New public service broadcasting bill draws criticismJournalists, lawmakers say it envisages broadcaster that continues to remain accountable towards the government and not the legislature.
Lawmakers and mediapersons have criticised provisions in a new government-sponsored bill that envisages the merger between the state radio and tv.
The Public Service Broadcasting bill, registered in Parliament on July 8, doesn’t adhere to international principles and will neither lead to the formation of a state-owned media nor a commercial broadcaster, they argue.
“There are some basic concepts of public service broadcasting such as editorial and financial independence, and reflection of the diversity of the audience,” said journalist and freedom of information campaigner Taranath Dahal, who was involved in the drafting of the bill earlier. “But the provisions of the new bill does not incorporate any of them,” said.
While Nepal Television, established in 1985, is governed by the Communication Corporation Act and Radio Nepal, established in 1951, is run under the Radio Broadcasting Service Development Board (Formation) Order.
Following the success of the second people’s movement in 2006, a high-level media commission was formed under the leadership of lawmaker Radheshyam Adhikari to revisit legal provisions related to state-owned media. The commission had proposed the establishment of a public service broadcasting institution incorporating both Radio Nepal and Nepal Television.
“We had recommended that the government make the public service broadcasting accountable to Parliament,” said Adhikari.
Stakeholders and experts have been demanding that the public service broadcasting be made accountable to Parliament and be detached from the government, but the bill gives continuity to the government’s control over state broadcasting.
The public broadcasting entity should be given a free hand to ensure editorial independence, but the bill envisions a governing council for the new broadcaster led by the communications minister with secretaries as members.
The Federation of Nepali Journalists has also expressed serious concerns over the provision. "The government has been committed to run Radio Nepal and Nepal Television as public service broadcasting making it accountable to Parliament,” said a statement issued by the federation on Tuesday. “But it has shown its undemocratic face by registering a bill which contradicts the National Mass Communication Policy," said the federation.
The federation further said that provisions related to the definition, the procedure of formation, objectives, structures, appointment procedures and representation in the new institution do not match those of the public service broadcasting practised globally.
"With the new bill, the government is trying to make the two broadcasting media more loyal to the authorities than they are now," said Ramesh Bista, general secretary of the FNJ.
Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, however, defended the bill saying that it was prepared in accordance with the National Mass Communication Policy, which envisions the transformation of Radio Nepal and Nepal Television into a national public service broadcaster as per the spirit and values of democracy and free press.
Rishiram Tiwari, the spokesperson for the ministry, said the draft bill was prepared as per the recommendations of various committees formed by the ministry, including the high-level committee for the implementation of the National Mass Communication Policy led by Kashiraj Dahal.
“It’s now up to the lawmakers to make necessary changes to the draft,” Tiwari told the Post.