Pros And Cons Of Clean Feed Policy

 

Uttam Maharjan

Clean feed policy should have been in place with effect from the first day of this fiscal year, but it could not be introduced. This was due to the last-minute decision by the government to postpone the policy, citing need for amending the relevant laws and inadequacy of preparations. Before this, the government was adamant about implementing the policy despite a huge outcry against it.

Motive

There may be pros and cons regarding clean feed policy. The main motive behind the government trying to introduce the policy is to promote the indigenous advertising industry. Today, TV channels in Nepal are flooded by foreign channels, especially Indian ones. These channels are preferred to Nepali ones by most of the people. Indian channels have made a soft corner in the hearts of most of the people.

Clean feed policy should be distinguished from advertising and free air polices. The former dictates that TV broadcasts should not be accompanied by advertisements (commercials), whereas under advertising policy telecasts are made interspersed with commercials. Subscription charges under clean feed policy, therefore, outweigh those under advertising policy. On the other hand, free air policy requires payment of no subscription charges. International practices dictate that pay foreign channels should broadcast ad-free programmes in other countries. But this is not happening in Nepal. Clean feed policy is in vogue in several parts of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Americas and European countries.

Indian channels come with advertisements. The advertisements are long ad nauseam. Still, they are popular among the people because of their variety and entertainment factor. Some non-Indian foreign channels come with no or very few advertisements. Nepali channels also come with advertisements. Some of the advertisements are nothing more than just dubbed Indian advertisements.

The basic thrust of clean feed policy is that foreign advertisements are not fed to the people. In fact, most of such advertisements have no relevance at all in Nepal. If foreign channels want to broadcast advertisements, they should come to Nepal and make advertisements in the Nepali language in a local setting. They should also use the local media and resources. This provision would generate revenue and create employment. Artists, publication houses, recording studios, shooting studios, the people and even the government can reap benefit from this provision.

Foreign channels have an adverse impact on the mind of the people, especially the kids. Such channels are knowingly or unknowingly promoting foreign culture and practices in Nepal. Foreign advertisements are even invading the Nepali language, which is not desirable. This has, in a sense, encouraged the people to adopt foreign culture and practices at the cost of indigenous ones. Thus, foreign channels are not desirable from a nationalist viewpoint.

Further, the introduction of clean feed policy will help the government to increase revenue. Now, the government cannot collect revenue from advertisements broadcast on foreign channels, whereas it can from Nepali TV advertisements. Foreign advertisers are not willing to invest in Nepal now. So the introduction of clean feed policy may impel them to invest in Nepal, which will give a boost to the national economy.

When clean feed policy takes effect, foreign channels are barred from broadcasting advertisements in their languages. If they really want to broadcast advertisements, they should make Nepal-specific clean feed. This implies that they should come to Nepal and make advertisements in the Nepali language by using local media and resources.

Cable operators in Nepal and Indian Broadcasting Foundation are vehemently opposed to clean feed policy. They reason that broadcasting TV programmes sans advertisements could be disastrous. Nepal may even have to incur a huge sum for this to happen. At present, Nepal is buying TV signals from foreign TV channels and has given downlink licences to them. Clean feed entails separate playout, uplink and downlink costs, which will push up the cost.

A Cabinet meeting passed clean feed policy one year ago on July 22, 2016. The National Mass Communication Policy-2073 has also made provision for clean feed policy to be implemented in a full-fledged manner from the beginning of this fiscal year. On February 13, 2017, a suggestion committee was formed to study legal, technical and organisational aspects of the policy.     

There is not even an iota of doubt that the introduction of clean feed policy will bolster the Nepali advertising industry. It is surmised that the advertising industry is carrying out transactions worth Rs. five billion annually. With the implementation of the policy, the transactions will double to Rs. 10 billion. Boosting up the indigenous industry is desirable from an economic point of view. Clean feed policy will not only stimulate the advertising industry but also the TV and other media industries.

Digital system

It would be relevant to note that the government has already come up with the TV digital system. The process has begun from mid-Baisakh of this year, but most of the TV operators are yet to fully comply with this system. There are around 150 foreign TV channels broadcasting programmes through a delink process in Nepal. Even the people are averse to the digital system. A pertinent question might be why they should switch over to the digital system when they are enjoying clear pictures in the analogue system at a cheaper price.

So the digital system does not commend itself to the people as they will have to incur extra expenses on buying set-top boxes and there is also a restriction on line distribution vis-à-vis in the analogue system, implying that two or more set-top boxes may be required in a house having many TVs. So it seems it will take time for not only clean feed policy but also the TV digital system to be implemented in Nepal.

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