|Ananta Nepal reads the news live in the London studio of Nepali TV.|
It's now feasible to launch a 24-hour Nepali news and entertainment satellite channel. Clearly, the Nepali diaspora has attained critical mass.
Bijay Thapa, a London-based Nepali entrepreneur, launched Nepali TV in November 2005. The programs are beamed from London and can be watched in 55 countries in Europe, the Arab world and parts of North Africa.
Already, UK-based Nepalis are getting the channel on cable to watch their favourite Nepali soaps and follow the news from back home.
"I knew we could do it when I saw lots of Nepalis in Britain watching the Hindi channels," Thapa told us, "it was the closest thing to Nepali they had, so why not give them the real thing?"
But it took a while trying to convince the British government to grant them a broadcasting license. "They were sceptical about whether we had enough viewers, but were convinced by the expanding ex-Gurkha community in the UK."
In the past six months, Nepali TV started test transmissions with music videos and tv serials. The response was overwhelming and following audience demand, the television channel started a half- hour news show broadcast live
The news show is popular and reports are filed by Nepali TV's Kathmandu office. The channel also has a 'Music on demand' show in which Nepalis from across the world can call and request songs.
Running a 24-hour television channel is expensive business and it has been a struggle. "Our target is the overseas Nepali business community because we want to make Nepali TV sustainable mainly through commercials and the subscription fees," says Thapa, who is also director of the company. Initially a free-to-air channel, Nepali TV has now become a pay channel. The scubscriber base is also going up.
Nepali TV's programs are produced both in Kathmandu and London. 'Sandesh' is a popular slot that serves as a messenger for people back home to relatives and friends abroad and vice versa. Other highly-rated shows are old teleserials that have already been broadcast back home, like Hijo ajaka kura, Tito satya, Pabankali, and Jire khursani.
A Nepali feature film is telecast every weekend. Rebroadcast rights for talk shows such as 'Bahas' and 'Fireside' are bought so that overseas Nepalis are now much more clued-in about what is happening in Nepal.
Nepali TV plans to expand transmission to Canada, the United States and Hong Kong, and recruit news correspondents in the Arab world and Europe.
In the UK, Nepali TV has reassured parents who are afraid that their children may forget how to speak Nepali and lose touch with the home culture.
A mother in London says she is delighted to hear her daughter sing along with Ani Choying Dolma's Phool ko ankhama, which she\'d never have got interested in but for the video on Nepali TV.