Nepal media role: Matter for debate

We have learnt that in the context of media power and media markets, the nature and importance of media institutions and media policy cannot be undermined

Evidently the media world in Nepal has undergone massive change. The monopoly of state-owned media is gone; stiff  media market condition prevails. Institutional and organizational forms have started to  produce and distribute diverse and unprecedented  variety of  media content. And the readers, listeners and watchers  have  become  more literate  more curious  to  be informed and know about  the happenings  in and around the world.

Advanced technological means of communication   and infrastructure  are  available  to speed up the process of human communication   in the Nepali context. Now  Nepalis are getting used to the  two-way communication  as  they are increasingly accessing  the Internet  for interactive social media. There is  however a variation in data of  the Internet use  in Nepal; I guess on average  66% of the total Nepali  population  now  can  access the network. It has become a matter  of  grave concern  for thinking  Nepalis  how the power of media, particularly social media,  will determine how  a Nepali  life may be lived in and abroad in diaspora.

The Nepalis  are  beginning  to  understand that media are not just a part of larger social institution only  but they can also  be privately  owned  commercial business  media. In fact, they have to come to invest in media industry expecting a return of huge profits. Naturally the  advertising  business  is also flourishing, and it is asserting  its rights  over national media  against  foreign  advertising  time  purchase.

However,  with the increasing  global mediation of  culture, reception of informational  symbolic culture  has begun  in contexts  without   distinction  of public and private  concerns. The question is can we mitigate the effects of seemingly border less  ICTs? Symbolic  power  unlike coercive, political or economic powers, matters because  it is this  power through which  values, beliefs and ideas can subtly  be transformed. We have learnt  that media organizations  operate  in the market for creative content, besides  the market for financial resources and   for audience and users.

Meanwhile, we  have also learnt  that in the context of media power and media markets, the  nature and importance  of media  institutions and media policy cannot be undermined. Especially, in developing  countries, which more  or less  have a history of colonial rule, the struggle for freedom  of expression or press     against  the institutionalized governance  mechanism has been titanic. Nepal’s story is bit  different. The Nepali  press  did not struggle through the repressive colonial rule  as  imposed on the Indian press  before  British  India  gained independence  in 1947.

In fact, the  first  publication  of the  newspaper  in Nepal  was in Nepali and it  was first   initiated by  the autocratic ruler himself  in the  first year of the 20th  century, unlike in  British India  where  towards the last quarter of nineteenth  century a  retired employee of the East India Company had  first  started a four sheet  newspaper in English.  In Nepal, the   English language  journalism  appeared  only after  the overthrow of the Rana regime, but in India   until its  independence  in 1947, native Indians  or Anglo-Indians could  hardly  displace  Englishmen from  ownership or editorial control of the press  except  in  rare cases like  that of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Balgangadhar Tilak  or even Mahatma Gandhi.

Given the political  environment  in which  the Indian press and the  Nepali press  developed  the  nature of their  struggle for freedom of press  also differed. However  both  the countries are now   free of  the authoritarian  rule, though  Nepal  was  late  in achieving the federal republican  status.  But  by all indications Nepal  may  get rid  of  poverty  earlier  than  India.

The debate is  going on  what  role  Nepali  media may  play  in  the  process of  socio-economic  development process.  Can it  be conceived as leading to the end product of strategic state-led interventions with  active support  of the media  or  as the result of  market forces left to themselves along with the socially responsible media?

During  the  second half of the 20th century, massive scholarly efforts  to discover the truth and  to prescribe solutions   to the problems of  socio-economic  development have been made, particularly  at the UN auspices. And for training  journalists  in  the area of developing communication  the contribution of Indian Institute   of Mass Communication  cannot be minimized.

Myself being a university teacher of  development  communication  I can hardly  ignore  the  practical implications of the development communication for Nepali  society and its development  in the context of  media globalization  and governance.

Sometimes in my  academic effort to understand  the  performance  of the  mainstream  print media, I  choose to assign  the  Master’s level students  to undertake a  survey project to gather , analyse  and  interpret the development  message and contents.

My  point  is there is a generation  of young  Nepalis  studying  at  higher academic  level  who needs to be groomed to undertake  the scholarly pursuits of  media research, and discover the  truth  of relevance  or not of development  communication plan and strategy for  Nepal that is  aspiring to join  the  group of countries  who  have already attained  the middle level of development  status?