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Freedom Forum Outlines PSB Model Law

Freedom Forum has outlined a Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) model law for Nepal. The model law has been brought in collaboration with the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu.

The model law is framed in the backdrop of growing need of clear policies, laws and regulations specifying PSB in the country.

Considering the growing need of PSB as per the recommendation of various commissions, committees and taskforces formed by the previous governments but no laws in this regard, the Freedom Forum brought the PSB model law.

"The PSB model law brought with rigorous consultation and research has aimed at addressing the broader need of people's right to information and freedom of expression in line with the socio-political diversity of the country and imminent socio-political transformation," says Taranath Dahal, Chairman of Freedom Forum.

In course of devising the outline of model law on PSB, the Freedom Forum organized discussions, workshops and consultative meetings where it garnered information and suggestions for several rounds. Media experts and related professionals, government officials, and the constituent assembly members had expressed their views, furnished suggestions, presented papers on the proposed bill.

The following are the highlights of Draft of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Model Law:

a)  The preamble of the PSB Act has clearly stated the necessity of PSB, its  main policy  directives and structural system.

b)  The act is named 'Public Service Broadcasting Act’.

c) For running the PSB, the Authority shall be an autonomous corporate body with  perpetual succession.
d)  Important policies that the Authority should adopt are included in the drat  Act. As many  as 16 main policies are mentioned in detail.
e)     The main duty of the Authority is to manage and operate the public broadcasting services for providing to the general public true, balanced and credible information, practical education and healthy entertainment by means of radio, television, Internet and such modern technological means by adopting the policies of the Authority. For this, the duties of the authority must be mentioned clearly in the Act. The duties and activities have been mentioned in various 20 points in the draft.
f)   The Broadcasting Council is comprised of 6 members- a Chairperson and five other members. The Head of State shall appoint the Chairperson and the Members of the Broadcasting Council on the recommendation of the committee.
g)   The committee constituted to make recommendations for appointment to the post of Chairperson and Members of the Broadcasting Council should adopt the inclusiveness principle as far as possible.  The committee shall publish the names of the potential candidates in mass media and solicit the views and reaction from the general public. The qualification of the officials, their term, duties and others have been devised in the draft.
h)   The media-related committee of the Legislature-Parliament can constitute an investigation committee to investigate into and present a report regarding the charges against the chairperson or the member facing charges before relieving that person of his/her post.
i)   The Council Chairman is to lead in the policy level while Director General in the administration.
j)   An independent and autonomous fund will be managed for running the Authority. Legislature-Parliament is  to allocate 66 percent funds of the Authority’s annual budget while remaining from the money earned by carrying out works or running programmes as per this Act,  amount received in terms of license fees, permit fees, royalty and by way of renewal of these documents, amount received by way of the Authority broadcasting messages and notices in public interest on behalf of the Government of Nepal and the amount received through sponsoring programmes, amount received in terms of sponsoring programmes on topics of public interest and broadcasting commercial advertisements, amount received from foreign governments or Authorities and organizations, amount received from other sources.
k)   The Authority shall keep the accounts of its transactions as per the standard accounting principles. The internal auditing of the Authority shall be done by an employee designated by the Authority from among the Authority’s employees. The final auditing of the Authority shall be done by the Office of the Auditor General. It would be the duty of the employee concerned to present the documents asked for by the internal and external auditors in course of carrying out the auditing.
l)  A high-level and independent ombudsman with expert should be managed by the PSB Authority. With the management of this, the public broadcasters become more and more responsible and qualitative. The three-member ombudsman having a retired judges of the Supreme Court as convenor while a member designated by the Legislature-Parliament’s media-related committee and another one member from among the people who have specialized in journalism and mass communication field appointed by the Council will be effective.
m)  The public service broadcasters should be pro-public. It is more democratic if done through elected parliament. It has also been arranged to hold discussion in the parliament and public hearing among the people on the annual report. The Act should make provision that mentions editorial content, aspects of economic and physical development and problems and challenges. It should also mention broadly about the policy, programme and budget.
n)  In order to free the public service broadcasters from inflicting possible risks on citizens' expressions and freedom, the Act should clearly mention about possible government intervention at the adverse situations. And through the Act itself, the condition to have the freedom gagged should be fended off.
o)  Public service broadcasters should be provided preferential rights and security.
p)  The Act should make clear about the production of editorial contents, publicity and technical skill, and the areas to have cooperation on infrastructures.
q)  The public service broadcasters should be autonomous in terms of formulating rules, directives and issuing code of conduct. The broadcaster should not only prepare the editorial guidelines but also the guidelines regarding the employees, administration and advertisement.
r)  After the formulation of PSB Act, any other laws regulating the State-run Radio Nepal and Nepal TV will be automatically invalidated.
s)      The PSB Act has clearly devised a periodic, transitional provision.