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IBF urges Nepal govt to defer clean feed policy till completion of cable TV digitisation

MUMBAI: The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) has requested the Nepal government to defer the implementation of clean feed policy for foreign broadcasters until the digitisation of cable TV network is completed.

The government of Nepal has issued a clean feed policy under which only those downlinking licences of foreign broadcasters will be permitted for distribution in Nepal that do not contain any advertisements.

The policy, which comes into force from 16 July, is likely to impact revenue and employment growth in Nepal, the IBF has contended.

IBF general secretary Girish Srivastava said, “The Government of Nepal ought to defer implementation of a ‘Clean Feed’ policy until the implementation of digitisation so as to evaluate best ways to take advantage of the same as is being done by other countries.”

He also requested the Nepal government to allow existing/new channels whose licences are due for renewal by 15 July to be distributed without the clean feed condition, with the understanding that the licence shall not be withdrawn for at least until the next term is due.

The IBF apprised the Nepal government of the possible fallouts of the proposed policy and its likely impact on the economic development of Nepal.

During the discussions, the broadcast fraternity of India conveyed the technical and economic unviability of the proposed clean feed policy in Nepal.

Broadcasters also conveyed that consumers and various distribution platforms in Nepal would be adversely affected in case the proposed policy is implemented on the designated date.

The IBF has argued that the policy must be implemented only after holding transparent and holistic consultations involving all stakeholders, digitisation of distribution networks in Nepal and issues relating to implementation of anti-piracy laws have been put in place.

According to the IBF, the launch of clean feed would entail separate playout, uplink and downlink costs. Nepal being an emerging market with very low average revenue per user (ARPU), such exorbitant costs to create clean feeds are not justifiable from a business viability point of view.

Due to unviable business proposition, it is felt that distribution channels may face discontinuation leading into rampant piracy all over Nepal, the IBF said in its representation.

It was highlighted that cable operators may resort to using Indian DTH connections to redistribute the signals. Further, in such a situation, viewers too may start buying set-top boxes (STBs) and viewing cards of Indian DTH operators without knowing that the same may have been smuggled into Nepal.

The demand for ‘clean feed’ is at variance with and may be counter-productive to the government of Nepal’s initiative to implement digitisation of distribution networks, the IBF noted.

Digitisation is a cost-intensive exercise and any discontinuation of channels on account of implementation of the clean feed policy ought to have an adverse impact on revenues of cable operators, thereby affecting their ability to invest monies for digitisation.

It was submitted that such impact can have a cascading effect on survival of distribution platforms and affect employment locally and also distribution/reach of local Nepali channels.