NEPAL: BBC 103 FM blocked

Nepal government takes BBC news transmission off the state-run Radio Nepal; BBC says Radio Nepal is in breach of contract

Nepal News
Tuesday, April 5, 2005

AsiaMedia Editor's Note: Nepalnews is operating under the directives of King Gyanendra, and thus cannot publish anything "that goes agains the letter and spirit of the Royal Proclamation."

Kathmandu -- In what seems an outright breach of contract, the state-run Radio Nepal has started blocking news transmissions of BBC World Service that it had agreed to relay over 103 FM in Kathmandu. No reasons have been given.

“The station plays instrumental numbers based on songs of Chandani Shah starting the top of the hour GMT for 15 minutes,” reported Nepali Times weekly.

Chandani Shah is the pen name of late HM Queen Aishworya.

The government has already barred over 50 FM radio stations in the country from airing news and current-affairs based programmes immediately after the imposition of the state of emergency on February 1.

Radio Nepal had started relaying the BBC World Service programmes from early November last year after entering into a contract with the latter.

Kathmandu became the 140th capital where the BBC World Service could be heard over the local FM stations. BBC reportedly pays a hefty sum to Radio Nepal for hiring its FM frequency.

Launching FM relay in Kathmandu last November, Business Development Manager of the BBC for Asia and Pacific region, Michel Lobelle, had said there were more than 300,000 listeners of the BBC World Service programmes in English in Nepal. He hoped that the number would go up after the World Service programmes were launched over a local FM station.

Addressing the function, the then executive director of Radio Nepal, Shailendra Raj Sharma, had said, “We are proud to be associated with a world renowned broadcaster like BBC, which is known for its objectivity and impartiality in news gathering, dissemination and analysis. The BBC has assisted us with training and donated equipments in the past, so we are old friends and hope to work together for many years to come,”

Sharma’s successor, Tapanath Shukla, could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts by Nepalnews on Monday and Tuesday.

A British embassy official in Kathmandu refused to comment on the episode. He said he hadn’t heard anything from the BBC as yet in this regard.

BBC World Service broadcasts its programmes in 43 languages and has a global audience of around 146 million listeners worldwide, the organisation said.

In a separate incident, BBC World Service has decided to stop its hourly Urdu news bulletins on its partner station FM 103 in Pakistan.

The move follows threats from authorities to cancel the license of the local FM station.

The BBC World Service said the response to the news bulletins, which have been broadcast for the past 10 months, has been overwhelming.

However, the Pakistan broadcasting regulators say FM 103 was violating the rules of its license.

FM 103 has challenged the government's move in the Lahore High Court and the case will be heard on 14 April.

BBC World Service's Asia Pacific Region, Abbas Nasir, said during the entire period there had not been a single complaint with the BBC content.

The World Service decided to stop the bulletins at the request of the government-run Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, reports said.