Developing Alternative Media Traditions in Nepal


by Carey L Biron

At the centre of this thoroughly academic work, stripped of its theoretical contextualisation, copious footnoting and assessments through the lens(es) of past social-science-based explorations of ‘alternative’ (or, goodness, ‘indigenous’) media, there rests the oddly uplifting story of Buddha Ratna Shakya and his son, Mahesh. Back in the early 1980s, the two were in the process of expanding their electrical-repair business in Tansen, in Nepal’s Palpa District, when a travelling electrical engineer arrived in town to install the area’s first telephone lines. While there, he showed the Shakyas how they could connect a videotape deck to the neighbours’ television sets – thus setting the father and son on the road towards bigger and better (though, from the sounds of it, still long-jerryrigged) equipment, to become Nepal’s first cable-television broadcaster.

In fact, the story goes back much further, and Wilmore does an interesting, though cursory, job of offering some historical contextualisation for why Tansen, and the Shakyas themselves, were well-placed for their eventual ‘fate’ on the cable-television front. Interesting titbits abound through much of the rest of the work, too; but beholden to his academic moorings, Wilmore final work is uneven and largely inaccessible to most readers. For a book exploring media happenings from decades ago, it is unclear what non-academic readers will get out of the work in today’s much-changed context. A full narrative exploration of the Shakyas and their moorings, however, would be of interest to any reader interested in rousing tales of righteous bootstrapping.

Himal South Asian vol.23, no.3, p. 73

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