On June 24, the TV in my house was not broadcasting any channels, but instead a blank screen without any info available. It wasn’t just me, it was everywhere. There was either a blank screen or a request to contact their cable operators. What it was, was a protest by the cable TV operators, who had already warned us beforehand that cable TV was shutting down for 24 hours. I missed the Bangladesh vs Afghanistan Cricket World Cup Match, and it was disappointing.
The 24 hours cable-blackout was an attempt to show us what the new Advertisement Bill, if enforced would look like, according to Sudhir Parajuli, president of the Federation of Cable TV Association of Nepal. This is a bill regarding the “Clean Television Feed”, and the Nepali government is determined to turn it into a policy. However, there are uproars and dissatisfactions from the cable operators.
What is Clean Feed?
Clean Feed, in its most basic form, means Television feed without any additional digital on-screen graphics or text in their transmissions. A TV station with clean feed does not carry any television advertisements or breaks, or even underlying marquee texts on the screen.
This is different from the Free Air Policy. And for the record, Free Air Policy means that foreign channels require no subscription charge as they serve ads on their feed.
What is the Clean Feed Rule?
The Clean Feed Rule is a part of the Advertisement (Regulation) Bill. This rule implies that all foreign TV channels should stream without any advertisements since the viewers pay for the channels already. Which is what makes it different from the Free Air Policy.
The fundamental of Clean Feed Policy is that foreign advertisements shouldn’t be fed to the Nepali people. Since we’re already paying for the channels themselves, having to watch their ads on top doesn’t align with consumer rights. Also, most of these ads bear no relevance at all in Nepal. And if foreign channels want to broadcast advertisements, they should make advertisements in Nepali language and local settings, so that it’s relevant for us viewers.
Of course, that’s not really feasible, hence, the Clean Feed Policy. So, the government is vying for foreign channels without any ads. And if Nepali broadcasters so want, they can insert their own commercials in them, just like the Clean Feed Policy prevalent in India.
If we are to receive the clean feed, i.e. foreign channels without any ads, we will have to pay an extra amount of money.
Why Television Clean Feed Policy in Nepal?
According to The Kathmandu Post, the Clean Feed Policy states that “Apart from a few exceptions, almost all of the foreign channels carry commercials made by multinationals and conglomerates for which Nepali viewers are paying monthly charges, while the domestic advertising industry is shrinking. Hence, the need for implementation of clean feed.”
The fact that companies do not need to pay anything to air their advertisements has downed Nepal’s advertisement industry. Nepali TV viewers have a fascination towards the Indian channels, as they are the major source of our entertainment. And this leads us to watch Indian advertisements, but we don’t really mind as they’re kinda entertaining although irrelevant. So, it’s obvious that those companies don’t really think of advertising on Nepali channels.
Without advertisements, TV channels can’t create better contents. So, to tackle this issue, the Government is moving forward with the Clean Feed Policy. It wants to ensure that Nepali TV channels develop and make contents that attract Nepali viewers. Without foreign ads, international companies will have to invest their money in Nepal, so there’s that too.
So, isn’t Clean Feed Good?
Well, there are two sides to this policy. 1) What the government is trying to implement, as aforementioned. And 2) the complaints of the Cable Operators.
The Operators argue that Clean Feed will increase the overall cost of cable TV. That is reasonable, as they’ll have to pay foreign channels more than the current prices. It’s because acquiring clean feed means foreign broadcasters (or Indian, as they supply most foreign channels here) will have to streamline the contents to make sure they run without adverts. And this cost will directly affect the customers.
Sudhir Parajuli confirmed it, saying, “Implementation of the Clean Feed Policy would require foreign broadcasters to set up separate facilities aimed at trimming foreign commercials and relaying the channels to Nepal.”
Pros and Cons
Right now, we cannot exactly say what is what. Because Clean Feed, overall, is a good policy. Either we get foreign channels without any ads, or we promote the Nepali advertising companies, which indirectly promotes Nepali brands among the consumers as well. Furthermore, it creates employment opportunity to Nepali citizens as well. Television advertisements obviously require manpower. They require people to develop the concept, writers to write the scripts, to shoot, edit and post-process them. When the Nepali Ad-agencies get these types of works, they also start getting creative and competitive. That also aids in the growth of the Nepali Ad agencies. So with the snowball effect, this means the Nepali economy would rise up.
However, the problem lies in the fact that Clean Feed, currently, not feasible in its entirety. To make this possible, Indian broadcasters will have to set up a separate company dedicated to serving Nepal. And this is said to generate low average revenue per year user’ at increased costs. This might lead them to stop beaming their channels in Nepal altogether. Which means, the government will lose revenue from annual license fees from all the channels.
In addition, since it also adds the cost to customers, viewers might also opt to subscribe to foreign channels via set-up boxes of Indian DTH operators, which are easily available in Kathmandu. That leaves the fate of Nepali channels, advertisers and even cable operators uncertain.
Still, this is not the government’s first attempt to implement Clean Feed rule in Nepal. But they were never successful. Right now, it all depends on how the government does its research to do so. If they want to implement this policy in Nepal, they’ll have to come up with appropriate policies regarding independent Indian DTH operators, and increased costs of Clean Feed. So, it might take some time. Right now, we can only hope that it works out for the best.