Clean feed unlikely to be implemented as planned

- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu
Nepali advertising agencies had long been demanding that such a policy be implemented

May 31, 2017-The budget statement for fiscal 2017-18 has said that a clean feed system will be implemented which will require foreign pay TV channels to remove commercials from their programmes, but stakeholders including the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) doubt it will happen as planned due to lack of preparations.

“Transmissions by foreign broadcasters within the territory of Nepal will have to be free of advertisements from July 16, 2017,” Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara said in the budget statement. However, the MoIC, which is responsible for implementing the clean feed system, does not have a clue how it is going to be done from the date specified in the budget statement. 

“Implementing clean feed is under our plan, and it has been mentioned in this year’s budget statement too. However, whether it can be implemented from the beginning of the new fiscal year has not been determined yet,” said Ram Chandra Dhakal, spokesperson for the MoIC. 

Nepali advertising agencies had long been demanding that such a policy be implemented, complaining that unrestricted transmission of advertisements by foreign TV channels was hindering the growth of the domestic media and advertising industry. 

Most foreign channels being broadcast in Nepal currently originate in India. Due to this reason, subscribers in Nepal are forced to watch television commercials directed at Indian audiences. 

Cable service operators have said that it isn’t technically or financially possible to implement clean feed from the new fiscal year which begins on July 16. 

According to Sudhir Parajuli, president of the Federation of Cable TV Associations of Nepal, moving to ‘clean feed’ means preventing cable service providers from broadcasting Indian and other foreign channels which are the main money earners in their business. 

“We have warned the government that we won’t have any option but to shut down our businesses and hand over the key if the policy is implemented without preparation,” Parajuli said. “We are not against the policy, but it should be implemented gradually and in a planned manner.” 

Obtaining a clean feed, according to operators, means acquiring a separate feed for Nepal. This will make purchase of rights costly. Moreover, service providers say that Indian broadcasters have told them that it won’t be viable for them to create a separate feed for Nepal. 

Apart from Zee Network, most of the popular television channels like Star, Sony and Colors have foreign investment and their management is controlled by foreign companies. 

“So we will have to deal with these foreign companies individually to obtain clean feeds. Moreover, they have told us during a recent interaction that it won’t be possible for them to invest in a separate feed for a market like Nepal,” Parajuli said. It is estimated that there are currently around 3.2 million cable subscribers in the country. 

According to Dhakal, members of the Indian Broadcasting Federation said during an interaction with the MoIC that they had been selling some channels to Nepali operators for as low as $5 per month, and that the price would rise significantly if ‘clean feed’ was implemented. “The cost of purchasing a channel alone will go up by at least 10 to 12 times,” Parajuli said. 

Cable operators are of the view that the government should first focus on the ongoing process of digitization, and when the number of operators stabilizes at around 15 with 250,000 subscribers each, a master control room (MCR) can be set up to implement clean feed. 

“We have invested millions in digitizing the cable network. Asking us to implement ‘clean feed’ will put our investment at risk,” said Parajuli. 

Published: 31-05-2017 08:09

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