Execution of Clean feed in Nepal: A legal and philosophical perspective

 

“Choice alone doesn’t suffice as a right, Informed Choice does. Clean feed enables access to information thereby enabling informed choice” 

What is clean feed?

In the simplest term possible, Clean feed is a policy or a mechanism to make television channels free of foreign advertisements. Why should consumers pay to watch foreign advertisements that are neither relevant nor necessary for them? Clean feed puts an obligation on cable operators to stream foreign TV channels without any foreign advertisements. It is basically about making the foreign channels foreign advertisement-free to prevent an unnecessary outflow of money and to create a space for the advertisement of the local market. Within this mechanism, the foreign channels should broadcast their contents without any foreign advertisements. Consumers usually have annoying experiences due to unnecessary popping of foreign advertisements. This problem will be solved with the implementation of the clean feed policy. As a strictest measure, the channels that don’t oblige with the policy shall be banned from broadcasting. 

So why clean feed in Nepal?

On a macro perspective, the restriction on foreign ads creates space for local creators and products to have access to a better reach on the audience and grow with such reach. The broadcasting companies receive numbers of complaints regarding irrelevant and unnecessary foreign ads for interrupting their television service. Implementation of clean feed policy will help the viewers to enjoy foreign ads-free service. Advertisement has always played a significant role in influencing consumer choice. The problem with Nepalese marketing has been lack of reach rather than lack of product. The practice of dubbing foreign ads in Nepali language had, in a way, distorted originality and creativity in domestic ads. The replacement of foreign advertisements with local advertisements therefore is expected to motivate Nepali creators to come up with influencing contents, quality products and satisfying services. Clean feed is certain to promote national businesses and start-ups and also flourish commerce in Nepal since the gap would require Nepalese advertisement industry to produce more ads. It is thus expected to create employment opportunities and prevent outflow of money.

 

What validates Clean Feed? (A Legal Perspective)

The Parliament of Nepal had introduced a Clean Feed Policy, 2015 (“Policy”). The “Advertisement Act-2019” (“Act”) worked as a catalyst to accelerate the implementation of the policy that is probably the first enactment to bring a historic legal reform in the advertisement regime. Section 6 of the Act requires implementation of clean feed policy for foreign television channels. If the companies have already entered into an agreement to broadcast foreign advertisements, they are obliged to make arrangements to ensure clean feed within a year which expired on 23rd October 2020. To top that, the Act restricts foreign ads to be dubbed in Nepali language which has been a strict move in the advertisement regime. The person attempting or causing violation to clean feed obligation is liable to a fine of maximum 5 lakhs rupees.

Clean Feed Policy, 2015 aims to ensure signals of foreign television channel advertisement free. Intending Nepalese channels and advertising agencies to be self- reliant, thereby increasing the quality and protecting Nepalese culture, and language, the policy is set to expand Nepalese advertisement sector that had been shadowed for a long time. The Act had provided a year ultimatum to implement clean feed in foreign channels and by the end of time, two dozen channels had come under the system. The broadcasting of rest has been stopped. In the long run, the Act and the Policy are certain to boost Nepalese economy as advertisement is the potential sector in economic command. On a procedural front, The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has also formed an advertising board. The authorities are expected to monitor and supervise the effective implementation of the Act, Policy, and broadcasting system.

 What is the rationale behind Clean feed? (A Philosophical perspective)

In every parliament business, there is always an attached spirit. That spirit of parliament is either expressed or implied and is reflected in terms of rights or duties or both. This time, with an introduction to the Act, the government intends to impose duties to protect the public interest. The local branding companies and the consumer both have the right to information. Philosophically, there is a difference in “choice” and “informed choice.” “When you get to know something exists, you get to make choices. That’s what clean feed will ensure.” Clean feed, access to relevant information and informed choice rounds up in a vicious circle. Foreign advertisement occupies maximum space which also disables effective broadcasting of local advertisement. The general public were barred from having access to available local goods and services and were compelled to have a limited choice with little known domestic products. The bitter truth that must be accepted is that our local advertisements, the value they possess and the culture that these advertisements protect have been overshadowed by the heavy spillover of foreign advertisements. Nepalese now will get to make an informed choice on available products and services through local advertisements given that unrelated and unnecessary foreign advertisements will be put to a halt. This, in the long run, shall establish a culture of “going local” and thereby aid in boosting the economy of the Nation.

Is further homework required to effectively implement Clean feed policy? 

This is not the first time Nepal is attempting to ensure clean feed. There has been a number of attempts and failures amid political and economic command. Finally, the government has been able to implement the Policy in line with the Act. The channel failing to abide by the Policy may even be suspended to make any broadcasting. Enactments are expected to balance conflict of Interests. While implementing the Policy for the individual and public interest, the government should also be mindful about the economic contribution that cable TV operators are making, about economic relation between the states and the preparedness for the consequence. It is presumed that the government must have made a result-oriented research before implementing the policy. 

Countries around the world, for instance, the United States, Sri Lanka, Pakistan operate controlled broadcasting of foreign advertisements either completely barring them or distributing through government channels. Now that the government has strictly implemented the system, it also has to be prepared for upcoming economic burdens (advanced technologies to monitor, set-up boxes and miscellaneous) and customers grievances for an increase in rate. Government requires cooperation at individual and institutional level to effectively materialize clean Feed to prevent the domestic advertisement from shrinking and losing market. 

The act, though seems to be progressive in a nutshell, still misses a significant aspect of advertisement in internet governance. Clean feed is applicable in Television channels. What about those that operate over the internet? Can internet service be an exception to clean feed? Will that really promote equity? Government should be aware that there must be equal application of laws, no matter the space of streaming. The stakeholders must do a little more homework to make the policy and enactment more comprehensive because at the end, enactments are meant to serve and balance the interest. Inclusion of clean feed in the internet world can be a good catch to effectively materialize the policy.

 

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