Changing Media Landscape of Nepal
Media have become my best friends since my youth. I anticipate they will remain so forever. I have long been addicted to television but these days the internet has also become a part of my life because of its easy access.
Whenever I have flexible time I spend 6 hours a day surfing the internet, if not 2 hours a day. It has become my daily routine. I generally use internet to keep in touch with my friends and families who are far from me. But it does not mean that I do not give time for educational purposes.
Now if I’m asked to part away from the media then it will be a punishment for me. I use media equally for information, education and entertainment.
Even though the right to information, and press freedom is guaranteed in the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2063, Nepali media still face a plenty of challenges. Most of these media, whether owned by the government or the private sector, are controlled by the political parties, directly or indirectly. Those parties who are in the government may control the media directly whereas those who are not in the government may control them indirectly.
Nepali media are facing economic or financial challenges as well. According to Ram Prasad Luital, a section officer at the Department of Industry, they register industries under three categories- small (up to Rs. 3 crore investment), medium (from Rs. 4 to 10 crore), and large (above Rs. 10 crore). He further said Nepali media fall under these three types of industries. Nepali market in not huge but the number of media organizations is large so apparently it is becoming hard for the media to survive. Due to limited income of the gneral readers one newspaper may be read by at least ten persons.
Until 2007, the Nepali media’s worth was estimated to be over $30-million industry. The latest data provided by Office of the Company Registration shows that there are 1,961 media related registered companies, and their total investment in the media sector amounts to Rs 1.8 billion (the exact figure is 1,80,77,99,220). However, this figure is only the declared amount listed as investment monies during the registration of the comapanies. Actual worth of the entire industry may be several times higher, specially when we consider reports that the leading media house Kantipur Publications alone is valued to be over Rs 2 billion.
Similarly, lack of the latest technologies and skilled manpower are hindering the growth of Nepali media. Both these aspects play important role in media development. Without the latest technology none of the work can be done effectively and efficiently. The use of technology, such as the internet and the social media is still driven by individual journalists’ interest rather than the institutional commitment. The use of Facebook, Twitter or Skype in reporting purposes is still limited in the mainstream media.
In broadcast technology, the use of OB Van, an outside broadcasting mobile unit which delivers quality images, is still limited to only a few media houses, for example Kantipur TV and NTV. Most other TV stations rely on optical fiber transport system.
Likewise, skilled manpower is the backbone of any organization, beyond the media sector. Data shows that most media professionals, about 50 percent, are relatively young (19-30 years), having at least a Bachelor’s degree. However, they don’t remain in the job for long, and change their professions. Specialized training for media professionals is rare.
Despite these drawbacks or challenges, with the growth of Nepali media, and because of their increased focus on social ills and conflict, in recent times people have become more aware about their rights. Not long ago, even educated people used to remain less informed about the conflict or violence in our society. Today, they are constantly updated with current news/ information on such issues.
Ideally, the role of media is to broadcast or publish voice of the voiceless. The media are helping to convey their grievances to the concerned departments. If we did not have these media it is possible that those people’s voices would have been suppressed. Therefore, we may say media are playing the role of the watchdog. They are warning the government in case of wrongdoings and at the same time they are raising the issues of people who have a little say in the policy process.
New media have changed the way we learn about things. Before the advent of the internet, it was impossible to physically attend a class for education but now anyone can earn an academic certificate via distant education, or e-learning. Nepali journalists today can participate in online training. For example, the Nepal Press Institute has recently started an e-learning course. People can study and work at the same time. For educational purpose the internet has played a vital role. The invention of the internet has made this easier. Now the world has become a global village.
And entertainment has become every individual’s basic need. We all are fond of entertainment whether we are in sorrow or in a celebration. More than a hundred movies are produced every year in Nepal. Television shows abound.
With the establishment of a large number of media houses, more people are getting jobs than in the past. Like any other organization, media houses also need a big number of staff members to work from top-level management position to the first-line supervision.
Media have a great potential to contribute to the development of our society but they still have not played a sufficient role in doing that. To this day, our government’s reach is limited; there are still many places where its services are not available. The media have to cover new places and carry stories that portray the actual state of development in the country.
It appears that many people believe that development means construction of roads, clearing of jungles or deforestation for new farmlands or housing areas. But such notions, although in some regards may be true, can be wrong. Here is an opportunity for our media to play a pro-active role, to be responsible in making people aware about issues like these.
What is important is the actual practices that have positive impact on people’s lives. As Kundan Aryal, a media educator and journalist, says, media professionals “have to be able to change the physical and practical behavior of people through their contents”. The contents could include writings, drama, documentaries, photo features etc. Aryal adds: “If only physical change, then it is not development.”
Although it is said that accuracy, balance, and credibility are the major news values embraced all over the world, these are not followed in an appropriate way in Nepal. Most of the media seem to give priority to political news. Politics gets front-page space or the prime time. Social news is given less value. However, at the present, with a gradual increase in the coverage of other issues, it seems things are improving a bit. But the situation is not satisfactory yet. Still more space has to be given to social issues.
Tikaswari Rai maintains interest in media and social issues and likes to write about them.