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Book: Sounds of Radio Broadcasting

Sounds of Radio Broadcasting

Author: P. Kharel

Published Date: December 2005

Published by: Nepal Association of Media Educators (NAME) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

Price: Not mentioned

Pages: 129

If examples were to be followed in formulating broadcast regulations from successful cases around the world, there is precious little that would prove useful for a country like Nepal which is caught with the need to manage a high tech world at a time when the most pressing need of the country is primordial and basic, to provide a decent livelihood to the general masses. Electronic broadcasting is specializing to such an extent that even mass media like the radio has been able to segment its audiences into little chunks through localized FM and satellite digital broadcasting to provide them with unique programming to suit their particular tastes.

Regarding the hurdles in the business sector, ownership and management structures of the media entities need to be streamlined to meet the requirements of the 'liberalized' economy. Each of these three types of challenges present a formidable task. Combining all the three areas of expertise into one and trying to sort them out becomes mind boggling for even the best of experts, not to mention regular politicians who have the uncanny myopic look when it comes to seeking petty interests even in the most complex of things.

Foreigners can capitalize on the open business environment with inexpensive technology, abuse the scarce professional skills in journalism and monopolize the whole media sector to such an extent that they can hold the whole country to ransom any time they please. This is why a proper policy must be in place to regulate the media, a policy which is inclusive in providing voice to the people, access to the necessary information without discrimination and is effortful towards uplifting the lifestyle and living condition of the masses.

Unlike print, which can be perused at one's own leisure, the airwaves are available only at certain times and since most broadcasters usually choose the same timing to air news programmes the listeners cannot follow the nose to seek several sources at once as was possible in going through print. He or she has to settle down with one station at a time.

Apart from the state broadcasting network, there are about 60 FM stations under the current license regime which possess community and commercial credentials and operate in different parts of the country. Many will die prematurely without being able to serve the listeners with their wares. Commercially, a huge market is opening up for private sector broadcasting that could easily sustain radio stations with the profit motive. Publicly funded state owned radio has been doing its bit in disseminating government and other information to the public at large.

The initial hiccups are to do with lack of enough professionalism, leading to language problems in programme presenters, inadequacy of resources to fund the gathering of information and even ideological confusion regarding broadcast journalism. The first two problems have been witnessed in abundance in Nepal in these early years of broadcast proliferation. The latter is just making its presence felt at the moment. Since ideology guides today's world in every sector, whether it be politics or economics, journalism has not been able to escape it either. This matters most to policymakers as the regulations formulated are supposed to see that the broadcast atmosphere creates public good. With a mixture of broadcasters like state-owned, commercial and community variety, with their own varied interests, the ultimate outcome of the policy must be taken into account.

The policymaker has apparently realized that no matter what the initial motive of the broadcaster to join in the fray, regulation is a must for these new media outlets for them to be able to deliver the 'public good' effectively. And P. Kharel's "Sound of Radio Broadcasting" could prove invaluable here. The book explains what kind of broadcasting constitutes the 'public good' and how broadcasting becomes public service oriented. He has a plethora of materials from broadcast erudite and important international discussions on the subject to present. A journalism teacher of repute and a veteran working journalist on his own, he has useful insights of his own to share in between. What is more, prior to P. Kharel’s work, the public service component of radio broadcasting in Nepal had remained unexplored.

One of the first benefits for the reader while going through the book is that one realizes that the current debates on radio broadcasting in Nepal. The real intention is public good and if that does not happen, there is no point in wasting resources that could be well put in more important areas like relief and livelihood concerns of the poverty-stricken masses. Obviously, proper regulation is not only helpful in the allocation of development resources in an underdeveloped country, it is an absolute must.

Reviewed by: Swodesh Khatri (People's Review, 2-8 February 2006)

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