Govt to be flexible while implementing ‘clean feed’ in television channels

Though the government plans to introduce the ‘clean feed’ policy in Nepal, it is thinking of being flexible while rolling out new rules for foreign television channels, for now.

The Mass Communication Policy 2016 has introduced clean feed policy barring TV channels from broadcasting foreign advertisements, both in recorded and live feeds, from this fiscal.

However, with the deadline less than two weeks away, the Ministry of Information and Communications has admitted that it is not in a position to fully implement the clean feed policy and that it would be enforced phase-wise over the next few months.

This is because while Indian broadcasters have refused to develop separate advertisement feeds for Nepal, the government also does not have enough technical manpower to regulate the policy, informed MoIC Secretary Mahendra Man Gurung.

This news has provided some relief to cable operators, who worried they would have to shut shop if clean feed rules were strictly enforced on July 16.

Sudhir Parajuli, president of Cable Operators Federation of Nepal, said abrupt implementation of the policy would not only hit the revenue of cable operators, but also force them out of business.

More than 90 per cent of around 200 television channels available for subscription in Nepal are Indian channels that broadcast foreign advertisements. Under the clean feed policy, foreign TV channels will have to make their contents either advertisement-free or transmit advertisements produced in Nepal using local content, characters and language.

Left red-faced while handling the clean feed issue, MoIC is gearing up to form a separate regulatory body or authorise Nepal Telecommunications Authority to look into execution of clean feed. Ministry officials said discussions are also being held with technical experts, Indian television channels and domestic cable operators, among others.

“But shouldn’t these discussions have been held before deciding to introduce the policy?” questioned Dhurba Sharma, chief of Digital System Nepal — the local dealer of Indian television channels such as Sony, ZEE and Colors. He feels the government is working backwards. The policy should be implemented only after television broadcasting in Nepal became fully digitised.

The government has said clean feed policy is a step towards digitising television broadcasting in Nepal — a process slated for completion by next May.

Among the major benefactors of the clean feed policy are local advertisement agencies. Industry officials expect the annual turnover — currently at Rs five to six billion — to double within a few years with effective implementation of the policy. “It will also contribute to promotion of Nepali culture and lifestyle worldwide,” claimed Santosh Shrestha, president of Advertising Association of Nepal.

Chief Executive Producer of Kantipur Television Bhusan Dahal also opined that television channel broadcasters were obliged to comply with local laws and transmit clean feed channels. “Indian broadcasters today are also transmitting clean feed alien channels like BBC and CNN with Indian feeds. This kind of double standard is wrong,” Dahal said, adding that domestic cable network providers should convince foreign broadcasters to comply with local laws.