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Nepal: 61 years of Radio Nepal and Its Dilemma

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Radio Nepal began its broadcasting services in 1951. The state-owned radio right now is observing its 61st anniversary. Its historical significance and the information and entertainment services it has been providing to rural masses on no account can and must be ignored.

Radio Nepal has served the Nepalis not only as a news supplier but also as a promoter of arts and literature.   In clearer terms, the national broadcaster has played a key role in enhancing the quality of original Nepali music. Many singers and composers developed their identity through Radio Nepal. Although the authoritarian rulers had a total control over Radio Nepal for over three decades, liberal media trends began to develop in the post-1990 period--the decade preceded by the Partyless Panchayat regime.

From diversity and public interest perspectives, Radio Nepal is still an effective channel amidst 380 licensed FM radio stations of which about 200 are operating in different parts of the country. From technological and content quality perspectives, radio Nepal is still the best broadcaster in Nepal.

However, Radio Nepal is currently getting weaker because of political and bureaucratic factors. Political corruption in the nation has directly and indirectly affected the operations of Radio Nepal. Ill-governing bureaucracy is another major factor that has helped to downgrade the dignity of the nation's historical radio.

While Radio Nepal commemorates its 61st birthday, it would be relevant to point out to its quadrangular defects as follows:

1)       Government defect: The government run by this or that party controls not only the administration but also the contents of Radio Nepal. It appoints administrators and journalists that are recommended by the political parties that are in power. The government wants to use Radio Nepal as its propaganda tool rather than a public enlightening institution.

2)       Media management defect within the radio: There are serious media management defects within Radio Nepal. Sound or broadcast engineers are usually the heads of the radio. The administrative apparatus of Radio Nepal appears with extremely happy-go-lucky manner. Their psychological poverty over their duties and responsibilities has done much to further impoverish the national broadcaster. The management team is inefficient and thoughtless. They only complain that they are there to carry out the instructions from the ministry of information and communication. Thus, they remain without any idea generation, innovation and initiatives. In addition, experienced and skilled human resource of Radio Nepal tends to work for private organizations and NGOs from where they draw remarkable income. Their heavy involvement in other institutions with little devotion to Radio Nepal has made the national broadcaster more vulnerable.

3)       Apolitical trade unionism defect: Trade unions work as barriers to the advancement of Radio Nepal. They are not guided even by the parties with which they are affiliated. They are prejudiced, ideologically bankrupt and are lackeys of factional leaders. They carry political tags but do not follow any nation-building political ideology. They are serious headaches even for their parties. But the concerned parties seem idealess about their trade unions' unpredictable nature. Trade unions completely lack a vision to develop Radio Nepal. They seek opportunities to grow economically prosperous rapidly at the cost of the national broadcaster. Should trade unions think and act like political animals, the formation of vision in running the national radio becomes possible.

4)       Journalistic defect: Those working as journalists in Radio Nepal need to work hard. Most of the contracted reporters and stringers are the products of nepotism-favoritism formula. Trade unions have spoilt quality journalism because they want their "men and women' rather than honest and hard-working journalists. So many stringers outside of the Kathmandu valley, and even some Kathmandu Valley reporters, do not know how to write news stories with journalistic angles. No importance has been given to investigative journalism   in Radio Nepal.

Should these quadrangular defects be addressed with action-oriented policies, Radio Nepal can revive in a true sense.

While the process of dealing with the above-stated quadrangular defects goes on, other vital concerns about the broadcasting models need to be heeded simultaneously.

Since Radio Nepal has been controlled by the trade unions of the major political parties, the quality of journalism and entertainment has sharply declined. Therefore, the trade unions must give up their ignoble practices. Instead, they need to enrich their own political vision and political accountability to improve the life of Radio Nepal. For whom else do they work if they work as public service givers in the national radio? The current situation in Radio Nepal, therefore, demands a greater understanding over the differences among the State Broadcasting, the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) and the Commercial Broadcasting. If they cannot differentiate them, they cannot suggest anything accurately to save Radio Nepal--the cultural heritage of the country.

While a few persons may have been implicitly advocating the privatization of the over-staffed Radio Nepal because it has been ill-governed, it is the duty of Radio Nepal journalists and all other employees affiliated to different political unions to seek a solution. Do they seek a solution in the privatization of Radio Nepal? Or do they seek its solution in the possible adoption of the PSB system? Or do they want to retain state control over Radio Nepal?

  Before they are able to answer such questions or take a decision, they need to consider the following:

The PSB programming is guided by public interests in contrast to the addictive abuse of the medium for money-mongering interests. Public sufferings find a greater space in this system. The social responsibility theory of mass communication is highly evoked in this programming. The marginalized are covered in-depth with a view to helping policymakers to formulate appropriate policies. Democratic values and public wellbeing are stressed under the PSB.

Similarly, the PSB intends to preserve and promote the nation's cultural heritage. It performs cultural and educational functions apart from its normal journalistic affairs.   It tries to discourage the efforts to pervert public consciousness into stultifying consumerism.

Furthermore, the PSB system treats its recipients as citizens. It means it has a vision of empowering citizens, who need to upgrade their civic sense that ultimately strengthens the nation.

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