Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Govt should learn from private media

Five years after the entry of FM radio in the country, the Ministry of Information and Communication has banned the broadcast of news and news-related programmes on private FM stations. If news is to be broadcast the station has to name the government source that provided the news.

The only reason for the government action can be that private FM stations were broadcasting baseless news. Among all the private FM stations there is only one that does not quote newspapers as their main source of information. Even this particular FM station has its own newspaper, and airs the news given by its reporters. In many cases the news sent in by the reporter may not have been verified. It may be pre-planned or even false and the government has every right to prevent such news from being broadcast. The government's decision has supported the claim that news published in the papers is false. The government is right in trying to prevent false rumours. But it is not always the FM stations that are at fault. What's more, the private media gives more specific and detailed news than the government media.

The government knows of the biased news that Radio Nepal or Nepal Television broadcasts. Biased news will never satisfy anybody. People demand information on different aspects of religion, economy, culture, entertainment, arts, etc, the dissemination of which must be done in an independent manner, without any pressure from any side. Private FM stations have fulfilled this demand for unbiased information. Many more people in the capital tune in to FM stations compared to those who listen to Radio Nepal. The government should understand why there are so few followers of Radio Nepal, and why people always tune into Sagarmatha FM, Classic FM, KATH FM, and the like. The only reason is because they provide more quality information and entertainment than their government counterpart. News of current events is aired immediately, giving listeners immediate access to information. This is a trait the state-owned Radio Nepal should learn to adapt itself to the changing times.

Some people have also assumed that the government decision has been influenced by the Hrithik Roshan scandal as well as Bharatiya Janata Party leader KR Malkani's comment. The government has accused private FM stations of fuelling the violence. KR Malkani's comment on Nepal was aired by Sagarmatha FM in its seven o'clock news programme "Haal Chaal".

If the FM stations claim that the government has not been able to talk to the Maoists or provide security for the people, that is also true. In saying so they are certainly not supporting the insurgency but only asking the government to solve the crisis. It is foolish to cover up one's weakness instead of facing reality.

Whoever was tuned into Radio Sagarmatha on the evening of 16 January must have thought the same because two of the regular programmes "Haal Chaal"and "Aajako Kura"were not aired. People were asked to listen to the programme but the station apologised for not being able to do their job saying that the government had banned the broadcast of news and news-related programmes, and so aired music during the time. Everyone should have the right to express their views in a democratic country, but moves like these only block the path to the development of democracy.

Instead of banning news and related programmes from radio stations the government would have done better to direct private FM stations to only broadcast true and real news and to take responsibility for anything they air. Because the government does not trust private FM stations they need to be constantly monitored. Now private stations can only broadcast news given out by the government media. Why did this situation arise? Why did the same ministers and government officials whose speeches were aired through FM stations create a hurdle for them? If FM stations cannot broadcast self- collected news and information why were they allowed in the first place? The government could have liberalised policies regarding the broadcast of news and information.

This government decision opposes the fundamental democratic right to information and media as laid out in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 2047, Section 3 and should therefore be immediately done away with. The government should instead follow the example of the capital and focus on spreading FM stations throughout the Kingdom so that all Nepalis have access to news and information and learn to love the culture and tradition of Nepal.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)