Ten Years On: The State of Community Radio in Nepal

A Report prepared for UNESCO
Ian Pringle Bikram Subba

©UNESCO (2007)
This publication is an abridged version and may be produced in any media appripriately acknowledging UNESCO and the authors

Disclaimer The authors are responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts contained in this publication and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organisation. The designations employed and the presentation of materials throughout the publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its frontiers or boundaries.

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal
Final report on a study conducted for UNESCO
Table of contents Executive Summary A. B. C. D. E. Introduction The current study Context of community radio in Nepal Nepal’s current development priorities Key findings: Current state of community radio 1. Development opportunity 2. Growth 3. Planning and regulation 4. Community radio principles 5. Types of radio 6. Maturity 7. Partnerships and social collaboration 8. Networking 9. External support 10. Sustainability 11. Management 12. New technologies Key findings: Directions and trends 13. Commercialization 14. Politicization 15. Syndicated content 16. Special interest radio F. Recommendations 1. Regulation 2. Typology 3. Ownership 4. Community representation 5. Origin of radio content 6. Sustainability 7. Capacity G. Specific recommendations to UNESCO

Annexes 1. Key references 2. List of people consulted 3. List and types of community radios 4. Terms of reference for the study

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Executive summary
Community radio in Nepal The remarkable growth of community radio in Nepal is significant both in the national context – a country of isolated, mountainous geography, poverty and under-development and a recent, protracted civil war – and in Asia Pacific, where no country has witnessed comparable growth of community radio. Alongside exceptional practices in programming, innovative strategies for sustainability, and sophisticated examples of networking, there is considerable cause for concern in the unplanned and unmanaged growth of the sector, in the inconsistent application of community radio principles, and in increasing commercialization and politicization among so-called community radio broadcasters. Background to this study Given its long-standing interest in community radio in Nepal and internationally, in mid-2007 UNESCO commissioned a study of the current state of community radio in the country. The aim of the study was to assess the current situation of community radio in Nepal, including directions and trends, and to make recommendations to UNESCO concerning the future of the sector, including the Organization’s own role. This summary presents a synopsis of the main findings and recommendations to key stakeholder groups in Nepal. Key findings: Current status of community radio There is enormous potential for the expanding community radio sector to contribute directly to addressing Nepal’s short- and long-term needs, in particular the transformation of the political system, socio-economic development, greater social inclusion, and the imperatives of improving education, health and governance. 1. 2. There has been remarkable growth in both private and non-for-profit radio in Nepal since 1997: 216 licenses had been issued as of July 2007 with 78 FM stations broadcasting; of 93 licenses issued to non-profit groups, 31 were operational as of May 2007. To its detriment, the FM radio sector has and continues to be largely unplanned and unmanaged. There is technical congestion in the capital region and high redundancy of licensed services, even in some rural areas; there are major policy gaps and limited means to ensure accountability of broadcasters. The current system of regulation does little to promote a diversity of services or to ensure that broadcasters meet public needs or address national development priorities. The application and practice of community radio principles is remarkably inconsistent. Many stations are community radios in name only. Community radio in Nepal is poorly defined and there is no policy framework to guide the development of the sector. Of particular concern are issues of limited ownership, ‘capture’ by the elite, poor representation of community groups, particularly on gender, caste and ethnic lines. There is a risk that community orientation and the focus on public interest programming will be weakened. In spite of gaps, Nepal’s community radio sector possesses a certain maturity and sophistication. There are a large number of stations, increasingly coordinated. There are excellent practices in programming and community participation, many of which are being



Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


replicated. There are resource centres and support organizations with high capacity, both private and non-profit. There is an active national association of community stations. 5. There are good examples of networking among radio stations in Nepal, including content sharing, programme distribution, national and sub-national training workshops and exchange of information among stations. Although this aspect of the sector is a major asset, it needs to be carefully managed. 6. There is an encouraging degree of partnership and social collaboration among different groups and sectors in Nepal, particularly in regard to networking; however there are important gaps in terms of awareness among and partnership with government and civil society. 7. The development of community radio has been effectively supported by external agencies and funds, representing a positive local-international partnership. Local forces have generally driven community radio development in Nepal with international agencies and donors in a supporting role, providing for capital investment and helping to develop both local and national capacities. Donors must continue to engage actively in the sector in order to ensure that community radio principles such as representation and local content are respected. 8. Despite a no-mortality rate among community stations, long-term sustainability remains a challenge. Community radios need to develop the social capital they derive from being active ‘community’ organizations and agents of local development; however many stations are falling into the trap of competing for advertising in small markets. Social marketing, 9. There is a serious lack of management structures and strategic planning; management tends to be spontaneous and ad-hoc, missing out on existing management experience and resources; there is widespread under-representation of ethnic and caste groups in policyand decision-making. 10. Community radio stations in Nepal have made effective use of new digital technologies to improve radio programming and operations; of particular note are the use of computers for digital production, satellites for programme distribution, and the internet for information sourcing. Key findings: Directions and trends 11. As the number of stations, both commercial and community, has expanded, both real and perceived competition have increased, driving stations towards greater market orientation, higher power transmitters and, as a result, higher budgets. At risk are traditional community radio principles and practices, for example, the focus on local content, the value of noncommercial sources of revenue, interactivity, volunteerism and community access, particularly by poor and marginalized groups. 12. There is serious concern that in the current phase of radio growth (concurrent with a critical time in the country’s socio-political development) political parties will begin or have already started to exercise more overt influence over FM stations. A clear example is the advent of ‘Maoist’ stations and a risk that this development will tip the balance among FM stations from affiliation to influence and that increasing competition, both among radio stations and among political parties that influence stations, will ratchet up the politicization of broadcasting. 13. Syndicated programming, mostly developed by a handful of production houses in Kathmandu and financed by donor funds, now constitutes a significant percentage of community radio programming across the country. Its rise has been facilitated by new distribution technologies, especially satellite. Although this type of programming represents an asset to the sector in terms of quality, access to knowledge and the diffusion and exchange of information and opinion between local and national perspectives, there is a
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risk that syndicated programming displaces local content and that a major part of its appeal is as a source of funding. Key recommendations The report’s main recommendations address the development of a framework of policy. The most fundamental issues for community radio in Nepal are the lack of clear direction and the absence of guidelines for the development of the sector. The situation is acute given the number of new stations. To the Government of Nepal • Implement recommendations of the High-level Media Commission report (September 2006), in particular the following key points i. Acknowledgement of the airwaves as public property; ii. The establishment of an independent broadcasting authority; iii. The elaboration of a three tiered system comprising public, private and community broadcasting; iv. Promotion of traditionally under-represented groups, including women, indigenous groups, marginalized castes, people with disabilities, etc; v. The need for a clear and transparent licensing process as a key tool in developing a balanced system; vi. The need to classify FM stations, including incentives for public and community stations; vii. The need to consider broadcasters’ contribution to national development Build financial incentives for community radio into new policy frameworks; these should include low license and renewal fees, a full exemption from the payment of royalties or levies, as well as guaranteed inclusion in government advertising contracts. Classification of community radio based on i. Community representation in ownership and management and staffing; ii. Locally relevant programme content. Further classification into types of community based on specific criteria, for example i. Transmission power; ii. Size and geographic spread of target listenership; iii. Degree of remoteness; iv. Number and type of radio services in the local areas, including whether a station is the only FM or community service; v. Type of ownership: cooperative, non-profit organization, local government, educational institution; vi. Approach to programming: proportion and priority of a) community access and volunteerism, b) local news, issues of community/public interest, c) local arts and culture, d) syndicated public interest programming, e) commercial entertainment; f) indigenous languages; vii. Approach to revenue generation: proportion and priority of a) local voluntary contributions (membership, donations, etc), b) local services (announcements, equipment rental, multimedia services, etc), c) development contracts, d) commercial advertising and corporate underwriting, e) donor grants. Development of means and systems for direct ownership of community radio stations by independent entities rather the current system, which encourages ‘proxy’ ownership by ‘parent’ organizations, especially NGOs

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Develop systems to regulate production houses as part of the FM radio sector.

To community radio groups • Community radio groups should increase their efforts to champion community radio as a local tool of national importance. Community radio should be both acknowledged and actively promoted by government and civil society stakeholders alike as a major development platform. Community radio advocacy groups need to continue proactive development of policies and guidelines concerning community radio with two key objectives: i. To set standards for community radio stations with models policies to be adopted by broadcasters, and ii. To provide government policy-makers with a practical basis for national policy development. Proactive development of policies and guidelines should focus on the following areas i. Ownership of community radio including means of ownership and guidelines on general assemblies, public disclosure, etc.; ii. Proportional community representation in ownership, management and staffing, and content, including indigenous languages; iii. Safeguarding local content; iv. Ensuring editorial independence from political parties; v. Human resources, including guidelines for volunteers; vi. Promoting a holistic approach to sustainability. Research key issues to feed policy development and resource materials: i. Volunteerism; ii. Indigenous languages; iii. Diversified income generation. Develop a vision and strategic plan for long-term capacity development Address short-term training needs as follows: i. Technical skills and equipment maintenance; ii. Advanced computer skills; iii. Programme development; iv. Management skills and systems; v. Strategic planning, organizational and policy development; vi. Avoiding political bias and broadcasting during elections.

• •

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal



Introduction Ten years after Nepal’s first independent broadcaster went on air in 1997, there are more than 75 stations on the airwaves and over 200 FM licenses have been granted, the majority since April 2006 when a new interim constitution and government were established after a protracted armed civil conflict in the country. The development of radio in Nepal, especially ‘community radio’, is significant, both in Nepal’s own national context – isolated, mountainous geography, extreme poverty and under-development – and in Asia Pacific, where no country has witnessed comparable growth of community radio. There are positive, even exceptional elements present in Nepal’s community radio environment, including excellent practices in programming, innovative strategies for sustainability, and sophisticated examples of networking; however there is considerable cause for concern in the unplanned and unmanaged growth of the sector, in the inconsistent application of community radio principles, and in audibly increasing commercialization and politicization among so-called community radio broadcasters.


The current study Objective Given the context outlined above and having a long-standing interest in community radio in Nepal and internationally, in mid-2007 UNESCO commissioned a study of the current state of community radio in Nepal. The aim of the study has been to assess the situation of community radio and make recommendations to UNESCO concerning the future of the sector, including the Organization’s own role. Specific objectives included providing background to the community radio movement in Nepal; stocktaking of key aspects1 of community radio development, including directions and trends; identifying the general impact of past UNESCO initiatives in community radio and the types of future interventions needed, including the roles that UNESCO and other stakeholders should play. Additional requirements of the study were to provide an evaluation of projects supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication and to outline a general strategy for a follow-up initiative to the Organization’s recent projects on information and communication technologies (ICTs) and poverty, and community multimedia and learning centres. Methodology


Number and type of stations, regulatory environment, new technologies in use

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


The study applied three main methods – literature review, including policies and regulations, existing studies, and articles; interviews with key stakeholders across public, private and non-governmental sectors; and field observations and interviews with local stakeholders and station personnel. The study team consisted of one external and one local researcher. The team visited five community2 and four commercial broadcasters3, representing a reasonable cross-section in terms of size, mandate, and geographic location. Although the study would have benefited from a larger cross section of stations – for example newer stations and those in more remote areas of the Mid- and Far-Western regions of the country – time and resources did not allow for extensive field research or visits to stations in remote locations. Notes on presentation As the lines between different types of FM radio in Nepal, in terms of definition, function and practice, are often blurred, the study looks at the whole FM sector; however our focus is clearly community radio, particularly in terms of the study’s recommendations. For readers who are not familiar with the context of the study, we have sketched a brief background to Nepal’s current radio environment and the country’s development plans as they stood in mid-2007. We then present, point by point, our key findings about the current situation of community radio and what we identify as the major trends and directions. These are followed by a series of recommendations, organized by key areas of major concern and directed at the different stakeholders: government policymakers and representative community radio groups. C. Context of community radio in Nepal Nepal’s 1990 constitution enshrined rights to information, freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of print and publication. The National Media Policy of 1992, which included a provision for private sector media, and the National Broadcasting Act of 1993 paved the way for the establishment of independent radio; the National Broadcasting Regulations of 1995 defined the processes and methods necessary for establishing FM stations in Nepal. The Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (NEFEJ) applied for a broadcast permit on 24 October 1992, however it was five years before they would have a license. Even after the launch of FM Kathmandu4 in 1994, NEFEJ and its
Radio Lumbini in Rupandehi District, Community Radio Madanpokhara and Radio Muktinath in Palpa, Radio Palung in Makawanpur and Radio Sagarmatha in Lalitpur 3 Nepal FM in Lalitpur District, Shreenagar FM and Radio Paschimanchal in Palpa, and Tinau FM in Rupandehi. 4 The first FM station in Nepal was FM Kathmandu, which went on air 16 November 1994 without having obtained a license. The frequency was provided to the state-run Radio Nepal with programming provided by private broadcasters who leased blocks of time. Radio Nepal applied for and received a FM license for FM Kathmandu in December 1994, after the service had already begun broadcasting.

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


partners continued to struggle with successive governments over permission to to broadcast. On 31 March 1996, the station that would become Radio Sagarmatha aired its first test signals on FM 102.4 Mhz without a license. When NEFEJ finally received a broadcasting license on 18 May 1997, Radio Sagarmatha became the first fully independent radio station in the country and marked an important achievement for civil society in Nepal. As Radio Sagarmatha broke new ground, gradually shedding the restrictions that initially accompanied its license, the movement for ‘community radio’ gained momentum outside the valley. In the process, Radio Sagarmatha set the standard for independent, public-interest radio in the country. More FM licenses were granted and in early 2000, two new ‘community’ stations joined the airwaves: the first, Radio Lumbini in Rupandehi District, a cooperative which raised the funds for its establishment locally, and the second, Radio Madanpokhara in the adjacent district of Palpa, licensed through the Village Development Committee. Around the same time, NEFEJ created the Community Radio Support Centre (CRSC) to support the development of sector, and in 2002, the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (ACORAB) was established as a representative body for community radio in Nepal. As new stations started to broadcast, pioneers like Radio Sagarmatha and production groups like Communication Corner began to share content and programmes, at first using telephone link-ups and cassette, then gradually moving to CD and satellite as full-fledged production houses and distribution networks started to emerge. By 2005 there were some 50 FM stations on the air with more than one third of these operating on a non-profit basis (the basic criteria to be considered as a community radio). After the success of the People’s Movement of 2006, which resulted in the promulgation of a new constitution, FM licenses were issued en masse. Some 150 licenses were granted between April 2006 and July 2007, including more than 65 to non-profit groups. In August 2007, ACORAB listed its membership at 90 radio stations with 33 broadcasters on air.
Issuance of FM radio licenses in Nepal 1999 5 2000 5 2001 0 2002 5 2003 14 2004 15 2005 1 2006 120 2007 27 Total 192

ACORAB internal documents, August 2007

Regulatory environment While the body of laws and regulations governing broadcasting5 in Nepal during the 1990s did finally allow for community radio, neither policies nor government
Pre-existing legislation and policy include the Radio Act 2014 (1957), the Radio Communication (Licensing) Regulation, 2049 (1992), the National Broadcasting Act 2049 (1993), and the National Broadcasting Regulation, 2052 (1995)

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


representatives have ever favoured it. The first ten years of FM and community radio were marked by successive governments’ repeated attempts to block, limit, restrict and even muzzle broadcasters, particularly concerning their right to broadcast news. The current framework of legislation, policy and regulation has many gaps and has resulted in major problems including technical crowding, redundancy and confusion. There has never been a clear rationale to licensing radio stations and the process is widely understood to have been prone to bribery and political influence. There is little evidence that applications have ever been evaluated on the real needs of the broadcasting sector, of a given listening area, or on the basis of how new services will contribute to diversity and variety or meeting the country’s national priorities and development goals. There has been a generally superficial management of the broadcasting sector. Radio stations are not held accountable for the services they promise. There is currently no system of classifying radio services: though there is a remarkable diversity among the types of radio broadcasting present (and needed) in Nepal, all non-government radio stations are regulated in the same manner. Recent changes There have been several recent changes to the existing regulatory environment, including a provision in the interim constitution (2006) that protects media freedom, including that of FM radio stations, as a fundamental right (15/2), clearly stating “No radio, television, online or any other types of digital or electronic means, press or any other communication media shall be closed, seized or be cancelled because of publishing and broadcasting or printing any material by such means of audio, audio-visual or electronic equipment.” Other significant new developments include the Right to Information Act, which ensures the availability of any ‘public’ information, and an operationalized Working Journalists Act, which clearly describes terms and conditions for employment, and rights and responsibilities of journalists and media owners. The other significant change to the specific rules and procedures governing radio has been a reduction in the license and renewal fees required of FM broadcasters. The fee for a 100 watt transmitter, which was NPR 50000 (USD 770) became NPR 10000 (USD 154), a 50 watt unit went from NPR 25000 (USD 385) to NPR 1000 (USD 15) and for transmitters up to 30 watts, the fee was reduced from NPR 10000 to NPR 500 (USD 8). The change is significant since there is considerable benefit for stations with low power transmitters. The new policy would be even more significant if it were to represent an indication of future policy since it is clearly in favour of low-watt, non-commercial broadcasting.

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal



Nepal’s current national goals and priorities Nepal’s development goals and priorities have traditionally been laid out in fiveyear plans, however the Government of Nepal is now formulating a Three Year Interim Plan (2007). The approach paper6 of the interim plan proposes the following priorities: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Reformation of administrative systems suitable for inclusive, federal, democratic restructuring of the state. Focus will be given for participation, transparency, accountability and delegation of authority for good governance. Local level civil servants will be provided with orientation on local languages and cultures. Use of information and communication technology will be increased to improve the civil service sector. E-governance will be planned and implemented. Nepal police will be strengthened to ensure security and control of crime.

The approach paper has strong proposals relating to inclusion, including the following strategies7: 1. 2. 3. Policy measures will be adopted for social inclusion. Discrimination based on race, language, culture, religion, economic status, gender, regional and disability will be abolished. Meaningful participation of excluded people into policy formulation, program planning and monitoring and evaluation will be ensured. Program planning, implementation and monitoring and evaluation will be based on three dimension of inclusion: 1. Access of excluded people in resources, services and opportunities, 2. Empowerment and capacity building of excluded people, 3. Change in policy, rule of the game, values and structures in the favor of excluded people. Focus programs will be planned and implemented targeting highly marginalized Janajatis of excluded people. Linguistic survey will be conducted to preserve languages spoken in Nepal. Priority will be given for access of women, dalits, indigenous people and Janajatis, Madhesis, disables and other excluded group in technical and vocational training opportunities.

4. 5. 6.

Media, Information and Communication In the 10th Plan (2002-2007), the Government of Nepal recognized the role of broadcasting and adopted a separate strategic objective: "Clearing liabilities and responsibilities of private and government broadcasting services to develop, expand and operate their broadcasting services in a competitive and coordinated
6 7

National Planning Commission of the Government of Nepal (2007): Three Year Interim Plan: Approach Paper 2064/065-2066/067: p.24 Ibid, p.68

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


manner8." Under this strategy, objectives and activities were elaborated as follows9: 1. 2. Keeping in view the rapid development of wireless technology in broadcasting sector, Frequency Management Institution would be made capable and effective reform to the frequency management system. With an aim to make the electronic media more competitive and reliable and to promote healthy entertainment, knowledge and information along with coordinated and competitive development of the broadcasting sector, a Broadcasting Authority would be established. Environment would be created for the maximum possible expansion of services of private sector. Communication media like FM transmission, participatory videos, local television, cable television, wall magazines, community audio tower, audio cassette magazines will be encouraged to increase the flow of information among the general public. Stress would be given in establishing Integrated Information Centers in the district headquarters to provide multimedia services such as television, radio, telephone and Internet for the benefit of general public.


The approach paper of the upcoming Interim Plan of the Government of Nepal (expected to begin August 2007) has set out six development priorities, one relating to information and communication: "Infrastructure development such as Roads, Irrigation and Communication will be given priority10.” In the same line the approach paper has also developed one of the strategies related to information and communication development – "Use of information and communication technology will be expanded through out the country to increase the access of agriculture, industry and service sectors so that gaps between producers and end product users can be mitigated11."

Government of Nepal (2002): 10th Plan of Government of Nepal: Chapter 19 - Information and Communication; p.363 Ibid, pp.364-5 10 National Planning Commission of the Government of Nepal (2007), as above; p.25 11 Ibid, p.74
8 9

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal



Key findings

Current state of community radio
The potential of community radio to contribute to Nepal’s growth and development is greater than ever: there are now a large and growing number of stations covering a significant percentage of the country’s geography and population; the sector is relatively mature and has pockets of exceptional experience and knowledge; there is an active sense that the sector needs to improve and concrete ideas about what the problems and solutions are; there is growing recognition that community radio is a cross-cutting development tool. There is an important opportunity for community radio, particularly given its cost effectiveness and unique accessibility, to contribute directly to addressing the country’s short- and long-term needs including the transition to peace and the transformation of the political system; socio-economic development, particularly in remote areas; the objectives of administrative reform and good governance; the requirement for greater social inclusion on the basis of gender, caste and ethnicity; and the imperatives of improving education and health. 1. Huge growth of community radio over the course of the past ten years There has been a remarkable increase in non-governmental broadcasting in Nepal since 1997 when the first independent station went on the air: 216 licenses had been issued as of July 2007 with 78 FM stations broadcasting12. The growth of non-profit radio has been equally large with 93 licenses issued as of May 200713 and 31 stations on air14; as of March 2007 community radio coverage had spread to 56 of 75 districts15. Only 36% of the total FM licensees issued were on air as of July 2007 meaning that the full expansion of the sector has yet to show itself and the impact of nearly 200% more stations remains to be seen. 2. Lack of planning and regulation in the growth of the sector The FM radio sector has and continues to be largely unplanned and unmanaged. Licensing practices to date have produced a large number of stations, however growth has been haphazard, unbalanced and far from strategic. There is now technical congestion in the capital region as a result of poor frequency planning and monitoring. There is high redundancy of radio licenses and services, even in some rural areas. There are many remote areas without any FM radio service. The development of the broadcast sector has not been guided by a clear vision or well-considered policies. There are limited means to ensure accountability on the part of existing broadcasters, to their public or in terms of their original
Interview with representatives of the Ministry of Information and Communication Radio Profile in Nepal, Research Center for Humanism, Civic Education and Communication Forum, Karkando, Banke, May 2007 14 ACORAB internal documents, August 2007 15 Mainali, R. 2007, Community Radio in Nepal: A Choice of Different Future, Community Radio Country Study for the World Bank
12 13

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


promises. As a whole, the FM sector is not organized to provide for diversity, to meet the needs and rights of listeners, or to address real national priorities. The current lack of regulation abandons broadcasters to the ‘survival of the fittest’ in the market, which, among other deficiencies, will not provide for public rights to information and expression or the country’s need to ensure inclusion and development. The Ministry of Information and Communication reports that a new umbrella media bill has been drafted for the purpose of consultation with stakeholders but could not confirm when the bill would put before the legislature. 3. Inconsistent practice of community radio principles Despite large numbers of stations that use the label ‘community radio’, many of these stations would score low or fail if a well thought out set of criteria – including those principles espoused by Nepal’s own community radio groups – were applied to their operations. This inconsistency is exacerbated by the absence of definitions, standards and criteria as well as the means to enforce them. There is confusion as to what community radio is and there are areas of major concern in terms of current practices. There was a consistent concern expressed, across the stakeholder groups interviewed, that both FM and community radio have been ‘captured’ by elite ethnic and caste groups, both at national and local levels, a reality which is reflected in limited station ownership and the absence of democratic or proportional representation in decision-making or mechanisms for real community accountability. The issue of ‘elite capture’ raises the question of community radio’s role in social change and development and whether it tends to reinforce inequities and empower the already empowered. Domination by elite groups is especially problematic since community radio is generally understood to have a explicit mandate to empower and enable marginalized groups, a principle which was repeated frequently in interviews. In contrast to community radio norms, the extent to which traditionally underrepresented groups participate in community radio in management and as staff is limited. The representativeness of community stations is also questionable in terms of both content and language, which are also linked to who decides on and creates programming. Furthermore, many community radios are ‘journalist’ rather than ‘community’ driven, relying on paid, trained staff, rather than facilitating direct access to the airwaves by local people and groups, an orientation that also affects both the type of content and whose voices are heard. 4. Lack of clarity on types of radio

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


The lines between different types of radio are blurred in Nepal. This is evident not only in terms of official policies, which do not differentiate between different types of non-government FM stations, but also in terms of how the different types of radio are perceived by listeners, representatives of civil society and government, and radio groups themselves. The fact that radio types have not been predefined has facilitated the growth of many different types of radio in Nepal and overall, an extremely vibrant radio sector. Many so-called ‘community’ stations, starting with Radio Sagarmatha, have set high standards of journalism and programming, which commercial stations have tended to emulate. One result is stations, both those that are technically for- and not-for-profit16, that provide a sort of independent local public interest radio17, in which programming is done and editorial decisions taken by paid staff who are not directly representative of or accountable to their listening communities but rather who act on the community’s behalf, in the public interest. With Radio Sagarmatha as a role model, this approach of private, public interest radio has become the norm, rather than an approach characterized by democratic ownership, community access and volunteerism. To some extent, the public is well served by the volume and competitiveness of broadcasting (though in reality multiple services are present only in a limited number of geographic areas), however, ultimately, the trend towards increasingly competitive markets of multiple broadcasters is negative as it encourages greater commercialization and politicization on one hand and acts as a disincentive for truly public interest programming. Although the absence of clear categories for radio stations may have contributed in some ways to innovation – for example hybrid varieties that combine elements of community, public and commercial radio – in the end, the absence of regulation in the face of commercial competition will not sustain innovative practices, nor guarantee the public’s right to information and expression, nor ensure that broadcasting helps meet the country’s development and other nation priorities. 5. Maturity of community radio After ten years, there is a certain maturity and sophistication to Nepal’s community radios. The development of the sector is remarkable in comparison with other countries in the region or internationally. There is, to-date, a nomortality rate among stations. There are excellent practices, for example, in programming and community participation, many of which have been or are bring replicated. There are well-established production houses and distribution
Profit generation in Nepal may provide difficult as a basis for categorization. In all likelihood, many commercial stations, particularly those outside Kathmandu or areas of the tarai, operate at a loss or at best a token profit, and, as one informant pointed out, payments by non-profit stations to management or consultants are, in some cases, well above commercial standards. 17 As distinct from public or public service radio which is generally understood to be national, publicly financed through license fees or tax revenue and operating at arms length from the state

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


networks that contribute to the quality and diversity of programming. There are high capacity resource centres and organizations that make skills, know-how and knowledge available to community broadcasters. There is an active national association of community radios. Perhaps most importantly, the sector is aware of its deficiencies and limitations and cognizant of problematic trends. 6. Growth of strong networks There are strong examples of networks and networking among radio stations in Nepal, including content sharing, programme distribution, regional and national training workshops and exchange of information among stations. Individual broadcasters can easily link to other stations and to national groups, which together form a sort of ‘community’ of stations and networks. Of particular note are the Community Radio Support Centre (CRSC), a section of the Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (which is also the ‘parent’ organization of Radio Sagarmatha) and the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (ACORAB), a representative and advocacy body. 7. Effective partnerships to support the growth of the sector; limited collaboration with social movements The growth of community radio has been facilitated by significant partnership and collaboration among different groups and sectors in Nepal, particularly among radio stations, national support groups, programme production houses and a range of donors and supporting agencies. However several important gaps are noted in terms of collaboration: there is limited awareness of community radio within government, civil society and the general listening public. Furthermore, there is poor integration with civil society and social movements, which tend to view community radio as something external and at best parallel. 8. Effective support by external agencies and funds Donors and other external agencies have aided the development of community radio in Nepal. Assistance has primarily been financial; however there have been important exceptions including the initial phase of community radio development when there was important technical assistance provided by UNESCO, the provision of training by international radio broadcasters and training centres, as well as cooperation with the BBC to manage a wider reception of the Corporation’s Nepali Service. External ‘donor’ agencies were criticized during interviews with stakeholders for having reinforcing traditional patterns of social dominance (for example by caste and ethnic elites) through their support for so-called community radios that are, in fact, not representative of local caste and ethnic groups; it was furthermore suggested that the availability of donor funds has meant that some stations have by-passed local financial and moral support.

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Although there are valid criticisms of external support to community radio in Nepal, underscoring the need for donors to be cautious and to engage in active dialogue with a range of stakeholders, the story of donor support to community radio appears, in general, to be positive. Donors have tended to work through legitimate representative and advocacy bodies, such as CRSC and ACORAB, and external funds have generally been contingent on the presence of local support. In the past, key actors like Dandia and UNESCO have maintained an active engagement with the media sector helping them to make relatively strategic choices in favour of building local capacity. New donors in the country’s current post-conflict and transition context may not have the same experience or depth of engagement, for example questions had been raised about the BBC World Service Trust’s decision to establish a major new production centre rather than to work with existing groups. 9. Tenuous sustainability Although all the community radios that have started in the past ten years are still on air, long-term sustainability, especially given current trends, remains, at worst, uncertain and, at best, an ongoing challenge for the vast majority of stations. The durability of the existing community stations likely has much to do with the social capital they derive from being ‘community’ stations, however as more stations go on air, including multiple community radios in the same listening area, and as more stations slip into market competition, they risk losing their social and organizational footing. For the majority of community stations, investments in social capital, rather than competing for commercial advertising through more marketable programming or higher transmission power, appear to be the best route to overall sustainability. 10. Lack of management structures and strategic planning; poor community representation in policy- and decision-making Most community radio stations do not have any clear vision – beyond a sense of ‘mission journalism for social transformation’ – nor any kind of written plans to guide marketing strategy or programme, audience or human resource development. Although station managers and representatives are often articulate concerning community radio as a concept and about their own operations, few stations have any kind of institutionalized or written procedures or policies, let alone ones that were developed in a representative or participatory manner. In fact, few if any stations have the prerequisites for strategic planning as a community organization, namely clear democratic policies and procedures that ensure the representation of local people at decision-making levels. There was a frequent sense from stakeholders interviewed that the majority of FM radios’ owners and management, both from for- or not-for-profit stations, have little or no sense of what it is they have been licensed to do, and,

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


furthermore, that management is largely if not entirely ad hoc. A person appointed as a managing director and/or station manager leads the radio station on a discretionary basis; in few cases are they guided by policies or goals and objectives endorsed by stakeholders. As is often the case, the sector as a whole does not take advantage of management skills and knowledge or the good practices already present in the sector. The institutional development of community radio stations and of ACORAB, as a representative body, should be a priority. 11. Effective use of new technologies to improve radio programming and operations Nepal’s radio broadcasters, including community stations, have made prodigious use of new digital technologies, increasing production efficiency and expanding the type and range of information and content available to listeners. New technologies have lowered costs, both in terms of equipment purchase (computers are cheaper than traditional production equipment) and operations (internet, email and satellite have replaced telephone and courier costs). Particular applications of new technologies include computers for digital editing and in-station networking; internet and email for sourcing information and extending correspondence; satellite access for programme sharing. Despite good practices in the use of new technologies, applications like digital editing and use of internet are not uniform; many stations do not have sufficient computer facilities or expertise, nor satellite or internet connectivity. A limited number of radio stations have expanded their vision and operations to include other media services, including multimedia and internet.

Directions and trends
12. Commercialization: increasing dependence on advertising in the face of rising costs and competition As the number of stations, both commercial and community, has expanded, both real and perceived competition have increased, driving stations towards greater market consciousness, high transmission power and, as a result, higher budgets. The haphazard growth of the sector, the lack of clarity concerning different types of radio and the failure to provide incentives or protection for community radio have created a pressure which is pushing stations away from traditional community radio practices and principles, for example, the focus on local content, the value of non-commercial sources of revenue, the importance of small target listenership and low watt transmission. Given trends, this pressure is going to intensify in coming months and years. Policies and regulatory mechanisms are needed to define and uphold standards of community radio broadcasting; community radio stations that meet these standards should be encouraged and promoted through a range of incentives.

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal



Politicization of radio stations and risk of increasing political influence There was a clear sense among interviewees that the degree and type of interplay between radio stations and political parties has changed. In the past, some political ‘affiliation’ of radio owners and staff, and by association of stations themselves, has been common, perhaps even the norm; furthermore, the growth of FM radio has, in part, been driven by the impulse to first advance and subsequently balance political presence (Palpa, for example, is understood to have radios ‘associated’ or ‘affiliated’ with each major political party and informants spoke of political parties issuing ‘directives’ to ‘obtain’ radio stations in order to counterbalance the influence of rivals); however, in the past, all stations have generally adhered to the principle that affiliation to political parties does not directly influence content and that FM stations remain strictly non-partisan and editorially independent. There is serious concern that in the current phase of radio growth, concurrent with a critical time in the country’s socio-political development, political parties will begin or have already started to exercise more overt influence over FM stations. The clearest example of this change is the advent of ‘Maoist’ stations18, broadcasters that are clear and upfront about the influence of the party in decision-making; however perhaps of greater concern is the perception that the Maoist stations are simply ‘more honest’ about their political orientation. There is a fear that Maoist stations will tip the balance from affiliation to influence and that increasing competition, both among radio stations and among political parties that influence stations, will ratchet up the politicization of broadcasting. This is of particular concern given that elections to the constituent assembly will be help in November 2007. While there is legitimate concern about influence, especially if one party changes the rules, the majority of existing community radios have successfully negotiated overt political pressures in the past, including periods of intense conflict; furthermore, radio stations with clear community orientations are aware that their credibility lies in avoiding overt influence and maintaining a non-partisan position. As with other areas of concern, public regulation in the form of binding rules and codes of conduct is essential in avoiding a move towards politicization.


Increase in the amount of syndicated content on local stations As the number of FM stations in the country has grown, stations have increasingly shared content among themselves and from civil society groups, including telephone link-ups to simulcast news and current affairs and the use of cassette and CDs to share programmes. Community radios have also aired

Four to six existing stations, covering each zone of the country, are generally acknowledged as ‘Maoist’, having been already or in the process of being purchased by the party, including stations in Palpa, Kavre, Makwanpur, Nepalgunj

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


programming from external sources, most prominently the BBC’s Nepali service, which provided a major boost to the listenership and advertising revenues of stations like Radio Sagarmatha, which relays 30 minutes daily from London. Syndicated productions have gradually emerged as both for- and not-for profit groups take advantage of the opportunity to air programmes, generally paid for by stations or underwritten by development contracts or advertisers, on multiple stations. At present, there are three dedicated production houses based in Kathmandu (one operates its own FM and VSAT channels, one the World Space satellite system, and one farms out to the others’ satellite channels, uses CD and internet), a handful of NGOs that produce individual programmes for distribution on one of the channels mentioned above, and also several FM radio stations that share their programmes. Many concerns were raised about the prominence of centrally produced content: one so called community radio is reported to have as high as 70% of its programming sourced from Kathmandu-based production houses; others air up to two or three hours per day, often in prime time. Clearly there are risks associated with the rise of this type of programming: namely that as competition for local stations’ airtime increases, local content, particularly in primetime, is displaced and a centre-to-periphery power dynamic is reinforced. With highquality, self-financing productions available, the need of local stations to build the capacity necessary to produce good local content diminishes. Many local stations now rely heavily both on the content as well as the accompanying funding. However the elements that make this type of content possible – namely, skilled organizations producing development content, finding underwriters and passing on a portion of the funds, and operating reliable distribution networks through which the content can be shared – are, overall, positive developments in the country’s radio environment provided they are well-managed. Networking and syndication present great opportunity for a wide range of stakeholders, from listeners who can access current news to development agents who can share messages widely; however syndicated content and networking of this type must be well-considered and effectively regulated in order to mitigate the risks. 15. Increase in the number of specialized radio licensees The latest round of indiscriminate licensing has also brought another new development: FM stations, including community radios, that are highly focused and specialized, mostly along identity lines, for example, Jagaran Radio in Butwal is focusing on Dalit, social discrimination and social exclusion issues; Adhyatma Jyoti FM in Kathmandu is focusing on Hinduism and Buddhism; ECR FM in Lalitpur focuses on environmental and educational issues, Radio Namobuddha FM in Kavre is focusing on Buddhism and social inclusion; Radio

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Purbanchal in Biratnagar is run by a group of women and in terms of content focuses on women and children issues. Dalit and Janajati groups were clear that the failure of so-called community stations to provide real representation or space has been a primary motivator behind their efforts to establish ‘their own stations’. While a degree of and trend to specialization is likely natural and positive, particularly given the preeminence of identity politics in the present social climate in Nepal and the expansion of FM broadcasting, there are some risks, namely that fragmentation will negatively impact on sustainable and that segregation will work against generally accepted principles of dialogue and ‘internal’ rather than ‘external’ pluralism in broadcasting. The full social impact of this type of specialization remains to be seen, as do the consequences in terms of financial sustainability. F. Recommendations

Lack of official policy regarding community radio and an inconsistency between theory and practice among broadcasters mark the sector in Nepal. The country’s community radio has many strong attributes and is full of potential; however there is cause for concern and need for action on key fronts. The absence of clear definitions or regulation has led to haphazard growth and confusion. Without any official definitions or guidelines, operators espouse generally accepted principles of ‘community radio’ yet there is little evidence of uniform application of these principles to their practice. Alongside regulation, areas of major concern include community ownership and representation in staffing, recent content trends, and issue of capacity development. The recommendations that follow are grouped together under headings that the study identified as areas of major concern. The recommendations themselves are directed at one or more key stakeholder groups, who we feel are in the best position to take concrete action: the Government of Nepal, specifically the Ministry of Communication; community radio advocacy groups, particularly those which are representative of community radio stations, for example the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (ACORAB). An additional set of recommendations is made to UNESCO. 1. Policy and regulation

Nepal’s efforts to regulate radio broadcasting have tended to be reactive with decisions taken on an ad hoc basis. There is no independent broadcasting authority, no public processes and no clarity of vision with respect to different elements of the broadcasting system. The current approach to regulation is inadequate for Nepal’s needs. The most important recommendation of the study concerns the need for a consultative process leading to a policy framework that defines and categorizes different types of

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


community radio and lays out clear criteria and incentives to guide the development of the sector. There are strong indications that new legislation, policy and regulations will be introduced in coming months and years, beginning with a code of conduct for the constituent assembly elections (proposed by the Election Commission in September 2007) and an umbrella media act, which the Ministry of Information and Communication reports to be in draft form and ready for consultation with stakeholders (before being put to the legislature). Ministry representatives were clear on the need to introduce definitions and classification and to “discriminate” between community and commercial radio in a manner that will promote community radio. All stakeholders Recommendation 1: Promoting community radio as a national asset As a fundamental and guiding principle, Nepal’s radio airwaves should be acknowledged and promoted by all stakeholders as one of the country’s greatest assets. This principle should be reflected in legislation, policies and operational rules and guidelines. Recognizing the radio airwaves as public property necessitates a system of transparent and accountable public management, the development of which should therefore be a priority. Within the broadcast system as a whole, public-interest radio broadcasting should be acknowledged and promoted as one of Nepal’s most important development tools, capable of unique contribution to meeting the country’s goals. Government of Nepal Recommendation 2: Implement key recommendations of the High-level Media Commission The government should continue and accelerate efforts to reform the legislative and regulatory environment governing radio, process that must be undertaken in consultation with stakeholders. Given long-standing efforts to review the country’s media policies, the policy development process should begin with the recommendations of the High-Level Media Commission, which released its findings in September 2006; these include i. ii. iii. iv. v. Acknowledgement of the airwaves as public property; The establishment of an independent broadcasting authority; The elaboration of a three tiered system comprising public, private and community broadcasting; Promotion of traditionally under-represented groups, including women, indigenous groups, marginalized castes, people with disabilities, etc; The need for a clear and transparent licensing process as a key tool in developing a balanced system;

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


vi. vii.

The need to classify FM stations, including incentives for public and community stations; The need to consider broadcasters’ contribution to national development.

Recommendation 3: Include public consultations as part of radio licensing procedures Licensing and renewal processes should not only be transparent and guided by policy, but should include mandatory local public consultation. At such time as the Broadcasting Authority prepares to issue new licenses or to renew existing licenses, standard process should allow for a period of time in which any member of the public is free to make written interventions; if the Broadcasting Authority deems it necessary, this process should be extended to a public meeting, held in the relevant locality and chaired by the Authority. Further to the recommendations of the High-Level Media Commission, procedures for public consultation on new and renewed licenses should be development by the Ministry. Recommendation 4: Build financial incentives for community radio into new policy frameworks Further to the recommendations of the Media Commission (September 2006) broadcasting policy and regulations should clearly define and promote both public and community media. Radio services that are truly non-profit and executed in the public interest for community benefit should be encouraged through clear and effective incentives, for example, low license and renewal fees (at least as low as those brought into force in 2007) and a full exemption from the payment of royalties or levies (for example, the current 4% tax on all earned revenue). Recommendation 5: Institute public financial support for community radio In recognition of their role in promoting local development, including those goals outlined in national development priorities and plans, the government should take further steps to actively financially encourage legitimate community radio broadcasters, including a) guaranteed public welfare and government advertising, and b) a support fund generated from the royalties paid by commercial broadcasters. Recommendation 6: Policies prohibiting political influence Recognizing that radio airwaves are public property, broadcasters must be prohibited, through their license agreements, from entering partisan politics. The increasing politicization of FM radio needs to be taken seriously and actions are needed at different levels. Judging by the extreme examples of political radio

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


now emerging in the FM radio landscape, it is clear that current legal provisions and means of enforcement are inadequate. Acting in consultation with the different representative bodies of FM stations, the Ministry of Information and Communication should ensure that sufficient policy instruments barring radio licensees from supporting or advocating for any political party, candidate or viewpoint are in place. These provisions must be enforced, through appropriate licensing and renewal procedures and by ensuring proper procedures for dealing with legitimate public grievances; both these avenues must be properly codified in broadcasting regulations – and enforced. The Election Commission should be responsible for ensuring that a standing code of conduct during election periods is developed (in consultation with broadcasting groups), widely publicized, and stringently enforced. The representative bodies of FM radio stations should develop policies for self-regulation and work to ensure that member stations’ compliance. Community radio groups Recommendation 7: Champion the cause of community radio Community radio groups should increase their efforts to champion community radio as a local tool of national importance. Community radio should be both acknowledged and actively promoted by government and civil society stakeholders alike as a major development tool. People should be encouraged to take pride in the unprecedented success of community and public interest radio in the country. Key activities should include raising awareness about community radio mandates and services, publicizing success stories and promoting partnerships and collaborative projects. Recommendation 7: Proactive policy development It is important that community radio advocacy groups continue to proactively develop policies and guidelines, both for adoption by community radio stations themselves as well as for consideration by the government. The Community Radio Support Centre has set a positive example for this requirement, as evidenced in its publication of a draft policy for community radio19. As a representative body of community radio in Nepal, ACORAB should take the lead in policy development and advocate for a strong set of binding community radio principles and guidelines that provide needed direction for the sector as a whole as well as individual stations. Policy development and advocacy need to be central to the Association’s role and should be its top priorities. In collaboration with community radio station and other advocacy groups, ACORAB should develop the basis for policies, guidelines, and classifications

A Proposed Bill on Community and Non-commercial Broadcasting, published in 2059 BS, is available at http://nefej.org/crsc/crse_bill.pdf

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


that reflect both generally accepted principles of community radio as well as the practice of community as it has developed in Nepal. ‘Internal’ policies need to be adopted and followed by the Association’s members and, where appropriate, proposed as models to government. Although policies and rules as such may not be legally binding, ACORAB should use membership in the association as the basis for binding member stations to a high standard of community radio practice. Examples of policies and guidelines to be developed are elaborated in the recommendations that follow and include: political influence, limits on commercial advertising, guidelines on ownership; representation of women, ethnic and caste groups; content, including language of programming; and human resources. Recommendation 7: Guidelines on political influence Community radio groups must also take the increasing politicization of FM radio seriously and take proactive steps to ensure that community radio in Nepal does not become a political tool. Working with other groups and its members, ACORAB should immediately develop policy guidelines that strictly bar community stations from any involvement in partisan politics and that lay out a clear code of conduct for broadcasting during election periods. 2. Typology of radio in Nepal

There was consensus among stakeholders consulted that FM stations need to be defined and classified. Clarity in this respect is part of the foundation for a strong policy framework that can guide the development of community radio in Nepal. The typology of non-profit radio in Nepal is problematic. The only factor, to date, that officially distinguishes one broadcaster from another is the power of the transmitter; the only discrimination between licensees is the payment of initial license and annual renewal fees based on the registered power of their transmitters. While this type of distinction and discrimination are valuable, especially with recent changes that favour low-watt broadcasters, they are also not sufficient in terms of defining and classifying stations. Nepal’s community radio stations are best grouped into different types reflecting the diversity of contexts and approaches present in the sector. Classifications and criteria should be reflected in both national public policies as well as in policies and guidelines developed by the community radio sector itself. All stakeholders Recommendation 8: Classifications for community radio

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Community radio in Nepal should be broadly defined so as to be inclusive of all varieties of legitimate community radio. The basic factor in determining whether a station is community radio in Nepal is that it is non-profit. Stations should be further classified on the basis of their organizational type: non-profit organization, cooperative, education institution and local government. In order to be accepted as community radio, broadcast stations should meet two other criteria: i. ii. Proportional community representation (on the basis of gender, ethnicity and caste) in ownership, management and staffing; Locally relevant programme content in terms of issues, subjects, culture, and language.

Recommendation 9: Further classification of community radio types based on specific criteria Criteria for classifying and regulating community stations, including what fees are imposed and what sorts of incentives are available, should include the following: i. ii. iii. iv. v. vi. Transmitter and effective radiated power; Size and geographic spread of target listenership; Degree of remoteness of the licensee; Number and type of radio services in the local areas, including whether a station is the only FM or community service; Type of ownership: cooperative, non-profit organization, local government, educational institution; Approach to programming: proportion and priority of a) community access and volunteerism, b) local news, issues of community/public interest, c) local arts and culture, d) syndicated public interest programming, e) commercial entertainment; f) indigenous languages; Approach to revenue generation: proportion and priority of a) local voluntary contributions (membership, donations, etc), b) local services (announcements, equipment rental, multimedia services, etc), c) development contracts, d) commercial advertising and corporate underwriting, e) donor grants.



Ownership of radio

Ownership is a critical element of what makes an entity ‘public’ or ‘community’ rather than private. Community ownership comes in various forms but it must include real means for accountability and the possibility for community members to exercise decision-making power. In fact, few of the Nepal’s radios are truly community owned. What they are is non-profit (which is at present the basic criteria for a station to be considered a ‘community radio’ in Nepal). However non-profit status in Nepal does not require real community accountability – either by virtue of being a registered non-profit organization (an non-

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


governmental organization or NGO) nor a cooperative that agrees not to share profit among shareholders. An NGO is accountable to its members, which can be as few as seven, and a cooperative to its shareholders, at least 25. Although many of Nepal’s NGO and cooperative community radios do act in the community’s interest and do provide public interest programming and other services, most do not have structures that are truly democratic, participatory or representative; they are, in the characterization of one expert, either passive or active20. While there is some truth to the claim that stations are responsible by the necessity of being part of and in constant dialogue with the local community, this is not the same thing as accountability, nor it is a legitimate means of community ownership, nor does it guarantee community groups’ participation in policy- and decision-making. The issue of radio ownership in Nepal is aggravated by the process of licensing, which encourages (or perhaps even requires) a form of ‘proxy ownership’21. Organizations, local government bodies or cooperatives apply for and obtain licensees and then set up units to run the radio stations. The radio ends up being run by and invariably accountable to another organization; though in some cases the relationship is mediated by a community council, there remains a significant disconnect between the radio station and the community it serves. In most cases, the ‘parent’ organization is not explicitly mandated as a media outlet and certainly not a community radio that demands democratic participation. Even where the parent organization has some means for community participation and accountability, this may not be extended to the radio operations. Proxy ownership is credited with certain benefits; for example, the parent organization may provide financial and other types of resources, however ‘parental’ support and ‘organizational’ independence are not mutually exclusive. On balance, proxy ownership is a poor practice for at least two reasons: the radio stations themselves are not directly accountable nor are they truly independent. Community radio groups Recommendation 10: Guidelines concerning ownership of community radio Nepal’s community radio sector needs clarity on types of radio ownership as well as specific policies and guidelines regarding ownership for community stations. Community radio stations should be bound to certain norms and procedures, by their own internal policies, by those of the sector as a whole through their association, and by a public broadcasting authority. With the support of other key community radio groups, ACORAB should take a lead in developing policies and guidelines that cover the following areas as priorities: i. Actual means of ownership; for example, community radio stations should have minimum number of organizational members or cooperative shareholders from the community; this membership must provide for reasonably proportional representation of the community in terms of ethnicity, caste and gender as well as livelihoods and interests;
20 21

Mainali, R. 2007, as above The term, very accurate and useful, was shared by Raghu Mainali during the course of an interview on 24 July 2007

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The constitution of general assemblies and governing bodies (radio councils, management committees, boards of directors, etc), responsible for policy and decision-making; for example, general assemblies should be held at least once a year and be open and accessible to all community members; governing bodies should aim for gender equity and be structured to represent the widest possible range of groups and interests; Public disclosure of official minutes, financial and other operational information.

Government of Nepal Recommendation 11: Ownership and licensing mechanisms to replace ‘proxy’ ownership To the greatest extent possible, radio licensees should be constituted as legal entities of their own rather than departments of other organizations. As concerns ‘community’ radio licensees, these entities should be regulated in a public manner. The government should manage registration and basic regulation of radio licensees in an appropriate and streamlined fashion. Although it is beyond the remit of this study to make a specific recommendation, for the purpose of providing and example we favour the suggestion of one group of informants to this study who offered that the Ministry of Information and Communication be empowered to register radio groups as organisations at the same time as licenses are given. One element of a solution may be to allow applicants for licenses, individual or organizational community representatives to apply “on behalf of an organization to be constituted” as is the case in other countries such as Canada. 4. Community representation

Two tenets of community radio are representation and participation. Unlike privately owned stations, a community radio must represent the community serves in terms of ownership, management and staffing, and content. Although almost if not every community radio representative interviewed espoused the principle of representation, in reality most community radios are not fully representative of the communities they serve, not in any of the categories identified above. While there are examples of good practice and there are indications that the situation is changing among some community stations, it is not even possible at this point to say that community radios are more representative than commercial stations. The most glaring examples of this failure are the concentration of ownership, management and staffing among caste, ethnic and gender elites and the paucity of content directed by traditionally under-represented groups in terms of issues, languages and voices. This type of severe imbalance has been the norm with community radio in Nepal; however in the country’s new situation and given the heated climate regarding issues of

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


representation and exclusion, the lack of equitable representation is a critical issue, not only for the radio stations themselves but also for the community-at-large. Dalit and Janajati (indigenous) media advocates are highly critical of community radio and point to their failure to provide more than token representation of ethnic and minority groups. In response there is now an increase in radio platforms that are specifically Dalit or Janajati in orientation with the justification that other FMs do not provide space/time for Dalits and that radio programming related to Dalit issues has been rejected by community radios. Alongside imbalances in ownership, management and staffing, the representativeness of community radios is also questionable in terms of content. All three areas are inextricably linked: who makes decisions about programming and who creates it goes along way in influencing what types of content are created and prioritized and from what perspective. Content will never be representative without reasonable equity in ownership, management and staffing; therefore it is not surprising that underrepresented groups – for example women, indigenous and caste groups – are highly critical of the content of many community stations. Most stations offer only token programmes for women, indigenous or Dalit caste groups. Although there may be legitimate issues in terms of skill levels, community stations are expected to be proactive in terms of recruitment and programming planning. The issue of language will require special discussion and careful attention of community radio groups. At present, only a small, token percentage of community radio programme schedules are in local languages, often only 15 minutes a day or one hour per week. Nepali continues to be the main broadcast language, even in areas where other languages are widely spoken. In the past, the dominance of Nepali has been justified on the basis of its role as the national language, a binding force, and the only language taught in schools; however this is likely to change with the transformation of the country’s political structure and the introduction of policies favouring indigenous languages in public life and education. The rise of ethnic identities in Nepal’s new social, cultural and political context is a direct challenge to the dominance of Brahmin and Chettri castes and to the previous slogan of ek des, ek bhes, ek bhasa (one

nation, one dress, one language). It will be important to acknowledge the distinctive role of different languages in a new national context, for example in education or as means to promote the empowerment of indigenous groups and for national reconciliation.
Community radio groups Recommendation 12: Policies and guidelines governing community representation Community stations need to be far more proactive in ensuring representation of women, indigenous groups, Dalits and people with disabilities.

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


ACORAB should develop guidelines concerning community representation in consultation with organizations representing ethnic, caste and women’s groups. New guidelines should outline minimum commitments for community radio stations to proportional representation and equity in membership, staffing and programme content as well as progressive targets for management and ownership. Policies and guidelines developed by ACORAB should in turn serve as the basis for the development of policies and procedures at member stations, which should be binding to which stations should be held accountable. Guidelines should cover the three key areas in which community representation is essential: ownership, management and staffing, and content. In general, guidelines should aim for proportional representation of different groups, ethnic, caste or otherwise, including gender. Recommendation 13: Policy development concerning indigenous languages The issue of language is critical, problematic and definitely warrants further consideration. Community radio groups should conduct a study in order to feed the development of a policy for language in community radio. Community radio policies concerning language should bear in mind the need for community stations to dramatically increase community representation, suggest appropriate percentages of indigenous languages (in line with the typology of community radio) as well as national objectives, for example the plan to introduce mother tongue as the language of primary education in schools. 5. Origin of radio content

Alongside community ownership and representation, it is content that defines community radio. The ability to offer content concerned with truly local issues and culture, content that is produced by local community members is what makes community stations unique. Many informants expressed concerns over the rise of Kathmandu-based production houses and the increase in syndicated programming aired on local stations. There is a fear that content produced in Kathmandu and covering national issues is already displacing and replacing local content and at the same time reinforcing the centreperiphery power imbalance. There is also a sentiment among community radios that production houses are ‘using’ the name of community radio for their own benefit, particularly in terms of marketing their services to donors and external agencies. These concerns are well founded and corrections may well be needed, however there is value added to the sector by production groups. All of the stations interviewed acknowledged the importance of networking, particularly sharing national news and other national content; most also credited syndicated programming as relevant, popular and a positive programme element; for some stations, the funds channeled to them by production houses represent one of their most important sources of income. Programmes of national interest airing on a large number of FM and community

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


stations, especially those with voices and content sourced from across the country, make a valuable contribution to awareness and public dialogue. High quality development communication programmes, dealing with health and other socioeconomic issues, are high cost and require high capacity to produce; ultimately the work of the production houses is an asset to development stakeholders as well as community radio stations. Syndicated programmes, underwritten by development agencies, also serve to redistribute development monies to local and community stations. Many production houses also work at building local stations’ production capacities in an effort to include not just centre-to-periphery, but also periphery-to-centre and periphery-toperiphery syndication models as well as collaborative approaches. Government of Nepal Recommendation 14: Regulation of production houses and syndicated content Given the increasingly important role played by production houses, one akin to a radio service in terms of their role in creating content for the public, professional production houses should be publicly regulated as part of the overall FM radio sector. Production houses should be licensed to provide specific types of service, classified accordingly, and bound to guidelines governing their operations. Classification of radio services needs to be concerned with the total amount of syndicated programming and the percentage played in primetime. Community radio groups Recommendation 15: Developing a positive role for production houses Efforts should be made to develop a vision of FM and community radio sectors that includes a positive role for production houses and national distribution networks, both for- and non-profit. ACORAB and other national community radio stakeholders should actively engage production houses and distribution networks to discuss concerns and work towards a set of guidelines and policies to ensure that the activities of production houses are in line with the needs of community radio stations. ACORAB, on behalf of its members, should avoid duplicating services that production houses and distribution networks are already providing and instead work to improve these services for the benefit its members. Recommendation 16: Develop policies and practices to safeguard local content As part of developing policy and guidelines for community radio, limits and restrictions on syndicated content should be introduced as part of a specific policy on safeguarding local content production; for example, community stations should commit to a minimum percentage of locally produced programming, globally and during primetime. The proportion of syndicated programming aired by a station should be a factor in determining its community radio classification and consequently how it is regulated.

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal




Since the mandate of community radios is centred on public interest programming and organization rather than by profit motivation, financial sustainability will be an ongoing issue and challenge for community stations. Community radio must take a broad and holistic approach to sustainability recognizing the importance of social and organizational aspects of sustainability alongside the more obvious financial ones. For the majority of community radios, investments in social capital – developing a deep and wide base of community support through relevant and effective programming, building individual and organizational membership by ensuring representation and community ‘ownership’, running community events, cultivating and nurturing real volunteerism – rather than trying to compete for commercial advertising in small ‘markets’, are their best route to overall sustainability. As one informant put it “When the community starts to love the radio, it can easily survive…” Nepal has a strong tradition of ‘community’ support, including volunteerism and donations. Developing and maintaining volunteerism is extremely challenging (evidence for which might be found in the relatively low numbers of volunteers among Nepal’s community radio stations, the heavy reliance on paid staff, and the tendency among many managers and senior staff to be dismissive about volunteer inputs) and efforts are needed to raise awareness and to promote good practices within community stations. Commercial advertising poses a particular problem for community stations in Nepal. Many stations rely heavily on advertising contracts for non-local products, many of which are secured by advertising agencies. As competition amongst FM stations increases (which it invariably will), community stations that rely on advertising as a revenue source will be forced to compete for limited advertising; in a competitive market commercial advertising favours entertainment programming, professional staff and more powerful transmitters, all factors that increase budgets and pressure for more advertising. Community radio groups Recommendation 17: Limits on commercial advertising Community radios should be encouraged to adopt policies and guidelines that limit non-local and commercial advertising. Although advertising, including commercial advertising represents an important source of income for many stations, it should be limited, for at least two reasons: i. Commercial advertising detracts from a station’s community service and public interest mission, thereby reducing the community’s inclination to make social investments (voluntary labour, donations, in-kind contributions, etc.)

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal



Commercial advertising is a slippery slope: it invariably influences decisions about programming, staff and transmission power.

ACORAB should develop a policy and set of guidelines that suggest limits on commercial advertising for community stations to adopt, including the following elements: i. Rationales for a) limiting commercial advertising, b) encouraging local, community-oriented messages and announcements; ii. Limits on advertising minutes per hour, per message, etc. iii. Working definitions of what constitutes ‘harmful’ messages. Recommendation 18: Promote volunteerism as a pillar of community radio Voluntary inputs are an important part of community radio sustainability. By developing strong systems to support community volunteers, including recruitment, training, ongoing programming support and incentives, radio stations lower their budgets and the requirements for paid programme staff. Community volunteerism is an excellent means of community participation and social investment, factors that in turn strengthen sustainability. ACORAB and other community radio groups should actively develop and promote volunteerism, for example by highlighting it in definitions and policies, and by developing manuals and practical guidelines. Recommendation 19: Develop materials on income generation for community radio There are many innovative practices in non-commercial income generation among community stations, both Nepal and outside, which should be shared more widely. Materials – examples, how-to booklets, etc. – should be developed to assist stations in diversifying their income bases beyond commercial advertising and donor support. 7. Capacity

Nepal has significant, even remarkable experience and knowledge of community radio; however, this expertise is not widespread and the demands of a rapidly expanding sector already outweigh the supply of capable human resources; this deficit is going to increase in coming months and years as more stations come online. The sector has a pool of human resources with very high capacity to work with community radio at all levels, from conceptualization and planning through establishment and operationalization as well as documentation and evaluation. These are the people who have been a part of the community radio movement since it started in the early 1990s and who have exceptional skills and excellent knowledge. Most work with or are linked to national organisations like the Community Radio Support Centre, Communication Corner, Antenna Foundation and Equal Access. Likewise, established
Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal 34/46

individual stations have small pools of skilled and capable staff who have worked for five or more years on the front lines of community radio. The sector has another asset: groups like the Community Radio Support Centre have developed excellent training and resource materials concerning many aspects of community radio, including strategic planning and marketing. There is a strong foundation for building community radio capacity in Nepal, however in the short term, individual stations face serious challenges, particularly a lack of knowledge and skills in key areas of organizational management and technical maintenance. Many stations have weak institutional foundations and lack vision and direction (and consequently end up begin dragged into paid staff models, competition with commercial stations or relying on production houses or donor funds). Most stations, particularly new broadcasters, have low production efficiency. There is lack of human resources skilled in radio journalism and broadcasting and a strong reliance on print journalists. The majority of community radio training is done in house, supplemented by workshops provided by national centres and organizations. The retention of skilled human resources is also a major problem, articulated again and again by station managers and representatives. The problem is particularly acute for stations in rural and remote areas. The current human resource development trajectory contributes directly to this staffing drain: unpaid staff (so-called ‘volunteers’) learn on the job and receive some training; they become part-time paid staff at which point they gain more experience and receive more training; they become full-time staff gaining yet more experience and availing of more training. At this point they reach a certain peak at their local station and tend to move horizontally, to another local station or to Kathmandu where they join either another station or a production house. In many cases, with new skills and contacts community radio staff leave the sector altogether and take up other work in other fields. The difficulty that stations face is compounded by the lack of vision and the absence of human resource or personnel policies. Community volunteerism is underdeveloped and stations therefore rely heavily on paid employees; many employees lack growth opportunities inside their own stations and must therefore leave in order to advance. Many short-term training efforts, including technical workshops, fail categorically to build the capacity of individual radio stations or the sector as a whole – a fact that was evident in discussions with station managers and radio staff. Developing capacity – literally the ability to do community radio – at the community level is a long-term process, one that takes a big picture view, that looks at institutional and community power structures, organizational change and development. In the long-term, the role of national or regional institutions, such as colleges and universities, the use of new technologies like satellite and internet for effective and innovative distance learning (allowing staff to improve skills and knowledge in their own communities), and change towards more volunteer-based and community-oriented labour inputs should all be considered.

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Community radio groups Recommendation 20: Develop policy guidelines concerning human resources in community radio The sector as a whole and within it individual community stations should have policies and practices designed to position human resources with an overall vision for capacity development and to build and maintain human resources in line with the principles of community radio. Specific elements should i. Present clearly the rights and responsibilities of all types of staff: management, paid, unpaid, community volunteers, etc.; ii. Offer advancement and enrichment opportunities to encourage and enable staff to remain in their communities; iii. Encourage and enable volunteerism, including involvement of community leaders, representatives of different communities and groups, artists, musicians, storytellers, etc. Recommendation 21: Research and promote volunteerism Volunteerism is an essential component of community radio, however it is generally underdeveloped and frequently misunderstood among stations in Nepal. Developing the potential of volunteerism requires research of community practices in Nepal, including but exclusively radio; there is also a need for research that draws in appropriate experience internationally. One or more studies of volunteerism should be conducted with the specific objective of feeding discussion and the development of policies and guidelines. The focus of these studies should include iv. Defining volunteerism, including why people volunteer and what the benefits are to the organization; v. Describing how volunteerism fits with community radio structures and profiling volunteer roles within range of community radio types; vi. Developing guidelines for volunteer recruitment and training systems; vii. Outlining effective support systems and non-financial incentives for volunteers. Recommendation 22: Developing capacity in the long-term Representative groups such as ACORAB and CRSC should lead a process that draws in a wide range of long-term stakeholders, from various government departments (education, human resources, rural development, etc.) to colleges and universities, in order to elaborate a long-term vision for community radio, in particular how to build national and local capacities to ensure a dynamic and sustainable community radio sector, one that makes appropriate contributions to national development. The process should consider the long-term needs of the sector – including numbers of staff, skills sets, specific needs of volunteers, etc. –

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


bringing to bear a range of strategies and leading to the development of a strategic capacity development plan for the community radio sector that is endorsed by all stakeholders. Specific elements to be considered should include university and college curricula, the role of different community radio groups, national and regional training centres, distance learning programmes, internships, government support for human resource development, etc. Recommendation 23: Suggestions for short-term training As much as possible, short-term training programmes should be led by a longterm capacity building plan and national and international stakeholders should actively consider how training workshops contribute towards realizing larger, longer-term strategies. There are important short-term training needs as follows, many consistently expressed by community stations (#s i-iii, below): vii. Technical skills and equipment maintenance viii. Advanced computer skills ix. Programme development x. Management skills and systems xi. Strategic planning, organizational and policy development xii. Avoiding political bias and broadcasting during elections In planning short-term training programmes, groups should take a view that looks beyond individuals and specific skill sets towards organizations and systems, for example on-site workshops and on-the-job training tend to be more integrated within local organizational systems and relevant to immediate local needs.

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Annex 1 – Key references

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. The Radio Act, 2014 (1957), Government of Nepal The National Broadcasting Regulation, 2052 (1995), Government of Nepal Long-term Policy of Information and Communication Sector 2059 (2003), Government of Nepal The Radio Communication (License) Regulation, 2049 (1992), Government of Nepal Telecommunication Act, 2053 (1997), Government of Nepal Draft Report of The High-Level Media Commission, 2063 (September 2006), Government of Nepal News Policy Manual 2062 (2005), Community Radio Support Center/FNJ Policy Guidelines for setting up Community Radio Stations in India, 2006, Government of India Draft report on Community Radio in the 21st Century: Perspective and Experiences, Published by the Communication for Social Change Consortium in Association with AMARC, SDC and UNESCO Nepal Radio Survey Presentation Program, Broadcast Audience Survey, Digital Broadcast Initiative, Equal Access Nepal, April 2007 FM Radio Profile in Nepal, Research Center for Humanism, Civic Education and Communication Forum, Karkando, Banke, May 2007 Proposed Bill on Community and Non-commercial Broadcasting (2059), Community Radio Support Center (CRSC), Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalism (NEFEJ)

Web pages
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Ministry of Information and Communication: www.moic.gov.np Ministry of Local Development: www.mld.gov.np National Planning Commission: www.npc.gov.np Association of Community Radio Broadcaster Nepal: www.acorab.org World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters: www.amarc.org

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Annex 2 – List of people and organizations consulted
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Pramod Tandukar Ravi KC Min Bahadur Shahi

Executive Director

Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (ACORAB) Technical Chief ACORAB Chairperson; Station Manager ACORAB; Karnali FM

8 9 10 11

12 13 14 15 16

Ngima Tamang Pakhrin Treasurer; Community Council ACORAB; Solu FM member Suman Basnet Coordinator AMARC Asia Madhu Acharya Director Antenna Foundation ANIJ Chairperson Association of Nepalese Indigenous/Nationalities Journalists Bharat Bhusal Community radio trainer Communication Corner Gopal Guragain Director Communication Corner' Nepal FM Prateek Bhandari Community radio trainer Community Radio Support Centre Raghu Mainali Coordinator; Member Community Radio Support Centre; High Level Media Commission (2006) Murari Shivakote Media Advisor Danida Sandra Jensen Human Rights and Good Danida Governance Officer Pawan Upreti Technical Coordinator Equal Access Nepal Upendra Aryal Equal Access Nepal Durga Karki Coordinator; Programmer Federation of Women Journalists; Radio Sagarmatha Researcher Coordinator Program director; past General Secretary Coordinator Finding a Voice project Jagaran Media Centre Janajati Empowerment Project (JEP); Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) Lumbini CMC (Rupandehi) Madhawaliya CLC (Rupandehi)

Govinda Acharya Suvash Kumar Darna 19 Om Gurung
17 18

Deepak Koirala Staff and community members 22 Vinaya Kasajoo
20 21 23

Senior journalist

S.P. Koirala Prabha Pandey Jacob Thorsen Ashok Shahi Sarala Gautam


25 26 27

Member, High-Level Media Commission (2006) Secretary Ministry of Information and Communication, Government of Nepal Under-Secretary Ministry of Information and Communication, Government of Nepal Development worker; Advisor MS Nepal (Denmark); Radio Lumbini (Rupandehi) Chair Muktinath FM Programmer Nepal FM

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal



Jitpal Kirat Koirala Ek Mani Nepal Delegates (9) to the Urban Poverty Reduction Strategy Formulation Workshop Balakram BM Himant Choudhary, Sharda Gaire, Indira Aryal, Dhiraj Poudel, Prakash Gautam Mohan Chapagain Bharat Acharya and Krishna Koirala Ramesh Aryal Gunakar Aryal Som Nath Aryal Yam Prasad Panday Mohan Bista Bhimsen Karki Mahesh Ratna Shakya Ghimire Ramesh Pandey Cosmos Bishwakarma Karma Tshering Kristin Iversen Tap Raj Pant

Vice-Chairperson Local Development Officer Chief District Officer Municipal workers, political party representatives Station Manager Staff

29 30 31

Nepal Foundation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFDIN) Palpa Disrict Palpa District Palpa Municipality

32 33

Paschimanchal FM (Palpa) Radio Lumbini

34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48

Station Manager Community reporters Administrator Station Manager Station Coordinator Chairperson Station Manager; General Secretary Chairperson Coordinator Chief Executive Officer Station Manager Media Coordinator Coordintor Consultant National Programme Officer

Radio Lumbini (Rupandehi) Radio Madanpokhara (Palpa) Radio Madanpokhara (Palpa) Radio Madanpokhara (Palpa) Radio Madanpokhara (Palpa) Radio Madanpokhara (Palpa) Radio Sagarmatha; ACORAB Shreenagar FM (Palpa) Tansen Community Multimedia Centre (Palpa) Tansen Municipality (Palpa) Tinau FM (Rupandehi) UN Mission to Nepal UNESCO CMC Project UNESCO Kathmandu UNESCO Kathmandu

N.B. People whose names appear in bold were part of a review panel who provided feedback

on the key findings at a meeting on 31 July 2007

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Annex 3 – List of radios stations visited
Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Status District

Community Radio Madanpokhara Muktinath FM Nepal FM Paschimanchal FM Radio Lumbini Radio Palung Radio Sagarmatha Radio Tinau Shreenagar FM

Non-profit Cooperative (non-profit) Private Private Cooperative (non-profit) Non-profit Non-profit Private Private

Palpa Palpa Kathmandu Palpa Rupandehi Makhwanpur Kathmandu Rupandehi Palpa

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Annex 4 – List and types of community radios
Development Region 1 Community Radios (ACORAB member) Community Radios (ACORAB non-member) Commercial radio


Eastern Development Region (Mechi, Koshi, Sagarmatha)


Central Development Region (Bagmati, Narayani, Janakpur)

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

Radio Illam* Nepal Bani Radio Tamur Radio Purbanchal Radio Sumhatlung Radio Khandbari Radio Samad Radio Triyaga Radio Rupakot * Solu Fm Radio Sarlahi Radio Appan Mithila Radio Janakpur* Radio Janaki* Radio Sindhuligadhi Jagaran Radio Radio Sagarmatha* ECR Fm* Radio Dhading Radio Namobuddha Radio ABC Narayani FM* Radio Palung*


Illam Samudayic Sanchar Kendra, Barbote, Illam

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40.

Kantipur FM, Vedetar Saptakoshi FM, Itahari Koshi FM, Biratnagar Image FM, Vedetar Birat FM Morang Pathivara FM, Jhapa Mechi Tunes FM, Jhapa Nobel Broadcating, Vedetar Kanchanjanga Fm, Jhapa Kantipur FM, Kathmandu Image FM, Kathmandu Metro FM, Kathmandu Hits FM, Kathmandu HBC FM, Kathmandu FM Adhyatma, Kathmandu Radio City FM, Kathmandu Classic FM, Kathmandu Bhaktapur FM, Bhaktapur Rambo FM, Kathmandu Times FM, Kathmandu Voice of Youth, Kathmandu Manakamana FM, Makawanpur Radio Pratidwoni, Makawanpur Hetauda FM, Makawanpur Janaki FM, Dhanusa Janakpur FM, Dhanusa British Gorkha FM, Lalitpur Maitri FM, Lalitpur Kantipur FM, Birgang Kantipur FM, Bharatpur Radio Bagmati, Kathmandu Ujyalo FM, Lalitpur Image FM, chitwan Image FM, Parsa Gorkha FM, Kathmandu Radio Audio, Kathmandu Gopikrishna FM, Kathmandu Mithila Anchal FM, Dhanusa Sinarji FM, Chitwan Kalika FM, Chitwan Parsa FM, Birganj Newa FM, Kathmandu Keeps Media, Kathmandu Hamro FM, Chitwan Rajdhani FM, Kathmandu Devki Prasaran, Kathmandu Antenna Foundation, Lalitpur Nobel Broadcasting, Parsa Nobel Broadcasting, Chitwan 1.


Tribhuvan University FM Kathmandu 2. Sakti FM, Makawanpur

2. 3.

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal



Western Development Region (Dhaulagiri, Gandaki, Lumbini)

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 1. 2.


Mid Western Development Region (Karnali, Rapti, Bheri)


Far Western Development Region

Radio Madiseti Radio Deurali Radio Gorkha Radio Adhikhola Radio Marshyangdi* Radio Sarangkot Himchuli FM* Bijaya FM* Rupandehi FM* Radio Lumbini* Radio Kapilbastu Radio Argakhachi Radio Muktinath* Radio Madanpokhara* Radio Rampur Radio Parbat Baglung FM Radio Baglung Gorkha FM Radio Karnali* Radio Chuli Malika Radio Malika Radio Rara Mugu Radio Rara Suryodaya Radio Kailash Radio Deukhuri* Radio Swargadwari* Radio Madhyampashchim* Radio Tulsipur* Radio Pyuthan Radio Mandabi Radio Rolpa Radio Rapti Radio Sahara Radio Salyan Bheri Awaz* Bheri FM* Radio Himal Radio Gurbaba Radio Bheri* Bulbule FM Radio Panchakoshi Radio Jajarkot Radio Tikapur Radio Ghodaghodi FM

1. Damauli FM, Tanahu

41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18.

Kamalamai FM, Dhanusa Good news FM, Kathmandu Indreni FM, Parsha Tarahi FM, Parsha Gadimai FM, Baraha Radio Mithila, Dhanusa Star FM, Kathmandu Radio Bindabashini, Hetauda Machapuchre FM, Kaski Annapurna FM, Kaski Pokhara FM, Kaski Butwol FM, Rupandehi Tinahu FM, Rupandehi Dhaulagiri FM, Baglung Kaligandaki FM, Baglung Srinagar FM, Palpa Radio Pachimanchal, Palpa Image FM, Pokhara Kantipur FM, Pokhara Kantipur FM, Butwol Image FM, Rupandehi Samyek FM, Rupandehi Barahi FM, Kaski Nobel Broadcasting, Kaski Baglung FM, Baglung Kalika FM, Rupandehi 1. 2. 3.

1. Chankheli Radio, Mugu 2. Radio Sishne, Rukum

1. Radio Bageswori, Nepalgunj 2. Nobel Broadcasting, Humla

3. Indreni FM, Dang

1. Tikapur FM, Kailali

1. Dinesh FM, Kailali 2. Phulbari FM, Kailali 3. Kantipur FM, Kailali

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


(Seti, Mahakali)

3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Radio Ramaroshan Radio Bajura FM Radio Kailash Saipal FM* Kanchanpur FM Shuklaphanta FM* Radio Mahakali* Radio Kalapani Total = 7

Total = 76

Total = 81


Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal


Annex 5 – Terms of Reference A Study on Community Radio in Nepal

UNESCO has a long history of involvement in the development of community radio in Nepal, dating back to the 1980s. The Organization was instrumental in the establishment of Radio Sagarmatha in Kathmandu in the mid-1990s as well as subsequent community radio stations in rural areas of the country, particularly Radio Madanpokhara and Radio Lumbini.
Since the first community station went on air in 1997, Nepal’s community radio sector has expanded and developed considerably. There are now some fifty community radio licensees, a national association, and at least three active national production networks. Community radio stations, some through the support of UNESCO have also expanded their services and activities to include a range of new information and communication technologies (some as community multimedia centres (CMCs). The sector has also faced serious challenges, particularly restrictions on freedom of expression, especially as a result of the recent conflict, digression into public service and partisan broadcasting, the lack of a comprehensive regulatory environment and competition with private broadcasters. The study

The aim of the current study is to take stock of CI/UNESCO’s (Regular Programme, EXB and IPDC) interventions in the wider context of the development of a community radio sector in Nepal and specifically to contribute practical information and recommendations for discussion on the future of the sector, including the prospective roles for UNESCO with regard to the both the Government of Nepal as well as civil society. Key questions 1. 2. 3. How has community radio developed in Nepal? What are the different models in operation? How is the sector perceived? What are the levels of independence and the structures of ownership and management of these community radio stations? What is the current status: (i.e. number and type of stations, regulatory environment, new technologies in use, and recent telecom reform etc) and apparent direction (i.e. developments in progress, trends, etc) of community radio? What are the key opportunities and risks (including political instrumentalization and commercialization) for community radio in Nepal at present?


Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal



What types of interventions are needed? What role should UNESCO play? What role for other organizations like ACORAB?

Methodology The study will work through three main methods: 1. Literature review (including policies and regulations, existing studies, articles, etc), 2. Interviews with key stakeholders across public, private and non-governmental sectors (primarily in person, but by email and telephone as necessary), and 3. Field visits (including interviews with local stakeholders, station personnel; participant observation and content analysis). The study team will consist of one external and one local researcher. The team will spend approximately one week conducting interviews in the capital (including research on Radio Sagarmatha) and at least two weeks at three to four community radio stations outside the capital area. The choice of field visits will assure a range of stations, in terms of models, maturity and geography. Although the aim is not to conduct a comparative analysis, at least two private local radio stations will also be included in the research process. The team will also present the draft paper to a group of experts for peer review and document changes and suggestions. Outputs 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Detailed report including an analysis of the current situation, opportunities and risks Recommendations including policy considerations and programme interventions Statistical information (compiled) on the state of community radio in Nepal, i.e. number and type of stations, type of programming and staff, number with internet, digital production facilities, profiles of key stakeholders, etc) 100 high-resolution photographs related to community radio in Nepal One three page article reflecting key findings, written in a journalistic style

Ten years on: The state of community radio in Nepal