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FM radio, TV on the rise in Nepal

BY KOSH RAJ KOIRALA
KATHMANDU, May 2 –

The number of those acquiring license to operate FM radios and television in the country has gone up significantly during the last one year after the success of Janaandolan II.

According to Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC), altogether 56 FM Radio stations and 8 television stations were given permission by the government prior to the democratic movement in April last year. Thanks to the liberal media policy of the government formed after the popular April uprising, the number of those obtaining go-ahead certificates for FM Radio across the country has reached 189 including 34 in Kathmandu valley.

Likewise, the government has permitted additional 8 television stations to start their broadcast as of April end this year. Currently, six television stations including Nepal Television, Nepal Television Metro 2, Kantipur Television, Shangrila Television, Image Channel and Space Time Network are in operation. In addition, two other televisions-Avenues and Sagarmatha televisions-are preparing to go on air.

Officials at MoIC said altogether 68 of the total FMs acquiring license have started regular broadcasting in different parts of the country. Among them, 22 FMs are currently operating in Kathmandu valley alone.

According to MoIC, Bagmati, Narayani, Lumbini and Gandaki zones have acquired 34, 24, 18 and 16 radio licenses respectively. Likewise, Koshi and Seti each have got 11 Radio licenses while the Ministry has granted 8 licenses each to FM radios in Dhaulagiri and Karnali zones so far. The number of those acquiring radio licenses in Bheri, Mechi and Mahakali totals 13, 9 and 3 respectively.

MoIC officials said 66 of the total 75 districts across the country will have the reach of community radios once the FMs are brought into operation. The districts yet to receive FM license include Terhathum, Rautahat, Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Manang, Myagdi, Dolpa, Dadeldhura and Baitadi.

The government for the first time had granted FM licenses to state-owned Radio Nepal in February 11, 1996. However, Radio Sagarmatha, which acquired license after relentless struggle for over six years in 1997, was the first FM radio to acquire license from the private sector.

The government had shown unwillingness to issue license to FM radio even during the period of democratic government in the 1990s, fearing this would pose a threat to the establishment. “It is encouraging to find that political leaders have understood the importance of FM radios in the country. They seem to have acknowledged the contribution of FM radios during Janaandolan II,” said Bishnu Hari Dhakal, general secretary of Broadcasting Association of Nepal (BAN).

However, FM entrepreneurs allege that the government had distributed licenses without assessing market feasibility. According to them, mushrooming FM radios in a particular place will involve them in unhealthy competition and ultimately lead to the collapse of their venture.

BAN officials said the government had failed to ensure proper distribution of radio frequencies. “Radio frequencies have been distributed in an unscientific manner. The government must formulate certain regulations to ensure effective frequency distribution,” added Dhakal.

Financial challenges still remain for the FM radios as they are still denied government advertisement, a major source of revenue for media in Nepal. “The government recognizes advertisements published in little-known newspapers, but, it does not give recognition to such contents broadcast on FM radio, which are far more effective mediums than such papers,” said Gham Raj Luintel, general secretary of Kathmandu Valley FM Broadcasters’ Forum.

Threats to journos continue: CPJ

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a US-based media rights group, Wednesday said that Nepalese journalists continued to face threats even after last year’s political change.

“… Improvements in media conditions after the King relinquished control were indisputable,” said a CPJ report released on the eve of the International Press Freedom Day. “Outside of Kathmandu, though, members of the press faced continued threats and harassment by local government officials, criminal groups, and particularly, Maoist cadres.”

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