27.04.2011 - UNESCO Office in Kathmandu

"Freedom of expression gains ground in post-conflict Nepal" by Krishna Sapkota

©UNESCO/Krishna Sapkota

The Freedom Forum and the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu are jointly implementing a programme titled “Outlining a National Policy for Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) in Nepal” to serve the greater goal of promoting freedom of expression and the right to information.

 

PSB refers to broadcasting made, financed and controlled by the public, for the public. It is neither commercial nor state-owned; it is free from political interference and also pressure from commercial forces.

Through PSB, citizens can become more informed, educated and also entertained. When guaranteed with pluralism, programming diversity, editorial independence and accountability, PSB can serve as a cornerstone of democracy strengthening freedom of expression and the right to information.

PSB has been an issue of public discourse in Nepal for a long time. The improvement of broadcasting is emerging as a burning issue among media scholars, practitioners, investors and other stakeholders.

All recommendations made from time to time have univocally underscored the urgent need to establish PSB and realize the need to make it an effective communication vehicle for all, particularly grassroots people.

The project’s focus is to outline national policy and a bill for PSB in line with international standards as per UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators.

The major components of the project are to conduct an initial survey to identify the current status of the broadcasting sector in Nepal; to prepare a compilation of texts related to PSB in Nepal; to develop three thematic papers on policy, structure and content of PSB; to organize a national workshop for stakeholders; to establish a taskforce to prepare national PSB policy and a bill; and to conduct lobbying activities to pass the PSB bill into law.

All of the above measures will help to create more informed members of Nepali society through the dissemination of factual, impartial and objective information. The programme will also educate members of the public and promote social cohesion and national identity regarding the multi-lingual, multicultural and multiethnic fabrics of Nepalese society.

Introducing PSB is an important contemporary issue as Nepal is currently experiencing a post-conflict era, with a new political setup of a federal democratic republic. Therefore, it is highly relevant as a voice for inclusion as diversity has invariably flared up at both local and central levels.

There is no clear law and regulation specifying PSB, which has remained a major hurdle in the planned development and improvement of the broadcasting sector in Nepal.

Similarly, the content and ownership of radio and TV stations is questionable with regard to PSB. Weak frequency management and overlapping, the lack of an independent regulatory body, a code of conduct for broadcasters, non-transparent licensing and its mismanagement are some of the key problems that have surfaced in Nepal’s broadcasting sector.

It is therefore necessary to formulate specific laws to explore appropriate content in line with PSB and to create mechanisms of accountability.

Nepal is currently framing a new constitution. Nepal's legislative, as well as the social, financial and administrative bases should be prepared for the establishment of PSB. The principle of editorial independence of broadcasters should be guaranteed by law and executed through regulation in the constitution.

Policies promoting a system of regulation conducive to freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity of PSB should be put into place.

The state should come up with a clear plan and programme to develop infrastructure and update technology to transform state broadcasters (TV and Radio) and community radio stations into independent editorial public service broadcasters.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Krishna Sapkota is the Executive Director of Freedom Forum. He can be contacted at: info(at)freedomforum.org.np




<- Back to: UNESCO Office in Kathmandu
Back to top