Oli-appointed board bars liquor ads in print, broadcast media


The Media Society Nepal and alcoholic beverage manufacturers have condemned the Advertisement Board's recent notice that asked media outlets not to run ads related to alcoholic beverages.

Citing a provision of the Public Health Service Act, the board said it would take action against anybody who ran or placed alcoholic beverage advertisements in any media outlet.

The controversial Advertisement Board was constituted by the erstwhile government headed by KP Sharma Oli with the sole objective of reining in the mainstream media which had turned against his government following its acts of omission and commission. Members of the board were nominated on the basis of their proximity to Oli and his aides.

President of the Advertisement Association of Nepal Som Prasad Dhital said the Advertisement Board's notice that sought to prohibit media outlets from running liquor ads was another blow to the pandemic-hit media industry that was slowly reviving.

Dhital said ban on placing and running liquor ads ran counter to the government's polices.

"The government issues licences to alcohol manufactures and shops to produce and sell alcoholic beverages and imports liquor worth billions of rupees from international market. Now it wants to prohibit media outlets from running liquor ads," he rued. He said if the government deemed alcohol items harmful for public, it should ban the production and distribution of alcohol.

He said the Advertisement Association of Nepal would consult all the stakeholders and talk to the government about the new notice issued by the Advertisement Board. "The Advertisement Board has cited provisions of the Public Health Service Act that was enacted three years ago.

Why did the government not act then when the act was enacted?" Dhital wondered.

He said the ban could be the hidden agenda of those elements who wanted to create problems for media industries.

Dhital said the Advertisement Board, whose main objective was to promote and assist media, was trying to ruin it.

General Manager of Yeti Brewery Arun KC said the government should not restrict alcohol companies from placing advertisements.

"Alcohol brands are products. Without allowing companies to inform their consumers of their brands, how can companies sell their products?" he wondered.

Chairperson of Yeti Distillery Ravi KC said a well-established beer company that wanted to prevent new alcoholic beverages from entering the market was trying to use government agencies to prohibit alcohol advertisements. He said if liquor ads were banned in media, that could have a devastating impact on media whose 30 per cent revenue came from alcohol advertisements.

He said consumers had the right to know about products and if the Advertisement Board prohibited media outlets form running alcohol ads, it could violate consumers' right. He said if the Advertisement Board prohibited media outlets from running ads, companies launching new brands of alcoholic beverages would face great difficulty in the market promoting their products. Rejecting the government's argument that alcoholic beverages had harmful effect on public health, Ravi KC said, "There is nothing that is not harmful for human health. The only thing that needs to be kept in mind is that people should not consume things beyond permissible limits," he added.

President of Media Society Nepal Shubha Shankar Kandel said the Advertisement Board had acted in an extremely irresponsible way by asking media outlets not to run liquor ads at a time when media outlets were struggling to survive.

"Instead of helping media outlets overcome the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the Advertisement Board is trying to kill the media,"

Kandel said. He added that media outlets wouldn't bow to the government agency's pressure. "Some countries have open policies, whereas others have restrictive policies, but nowhere in the world is the print media prohibited from running liqour ads," Kandel said. He added the Oli government incorporated a restrictive provision in the Public Health Service Act which should be removed from the Act.

Nowhere in the world is the print media prohibited from running liqour ads

- Shubha Shankar Kandel, President of Media Society Nepal

A version of this article appears in the print on November 15, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.