Nepali Media in Democracy: Finding a new Path


- Karyal

"Mass Media in Post 1990 Nepal" can be considered as an attempt to fulfill the insufficiency of well documentation of history of Nepali media. The book is the compilation of the essays by Pratyoush Onta that were published mainly in the Kathmandu Post Daily and the Nation Weekly.

Since the essays were originally written for the newspapers, they are on the surface level of the subject matters. However, the 48 essays written in the year 1993,1997, 2002 and 2006 altogether presents the overall trends and emerging phenomenon of Nepali Media in Post 1990 Nepal.

Dr. Onta presents the width of the topic Mass Media in Post 1990 Nepal right form the state of print to audio visu¬al media. He deals with the state of media freedom and tries to see Nepali media with gender perspective too. He presents the relevant and prominent issues under the headings of "Debating Media Quality", "Foreign Direct Investment in Nepali Media" as well as "Democratizing the Maoists?" in the last chapter.

Onta begins his perspective form the introduction. The introduction is successful in binding all essays divided in six chapters. He states "By late 2006, the media scenario was unrecognizable to those who only knew Nepal from the earlier era. And the most dramatic changes came in print and radio."

"Analyzing Media Growth" Onta opines "One of the sectors in Nepal that has witnessed a spectacular growth since the JanaAndolan of 1990 is media. He lists five factors responsible for the growth of media in post JanaAndolan era. He states" First is change in the legal regime, second is the increasing involvement of private parties and NGOs in both media production and education; third is cumulative growth in the advertisement market; fourth is the growth in the num¬ber of Nepalis who consume media prod¬ucts; and fifth is the imperative of the Nepali language." He presents the year 1990 as the starting point of 'newspaper revolution' in Nepal.

Newspaper revolution is not very old phenomena in many countries. For even our southern neighbor that is considered as world's largest democracy newspaper revolution is not very old story.

"Imagine the morning scene 27 years ago (1976) at a cosmic, all India bus stand peopled by characters from an R.K. Laxman cartoon. Around each daily newspaper available form the hawkers, 50 people would be jostling to get a glimpse. Now, think of the same bus stand in 2001.The population has grown by 400 million. Where there were 10 peo¬ple for every square meter of bus stand in 1976, there are now 16. Nevertheless, the crowds around the newspapers have thinned considerably; there's now a newspaper for every 17 people." (Jeffrey 257)

Onta not only presents the pic¬ture of newspaper revolution, he also shows a bitter reality of Nepali media  as Kathmandu centric tendency and  stress on need to break Kathmandu's monopoly on influential media in Nepal. He deals with several structural characteristics of Nepali media such as spatial concentra¬tion of production in Kathmandu, minor¬ity representation in the  workforce, own¬ership pattern, and educational attain¬ment of the media personnel. Under the  heading "FM Radio as Democratic Expression" he concludes" The growth of the FM radios in Nepal is a dear indica¬tion of democratization at work in post¬Pancahayat Nepali society."

We know, " was only towards the end of the nineteenth century that newspapers escaped from the constraints of localism, elitism or sectionalism (polit¬ical or religious) and  became a medium 'for the masse'.. "(McQuail 4). Such world wide trend also encompassed our experi¬ences. Dr. Onta analyses such trend under heading "The Plight of Dogmatic Weeklies." The essay is based on his personal experience, but at he concluding paragraph he generalizes the story:" With no further professional investment (both in terms of manage¬ment and editing) these weeklies seem to be on their way out not physically of course but in terms of performing a use¬ful watchdog function."

Martin Chautari has done a thankful job by publishing a readable book on the state of Nepali media in contemporary times.

Works Cited:
Jeffrey, Robin. "The Public Sphere of Print Journalism." Practicing Journalism: Values, Constraints, Implications. Ed. Nalini Rajan. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2005.
McQuail, Denis.McQuail's Reader in Mass Communication Theory. London: Sage Publications,2004.

Informarl, July-September 2007, vol. 21, No. 2

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