Freedom Forum organized a round table discussion among concerned stakeholders on ‘National Broadcasting Sector and Establishment of National Broadcasting Authority’ in Kathmandu on August 6, 2017.

The program was organized with an objective to bring forth the voices on the relevance of National Broadcasting Authority in Nepal which was the issue unheard for long.

Starting the program, Freedom Forum’s Executive Chief Taranath Dahal argued that it had been too late to debate seriously on the broadcasting sector. So, the views on it would be fruitful to enter a common understanding in the changed context of federal set up, he hoped.

During the program, Janata Tv’s General Manager Laxman Humagain, presented a paper on Relevance of Broadcast Regulator in the changed context. On his presentation he shed light upon role of MoIC, regulation and monitoring of broadcast sector and several policies (Advertising, clean feed, frequency) needed to make this sector systematic.

According to him, numerous issues as production, advertisement, radio network are waiting proper attention to make Nepal’s broadcasting system robust. He said, “Whether it is distribution of radio frequency or classification of broadcasters, the government must act fairly”, adding further It was quite worrying a person from remote Karnali needs to table the file before a Minister in Singha Durbar, Kathmandu, to get permission for an FM Radio.

Similarly, sharing various ‘failed efforts’ on establishment of national broadcasting authority, broadcasting media expert Tapanath Shukla observed, “Political lobbying is most important to ensure establishment of the national broadcasting authority in Nepal.” He reminded that the officials at the Ministry of Information and Communications used to think that if the authority was set up, it could be a ‘white elephant’ and thus, they are not ready to delegate their power.

Media researcher Devraj Humagain expressed worry that civic space was shrinking in Nepal. “How ridiculous it is when one needs to get permission from the Social Welfare Council for conducting media research,” he wondered, accusing the government of creating various authorities and institutes just to install employees rather than working for substantial change.

Similarly, senior radio broadcaster Krishna KC shared the experience that it was quite difficult to persuade political parties and leaders on the need of public service broadcasting in Nepal.

Another broadcaster Suman Basnet said the National Mass Media Policy was faulty, so it needs immediate correction. He stressed upon continuous discussion on digitization also through listeners’ prospect among stakeholders.

ACORAB Chairman Subash Khatiwada said providing license to FM radio haphazardly would invite host of problems. Distribution of frequency must not be an unfair business, he stressed.

Advocate Ramkrishna Nirala said as long as the same person continues to be owner and worker (journalist/editor) at a media, advocacy efforts would not be meaningful.

Another advocate Baburam Aryal argued that internet should be left to its own spirit and sphere as it has different ecosystem. Internet could not be compared with radio and television.

Deputy GM at Radio Nepal, Ashok Banskota, said digitization should be augmented to wipe out current problems in broadcasting sector.

Similarly, ACORAB’s Executive Director Dr. Ram Chandra Lamichhane stated that extensive reconstruction is essential in the broadcasting sector through socialistic aspect. Existing system is contradictory, undemocratic and unconstitutional.

FF’s General Secretary Dharmendra Jha suggested the stakeholders to discuss upon bringing a new bill on non-government organizations.

FNJ Chairman Dr Mahendra Bista however suggested that advocacy could be made for national communications authority rather national broadcasting authority to include all communications issues. Besides, appointment and selection process has to be under public and parliamentary vigilance.

Nepal Bar Association Chairman Sher Bahadur KC said democracy could not be functional until the media was controlled and guided.Free media and free society under constitutional compliance is a need, he stated.

Addressing the above mentioned issues, Department of Information’s Director General Bir Bahadur Rai said, “Firstly gaps in the policy formulation and implementation must be analysed well.” He also assured that he would share the concerns of stakeholders in the department and ministry as well.

Chairman of Press Council Nepal Bhawani Prasad Baral suggested to make an umbrella act which may regulate other acts. He admitted that Press Council’s role is limited to print media, so it was in need of legal reform to monitor broader issues including that of broadcasting and news portals.

Facilitating the discussion, FF Executive Chief added that the discussion was contextual as NBA and PSB were only the topic of discussion for two decades. A regulation on contents, human resource, licensing and business/ tax was necessary. Media can be of any type but new technology should be friendly to the new act, and should be regulated accordingly. Also, broadcast sector needs license because it uses public frequency, he opined.

Other speakers at the program complained that the broadcasting sector in Nepal was ignored and belittled mostly because of the government and the bureaucracy.Despite several efforts made to set up the national broadcasting authority to see overall issues facing broadcasting sector, the lack of political commitment and bureaucratic non-cooperation and indifference were major hurdles to this end, argued most of the speakers.

Lastly, pointing out the need for establishment of NBA and its continuous discussion at national level FF’s Chairman Hari Binod Adhikari concluded the program.

The program was attended by 46 participants from different governmental and non-governmental broadcasters, media educators, advocates, researchers, media persons and broadcast experts.