Clean feed policy serves national interests

Now a debate on the clean feed policy introduced by the government is going around. The government has been saying that it is fully committed to implementing the policy while the cable operators are opposing it. However, the Advertisement Association of Nepal (AAN) has been favouring the policy.
The cable operators even shut down the cable service for 24 hours to protest the government move to implement the clean feed policy.
In this context, chairman of Advertisement Association of Nepal (AAN) Rabindra Kumar Rijal ‘Sashi’ and Internet and Digital TV Coordination Committee’s representative and Managing Director of DishHome Sudip Acharya on Sunday expressed their views in the weekly Gorkhapatra Sambad on various aspects of the clean feed policy, its pros and cons.
Excerpts: 7

AAN raised the clean feed policy issue 13 years ago : Rijal

Now a debate on the clean feed policy that the government has announced to implement is going around. The Advertising Association of Nepal (AAN) had first raised the issue 13 years ago. But it was never implemented. Now the government has initiated a concrete step to implement it. It is commendable, and the AAN fully supports this decision.
Technically, I am not that expert in the clean feed policy. But I have understood that the clean feed policy refers to the situation in which there will be no advertisement in any content of the foreign TV channels.
The cable operators have been opposing the implementation of the clean feed policy as it will hamper their business. Everyone wants to protect their business. But nationality and sovereignty should come first. For example, many States in India do not broadcast Hindi language channels. They are broadcasting contents and ads in local languages. Similarly, GTV, which is broadcast from India, is available in Dubai, America and other countries with clean feed.
The cable operators are arguing that the Nepali customers will have to pay higher rate for foreign channels if the provision of clean feed comes into effect. This is a genuine issue. All people realised that they became free when the cable operators closed the foreign channels for 24 hours to protest against the clean feed policy. The government should think which step will be better for both the parities—the AAN and the cable operators if we talk about business. Otherwise, Nepal is a sovereign country. It can formulate policies and acts keeping nationality and sovereignty in the centre.
Now, there are 216 registered televisions in the country. More than 150 channels are on air, with over 20 HD channels. There is no problem in the content. We, the AAN, are confident that the clean feed policy is essential to protect our nationality. Broadcasting foreign channels without clean feed and airing the advertisements of the multinational companies are now in a declining trend. Many multinational companies that were working in Nepal have now shifted to India because they find that Nepalis are enjoying foreign channels, especially Indian ones, more than the local ones. They think it is better to broadcast their ads in the Indian channels.
The growing tendency of enjoying foreign channels, mostly the Indians, has created a fear whether our language, culture and nationality will be eroded. It will be better if the foreign channels display Nepali ads. But it is not only the matter of profit and business. The main issue is to protect our language and culture by giving contents and ads in Nepali language through Nepali televisions.
In the past years, the government failed to implement the clean feed policy due to unstable government and vested interests of the political parties, leaders and the businessmen. But the present stable government with a two-thirds majority seems to be dedicated to implement the clean feed policy considering nationality and our dignity. We are giving our suggestions to the government, but it is up to the government to implement the policy.
I think that a Nepali enjoys around 4-20 channels. But the cable operators are providing more channels, which has added financial burden to both the cable operators and the customers. I want to request the cable operators to support the implementation of the clean feed policy even though the cable operators make low profit.
Let’s implement the clean feed policy for at least six months to a year. If Nepali people cannot live without foreign channels, then we can demand for the termination of the clean feed policy and enjoy the foreign channels again. The cable operators can ask the government for facilities to sustain for that period. But nobody should go against the policy before it comes into effect. I have nothing to say if they want to serve only the interest of foreign channels.
We are capable to broadcast any international games through the Nepali channel. Nepalis have been enjoying the World Cup in the Nepali channels. So, there is no need of foreign channel for broadcasting the international games.
Even after the implementation of the clean feed policy, international cricket, football and other games will be directly broadcast in Nepali channels. Sponsors will broadcast these games in Nepal.
With the implementation of the clean feed policy, the responsibilities of the advertising agencies and television stations will be added as they will create contents and ads for local channels.
The advertising market of the country will increase by 50 per cent after the implementation of the clean feed policy. The annual advertising market of Nepal now stands at Rs. 12 billion. Besides, employment will be created for the artists and creators. The cable operators should think to provide cable services with clean feed only charging Rs. 200-300 a month in existing fees of Rs. 400-500. The business of cable operators will not be affected even by blocking the foreign channels. 


Clean feed policy against public interest : Acharya 

We do not have any problem if the Nepali advertisements are displayed in the foreign channels. Foreign channels can be broadcast by displaying the Nepali ads. Under the clean feed policy, the foreign TV channels will have to make their contents either advertisement-free or transmit advertisements produced within Nepal, using local contents, characters and language.
The government should think before controlling the foreign channels. If the clean feed policy is implemented, the users may need to pay high for the foreign channels. All the expenses now covered by the advertisers will be borne by the customers. The customers need to pay higher and it can reach Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 3,000 per month.
We halted the broadcasting of foreign channels for 24 hours to see the results of the clean feed policy. Later on that day, consumer rights activists filed a case against the Cable Network Association for interrupting the services. This was against the public demand. We received various complaints from the public after we stopped airing the foreign channels. Thus, implementing clean feed policy will be against the public interest.
If we implement the clean feed policy in the present age of globalisation, the customers will not control their urge to enjoy the foreign channels. The customers can use mobile apps or internet. But the big issue is the presence of foreign satellites in the Nepali sky. We can see many customers applying for Indian DTH channels via TATA Sky, Digicom and others Indian cable networks. Most of the customers from the city areas, including Kathmandu and the Terai belt are found using Indian DTH channels. So, imposing a ban on the foreign channels is not the solution. But we need to have monitoring mechanism for the proper regulation of the foreign channels. We can learn from the foreign practice too. For an example, in America, we can see the Indian channels with the local advertisement contents.
If we are viewing the channel, we need to watch the advertisement. This is a business model. We want to make it clear that we are peanuts in the business volume of the Indian channel subscribers. We are not regulated by them. The main concerned is we have invested around Rs. 25 billion for the satellite to operate cable network. And we are working with the business motive.
And we talk about the national interest; our cable network has been operating their businesses as per the public interest. We have taken the responsibilities of the government on our own head. We have reached the far flung areas and arranged the Dish home setup boxes. We are also working to provide more and more Nepali language channels for the promotion of Nepali culture and tradition. We have set up extra channels for Nepali movies, newly released Nepali movies, Nepali songs, sports and others. This is the way our cable operators are working as per the demand of the Nepali viewers.
The government should come up with a regulatory mechanism and we, cable operators, will definitely abide by the laws. We must give up our business if we cannot abide by the laws imposed by the government.
But there are some technical and behavioural problems. The government should have studied and made strategic plan of five or 10 years. The government should have thought of creating strong Nepali contents, and prepare a control mechanism for the channels.
Had the government made the decisions step by step, the present problem would have been solved. As I said above, we have applied for 12 more Nepali channels for the promotion of Nepali contents. We are a small player and we have responsibility to grow our contents worldwide. The government should think for the growth of the contents.
We have seen various foreign franchises reality shows entering in Nepali channels. This is the transfer of culture and technology. We need to make a long term plan for implementation of clean feed.

(Prepared by Ajita Rijal and Laxman Kafle, and photo by Shekhar Chaulagain.) 

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