TV coming to the fairy-tale Kingdom of Nepal
Television is about to poke its antenna into the once-isolated kingdom of Nepal. Nestled for the most part in a plateau-valley, high in the Himalayas between Tibet and India, the Kingdom of Nepal was first opened to the outside world in the early 1950s. Since that time, mainly by courtesy of richer, developed countries, Nepal has seen the construction of several roads (before that all travel was by foot trails), the development of the Royal Nepal Airline, Yuppie trekkers, waves of hippies who have come and gone, new tour groups, and thousands of adventurous tourists who have been delighted to discover a medieval society existing side by side with a developing 20th-century economy. Rickshaws, exotic Hindu architecture, and Buddhist monkey temples share Katmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan space with chic boutiques, luxury hotels, and even a gambling casino. But, despite all the new construction, the kingdom seems to be managing to maintain a unique otherworldly quality.Skip to next paragraph
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In the midst of this ambivalent attempt to grow modern without losing its traditions, two years ago in his inaugural address to the Rashtriya Panchayat (the National Assembly), the new European-educated King of Nepal made a major policy statement:
Nepal should have television, too.
On the basis of that announcement, the Ministry of Communications has since studied its feasibility, with the help of consulting organizations from Japan, France, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Worldview International Foundation, a nongovernmental UN-associated organization, has set up a Nepal media training center in the use of video technology for development-support communications. Now, the Ministry of Communications has come to this decision:
Nepal will have television by the end of 1985.
On a recent visit to Katmandu, I was told that by Prem Prakash Shrestha, TV adviser to the acting secretary of the Ministry of Communications. And even more recently, the program chief of Nepal TV was finally selected -- Nil Shah, a well-known Nepali film director/actor.
After a long bicycle-rickshaw ride from Durbar Square in the center of old Katmandu, I found Mr. Shrestha, an engineer with a degree from Syracuse University in New York, in his borrowed office in the telecommunications compound below a land bridge, behind the family-planning offices. I walked into one of the buildings and found a group of barefooted office workers heating their morning coffee over an open fire on the concrete floor. In another building I found Mr. Shrestha, dressed in a pin-striped suit, but with a plaid wool scarf and a Nepalese toti to ward off the cold in the unheated office.
Mr. Shrestha indicated that ``we do not want to move very rapidly. We cannot afford to make mistakes like we have seen in other countries such as Sri Lanka where the projects first conceived were just too big. We are considering the introduction of television on an experimental basis, covering areas like education, agriculture, and health with just a little entertainment.''
Mr. Shrestha says that Worldview has informed Nepalese authorities that developing the hardware (technical) side will be easier and much faster than the software (programming). He says that 16 Nepalese have already been sent to Norway for preliminary training. Some of these trainees will be chosen to play important roles in Nepalese TV programming.
On the financial side, Mr. Shrestha says that Nepal is finding it difficult to fund its own TV development. ``If the experimental station is a small enough financial involvement of less than $1 million, his majesty's government itself will invest. But, if it proves to require more than that, we will probably request friendly countries for aid in the form of a loan or assistance.''