stations in Sydney, Darwin, Perth and Brisbane, Hamro Internet runs 12 shows per week. Director Dikpal Dev Pangeni hosts Prasanga (experiences) as well as a show where he talks to Nepalis scattered across the globe through Skype called Sansarbhari Nepal (Nepalis around the world).
"Our radio focuses on Nepalis living in Australia, but our team is very diverse, we have Indians and Australians running shows," explains Dikpal.
Although a small studio can function on a few laptops with internet connection, difficulties getting licences, managing time between part-time workers, and lack of funding are keeping potential broadcasters at bay. "Our programs are becoming increasingly popular and our audience wants more shows. But we don't have enough money at the moment to expand," laments Keshabh of Radio Yuva.
The new radio revolution, RUBEENA MAHATO
Radio at the crossroads, ANTHONY WILLE
Nepal's community radios risk alienating the communities they claim to serve