Nepali Times Asian Paints

Back to Main Page

World-wide waves

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Sgt. Santosh on a reporting assignment for Gurkha Radio. Pic: British Forces Broadcasting Services (BFBS)

Sixty-five years after it first started broadcasting, Gurkha Radio that connects Nepali soldiers in the British Army with families back home, remains the most listened to of the 18 stations in the British Forces Broadcasting Services (BFBS).

Although many families of retired soldiers are now with them in Britain, serving soldiers and others still have relatives back home and the radio links them with news, current affairs and entertainment. And despite social media its radio programs are required listening for ex-Gurkhas and their families settled all over the world.

Gurkha Radio keeps soldiers updated on events in Nepal with a staff of 18 reporters country-wide contributing to news bulletins aired from its Kathmandu station from 5:45am to 11:45pm on weekdays. It also broadcasts from Brunei and the United Kingdom and its programs are re-broadcast through 10 UK radio stations.

The British Army sets up a receiving unit when Gurkha soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan or other war zones so that the servicemen can keep in touch with what is happening in Nepal and around the world, and even to keep in touch with families. The unit is dismantled once the mission is over.

Gurkha Radio’s first broadcast was in 1952, when the service was set up within Dharan camp, one of the Gurkha recruiting centres in eastern Nepal. The first live broadcast from Kathmandu took place in 1986. The British Army also brought out the magazine Parbate written in Roman Nepali script, and which is now published in English from Sandhurst.

“Gurkha Radio is a low-profile radio with a very specific target audience,” says Kathmandu news editor Suman Kharel. “We mostly focus on the activities of the British Gurkha Camp in Lalitpur and the British Gurkha Camp in Pokhara. The credibility of the service is very high among the family members of British Gurkhas. Its integrity has hardly been questioned during the last 65 years.”

Kharel joined Gurkha Radio after 22 years with BBC Nepali in London, and says his work hasn’t really changed because it is still mostly broadcasting news and current affairs.  Although his target audience today is much smaller, he says the work is equally exciting because it is a cohesive and niche listenership. The only two challenges he faces are fulfilling listeners’ requests, because the station broadcasts from three different time zones, and enticing the younger generation to tune in.

Gurkha Radio averages 2.5 million connections from 165,000 unique devices in a month. Most listeners are in the UK, US, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Malaysia. The station’s most popular Nepali show is Pardeshi Ko Sandesh, where serving Gurkhas send messages to their family members and vice-versa. It’s followed by Kathmandu Ko Saugat and Swarnim Sangam.

Because families now prefer to keep in touch through Skype or Facebook, one would think that Gurkha Radio may soon become obsolete, but Kharel doesn’t seem to think so: “The future of radio journalism is as bright as it was in the past. Radio will still remain the most popular medium in Nepal for many years to come because of our topography, low literacy level and lack of access to the Net and its relatively high cost.”

Shreejana Shrestha 

Read also:

Making global airwaves by Ganesh acharya

Nepali Radio, Nepali Awaz by Om Astha Rai

Yo BBC ho by Sraddha Basnyat

Putting it on air by Naresh Newar

Go back to previous page          Bookmark and Share         

Leave a Reply